Huy Le, Operations Director of DataRobot, talked to us about how the company has worked with Amazon Web Services. He also offers great advice for startups that are faced with choosing a hosting platform. DataRobot, a Techstars Cloud company, helps data scientists of all experience levels build and deploy better predictive models. AWS Startups is a sponsor of Techstars and helps startups scale quickly, go to market faster, control costs, and stay lean.
How did DataRobot discover and then choose to work with AWS?
We connected with AWS at Techstars Cloud Class of 2013 in San Antonio. We received hosting credits through the AWS Activate program, a free program with resources for startups to get the most out of AWS.
AWS was a natural choice for us. One of the products AWS offers caught our interest: their Spot Instance offering. Using Spot Instances is like bidding for a product on eBay. You choose the server type you want to use and set the highest price you’re willing to pay. If there are servers with prices at or below your set price, you use the server and pay the current market price. Most of the time, the market price is just a fraction of the regular on-demand price.
Our application does a lot of number crunching. With Spot Instances our application can do massive number crunching at a fraction of the usual cost.
AWS’s wide range of server types and sizes was attractive, too. We use servers as small as t1.micro, which cost about $15 per month to run; and servers as large as r3.8x, which cost over $2,000 per month to run. AWS has a server size for every kind of need.
How have DataRobot and AWS worked together?
AWS’ SPOT team and our account manager have been instrumental in us making the best use of AWS Spot Instances. The SPOT team visited our office to learn about our application and advised us how to get the most out of Spot Instances and keep costs low. Our account manager also analyzed our overall usage and suggested cost-saving strategies. Overall, we have really benefited from the advice and support AWS has provided.
What do you think sets AWS apart?
A customer-centric philosophy sets AWS apart. When the customers speak, they listen—and they act on customer feedback. They are about helping customers succeed.
For example, I once experienced database performance issues. I called my contact at AWS and asked if there were other options to get faster storage systems. He told me that he had many other customers requesting better storage systems too, and AWS was working to fulfill those customer demands. About six months later, my contact reached out with news that AWS had just announced a better storage system. I was thrilled.
Another thing that sets AWS apart is its ability to provide additional capacity as soon as it’s requested. At times, we’ve needed our capacity limit increased by thousands of servers. AWS has been able to do that on the same or next business day each time. I’ve made similar requests with other service providers. It would take those providers more than a week to fulfill the request, and then the request would be only partially fulfilled.
Do you have any advice for other founders who want to build good relationships with their platform/hosting providers?
In short, you want a service platform that is scalable and secure, and you want to have a provider who is ready to assist you whenever you need help. Here’s my advice:
Select the right service provider from the beginning. Don’t put this off until you’re ready for customers. Every service platform is different. You’ll want to work with the same platform from the beginning so you don’t waste your time learning new platforms as your needs change.
Security needs to be the top criterion. Choose a service provider that has granular access control to your cloud account, so that you can grant different levels of access to employees on an as-needed basis.
Choose a provider that offers three key features:
- A wide range of server selections. Start with a small server and scale up as needed. Test your product on different, larger servers as you gain more users and prepare for product launch.
- Autoscale support. Ideally, you want your platform to automatically scale as load demand fluctuates. For consumer or social applications, expect to have bursts of traffic.
- PCI compliance and hardware encryption support if your product will be handling payments. And make sure you meet the additional compliance requirements for your specific product. If you’ll be using health care data, for example, you want a server provider that is HIPAA compliant.
What’s currently going on in DataRobot’s world?
We have great success with our private beta customers. We’re working relentlessly to polish the product and are excited to release it at the beginning of 2015. Anyone working on predictive analytics who wants to build better models faster is invited to sign up for beta access at datarobot.com. (We’ll provide VIP access to early sign ups.)
You can read other stories in our Sponsorship in Action series here.
AWS architects and engineers will reopen a physical loft in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco on October 1st. The Loft offers Bay Area startups free AWS technical resources to help scale and grow their businesses. Activities include hands-on bootcamps and labs, 1:1 sessions with AWS Solutions Architects, and evening networking events.
Hours and Location
The Loft is at 925 Market Street and doors will be open 10AM to 6PM on weekdays, with select events running until 8PM on weeknights. Check the Loft homepage which includes a calendar, listing all Loft events and activities.
Ask an Architect: You can bring questions about AWS architecture, cost optimization, services and features, and anything else AWS-related to a 1:1, 60 minute session with a member of the AWS technical team.
Technical Presentations: AWS Solution Architects, Product Managers, and Evangelists will deliver technical presentations covering topics including Introduction to AWS, Big Data, Compute & Networking, Architecture, Mobile & Gaming, Databases, Operations, and Security.
AWS Technical Bootcamps: These full-day bootcamps include hands-on lab exercises using a live environment with the AWS console. Usually these cost $600, but at the Loft they are offered for free. Bootcamps you can register for include: “Getting Started with AWS,” “AWS Essentials,” “Highly Available Apps,” and “Taking AWS Operations to the Next Level.”
Self-paced, Hands-on Labs: These online technical labs are available for walk-ins throughout the day. Beginner through advanced labs are offered on topics that range from creating Amazon EC2 instances to launching and managing a web application with CloudFormation. Usually $30 each, labs free at the Loft.
Customer Speaking Events and Evening Happy Hours: The most innovative Bay Area startups share the technical and business journeys they undertook as their ideas came to life. CircleCI, NPM, Lyft, Librato, Cotap, Runscope and others will be featured speakers during evening happy hours.
Visit the Loft homepage to learn more and see detailed weekly schedules.
This article is written by the AWS Pop-up Loft Team.
AWS and its technical experts are setting up shop and opening their doors in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood from June 4th to 27th.
There are hundreds of technical learning activities and we’re inviting Bay Area startups to drop in, hang out, and take advantage of all the free learning opportunities.
We’ve got technical sessions ranging from “Getting Started Walkthrough: Everything and Anything AWS” to “More Infrastructure for Less: The Guide to Pinching Pennies on AWS,” 36 different hands-on labs (normally a 30 dollar value – all free), and our ‘Ask an Architect’ bar where you can sign up for an appointment or just drop in and meet 1:1 with one of our AWS tech experts. Our AWS experts can walk you through architecture setups, help you learn about our different products, answer questions about optimizing on costs or discuss any AWS tech topic you have. In addition to all of this technical help, we’ve also got free wifi, a freezer filled with your favorite frozen treats, plenty of snacks and beverages, foosball, and our “Simple Beer Service” (swing by to learn more)!
So, if you are a startup searching for technical education on specific AWS services, advice and best practices from other startups or networking opportunities, come by from June 4-27. Learn what you want and when you want – that is the entire point of AWS Pop-up Loft.
Oh, and when you stop by bring your company sticker to plaster our startup sticker board!
Where it’s happening
925 Market Street in San Francisco.
When it’s happening
Every day but Sunday between June4th and June 27th. Monday – Friday 10AM to 8PM and Saturdays from 10AM to 6PM.
A lot. See something you like, go over here and then start filling your calendar with activities.
AWS Technical Bootcamps for all levels of experience (normally $600) – all free
36 different Self-paced, Hands-on Labs (normally $30) – all free