DH2i sees first Containers-as-a-Service solution for SQL Server as massively disruptive

DH2i partners with Rackspace to make its container management software available as a cloud offering for SQL. They see potential to expand with other cloud provider partners, and with other Microsoft software, and see it as a valuable managed service for their own partners.


Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder, DH2i

Fort Collins CO-based DH2i has taken its DxEnterprise container management software into the cloud. The company has announced the industry’s first Containers-as-a-Service solution for Microsoft SQL Server. Initially, it will be available through Rackspace, although DH2i and its channel partners will both be able to sell it as well.

“My expectations for this are the same as Uber did to the taxi industry, and VMware did to physical servers,“ said Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder, DH2i. “This will completely disrupt the way people deploy SQL in the cloud. We can offer a sustainable 50 per cent cost reduction over other cloud offerings. We have better availability and we manage the infrastructure. Our partners who have cloud services will want to add this to their offerings.”

DH2i started up several years ago with a focus on Containers and on Windows. The technology is similar to that of PolyServe, a startup that HP bought back in 2007, and end-of-lifed some years back. It stacked multiple SQL Servers on a single server to improve the server utilization rate. DH2i’s other co-founder came from there. Boxley said that their technology is superior in a couple key ways, however.

“We not only support SQL server but fileshares and server application services – anything that runs as a service under Windows can be containerized,” he said. “We also run natively on top of NTFS. PolyServe had a special file system that you installed.

“Our first customers validated our value proposition, that we could reduce the number of systems by 10x that they deploy,” Boxley added. “Sometimes we were a little better, sometimes a little worse, but always around that number. We have enterprise, midmarket and even some SMB customers, but they all use us in mission-critical environments. We deliver hard core infrastructure enterprise software. It’s not a toy. It’s for running their business. Containers, if deployed right, reduce the number of systems and servers they need to manage, so they will get much higher availability and have a major reduction in costs.”

Their biggest challenge, however, was the same one VMware has when it started, Boxley said.

“People didn’t really know what they were. We have the same issue. The cloud, however, by its very definition, creates an opportunity for change – its an ‘aha’ moment. So we thought – ‘Let’s put together the first container-as-a-service offering for SQL. It will provide disruptive simplicity because it will be 50 per cent cheaper than a standard SQL cloud offering.”

The CaaS offering will initially be available through Rackspace.

“Rackspace saw the vision, and that’s why we picked them first,” Boxley said. “They are a big player in the cloud, with over 300,000 customers, and 10 data centres around the world. Today, we have less than 100 customers, so it’s really clear that they can help us significantly grow our business. However, there is nothing to say over time, we can’t also sell this through AWS, or Azure, or IBM, using other cloud providers. If next week AWS called me up and said they see our vision, we would be happy to talk with them.”

Boxley said the CaaS offering should significantly expand their presence in the enterprise as well as downmarket.

“It varies greatly by company, but many enterprises now see a plus in putting some of their workloads in the cloud and having someone else manage it. One of our largest customers, in Toronto, wants us in the cloud to manage a specific workload there. AWS manages Netflix’s entire infrastructure in the cloud.”

Boxley also indicated that CaaS logically extends for them beyond SQL.

“We can containerize any application service that runs on a Windows server,” he said. “We picked SQL because its widely used – so from a go-to-market perspective, it was easiest to do this first. SharePoint we also think would work very well because it has a SQL back end. That’s the next obvious one.”

DH2i, like most such startups, began by selling direct, but over the last year has been building out their channel network. They have no partners in Canada yet, although they do have Canadian customers.

“While Rackspace is selling this, we will also be selling it direct ourselves, and our partners will also be able to sell it as well,” Boxley said. “This will be a managed service that partners can leverage. These days, to overcome the race to the bottom in cloud services, you need to provide value-added services customers are willing to spend money on. SQL workloads are very sticky. People are used to spending money to support a SQL environment, so it’s a high-margin cloud business. This is a value-added service customers are willing to spend money on. We think containers-as-a-service are a very big deal here – the kind of service every cloud provider is looking for.”