I’ve been asked a couple of times why I run my web hosting business using servers located overseas. The original reason was purely the lack of expertise and uncompetitive features when it comes to Malaysian web hosting companies. However, this seems to be a thing of the past as lots of Malaysian web hosts are getting rave reviews from customers within and beyond Malaysia.
Nevertheless, there exists a more significant problem that I don’t see going away anytime soon: our precarious Internet backbone. Most people will probably assume I’m talking about capacity issues here. However, it’s more worrying than that: it’s a mindset problem.
Believe it or not, as recently as late last millennium Malaysia was home to the fastest Internet backbone on the planet! And no, TM (Malaysia’s leading ISP with near monopoly-like status in the local market) had nothing at all to do with it. It was a Jaring (a faded Malaysian ISP trying to make a comeback now) initiative. Four years later TM invested in a 310Mbps backbone connectivity to Japan. Did I mention that the Jaring backbone was clocked at 2.5Gbps?
But look at us now? Yes, we have broadband. However, every single broadband plan being offered by Malaysian ISPs have the standard disclaimer that it’s provided on a “best effort” basis. In any other industry (and probably country), this would be unacceptable.
Let’s use this simple analogy to illustrate this point. Imagine yourself booking a hall that can accommodate 100 people for your wedding banquet. On the actual night, the hall can only take in 80 persons. However, you still have to pay the original agreed amount because it has a “best effort” clause in it. Would this be acceptable to you?
What most Malaysians don’t realize is that this “best effort” sham also applies to their locally hosted servers connection speed as well. We would also not “feel” the lag because we’re virtually on the same network as the servers.
If 100% of your traffic comes from Malaysia, then this would even be almost perfectly acceptable. But how many of us are in this situation anyway? I doubt that there’s even a single locally hosted web site that has purely local traffic.
I, for one, don’t find this reasonable. So one of the most important non-hardware related criteria that I look for when searching for a web hosting solution is the quality and quantity of the connectivity pipes.
Right now, the server hosting HTNet (and a few other web sites belonging to friends, customers and myself) is located at a carrier neutral (meaning I can select my peering carriers) hotel called 1102 Grand. Yes, it really is a hotel… for servers that is. We’re routed to the world via multiple GigE connections from AT&T, Qwest, XO, Cogent and Verizon Business; piped through a BGP from LightEdge Solutions.
Does it rock? You bet! Although I would have loved to be able to provide my business to a Malaysian company in the first place, present day circumstances aren’t really that feasible. It’s an infrastructure thing that can only be resolved from the top down… and that means the bigwigs in the government have to do something! If you want Malaysians to be a truly globally connected country then it means letting more responsible and experienced parties in on the deal. The monopoly thing doesn’t work very well anymore!
Isn’t it high time we do some self assessment on the state of our Internet peering infrastructure?