Sprint Launches Web Hosting Service at Internet World

Sprint today at Spring Internet World made its first entry into the Web hosting market, announcing a high-availability, redundant service targeted at large sites.

The new Sprint IP Web Hosting services, which have been in development for about a year, use a traffic-redirection technique to load balance Internet users between its two data centers, in San Jose, Calif., and Relay, Md.

Content that Sprint IP Web Hosting customers post to their sites is automatically replicated to the two sites so that if one of the centers goes offline, the other can immediately continue to serve the same content.

Customers' Web site content is also automatically distributed to multiple servers in the same data center for fault tolerance and to improve performance.

To develop its geographical and server Internet traffic distribution service--a standard part of the service--Sprint used Radware/RND's Web Server Director Pro, modified to Sprint's specifications.

The redundancy that the load-distribution systems provide have given Sprint the confidence to offer 100 percent uptime guarantee, said Eileen Riordan, market development manager for Sprint.

Under the terms of the guarantee, Sprint will provide a 25 to 50 percent refund of a customer's monthly fee if there is any outage to a Web site at all.

"We believe this is providing an unprecedented level of uptime guarantee to the industry," Riordan said. "We're going after high-end business customers in the Fortune 1000."

The competitors to Sprint's new hosting service are GlobalCenter and Genuity, which both offer similar geographical-distribution features among their respective data centers.

"Our strongest competitor is Genuity, but we provide a great value at a lower price point," Riordan said. Sprint IP Web Hosting will be priced in three levels, based on amount of data transferred and other features:

  • Level One ($700 per month) provides a shared Web server with 100 Mbytes of disk space; 500 Mbytes transfer per month; and one hour of consulting.
  • Level Two ($2,500 per month) provides shared Web server with 1 Gbyte of disk space; 1 Gbyte of data transfer per month; four hours of consulting; and access to e-commerce applications, which include those from CyberCash, Mercantec, and Applied Theory.
  • Level Three ($4,600 per month) provides a dedicated server with 2 Gbytes of disk space; 10 Gbytes of transfer per month; six hours of consulting; plus support for FTP, e-commerce applications, and other custom applications.

Francine Kienle, product manager for Sprint IP Services, said that because the data centers are both connected via multiple OC-3 (155 Mbps) connections, charging for bandwidth wasn't as important as charging for data transferred.

"The servers are on a Fast Ethernet connection right to the Sprint backbone, which goes directly into the MAEs [metropolitan area exchanges]," the main data-exchange points among ISPs, she said.

The data centers are equipped with Sun Ultra 2 servers running Netscape Enterprise Web server on Solaris. Web site content is stored on Auspex Systems Inc.'s Network File System (NFS) servers.

Sprint IP Web Hosting also includes a secure Web management interface that allows a Web site administrator to freeze content, delegate authority to let content managers post material to staging servers, and roll back the content on a site to its previous version in case of an error.

The management interface also lets customers schedule when the site will be updated from the staging servers; for example, an administrator can set the following day's Web site to automatically go live at 1 a.m. when site traffic is likely to be lower.

Sprint is also considering providing colocation services for very high-end customers who want to own and manage their own server hardware, Kienle said.