DigitalOcean moves into partners’ turf with monitoring

It's a natural, albeit difficult, move from this fast growing cloud platform

DigitalOcean moves into partners’ turf with monitoring
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I’m a fan of DigitalOcean. In a space (public cloud infrastructure) dominated by far bigger and deeper-pocket vendors such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google, this plucky vendor has grown rapidly, continued to delight its customers, and retained a very focused view on what it is and, more important, what it isn’t.

While other platforms grow increasingly complex as they try to be all things to all people, DigitalOcean focuses 100 percent on being a developer-friendly cloud platform. It’s offerings are known for their simplicity and ease of consumption.

But that simplicity creates something of a difficulty—most every platform, even those focused on the small end of town, eventually needs to move up the food chain. As it does so, its customers start to demand more functionality. In delivering what these customers want, the platform invariably gets more complex, and what was once simple and elegant becomes big and unwieldy. While not a criticism per se, anyone who has taken a long look at (for example) Amazon Web Services’ list of available compute instance types will know what I mean.

So, it was interesting to spend some time at DigitalOcean's headquarters a few weeks ago and sit down with co-founder Mitch Wainer. Wainer and I talked about DigitalOcean's origins, the company's fairly incredible rate of growth, and how Wainer plans to manage the conflicting demands for more features while retaining simplicity.

DigitalOcean's new monitoring service

That conversation was particularly relevant in light of the news today that DigitalOcean is releasing a new monitoring service that developers can use to monitor (obviously) their DigitalOcean infrastructure. The tool, a fairly rudimentary but functional offering, provides insights into the resource utilization and operational health of every Droplet (DigitalOcean's term for a cloud server). Developers can collect metrics, monitor Droplet performance and receive alerts in a simple interface without any need for configuration. In launching this product, DigitalOcean is quick to articulate a “simple and easy” proposition:

"Our goal is to simplify the complexities of infrastructure by offering a simple and robust platform for developers to easily launch and scale their applications," said Julia Austin, CTO of DigitalOcean. "A monitoring service is an important feature for developers, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer it for free regardless of the number of Droplets. In the coming year, we’ll continue to move our monitoring service forward and introduce new capabilities for high availability, data storage, security and networking to manage larger production workloads.”

In terms of its functionality, the monitoring service measures each Droplet’s CPU, memory, disk utilization, disk reads and writes, network traffic and top processes. Metrics are collected at one-minute intervals, and the data is retained to enable users to view both up-to-the-minute and historical data. Developers can create alert policies and receive notifications by email or Slack when usage crosses a specified threshold.   

Of course, the obvious question for Wainer is what this means to existing DigitalOcean partners (Datadog, a company headquartered not far from DigitalOcean's New York City offices, is a good example). Wainer was pretty open and honest, admitting that at least at the base level, this might impact partners. But he quickly added that DigitalOcean has been very open about its intentions, giving these vendors many months to prepare for the change.

In addition, and in keeping with DigitalOcean's product strategy, this is a very simple tool, and Wainer was adamant that many DigitalOcean customers will need higher-level services that are ideally delivered from their more monitoring-focused partners.

My POV

Wrangling an ecosystem in light of a company’s product strategy is always hard. It seems that DigitalOcean's focus on keeping things as simple as possible reduces as much as possible any partner backlash they might have otherwise faced. The offering looks to tick the box on the core needs that DigitalOcean customers have. More robust users of DigitalOcean services will undoubtedly leverage one of DigitalOcean's partners to fulfill their own needs.

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