Cloud Inside DreamHost

Open Source and DreamHost: Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

The story of DreamHost starts with open source from the very beginning. Our first server was a commodity PC running Debian Linux with Apache as the web server and perl as our programming language of choice. Like many students of the mid to late 90s we were introduced to UNIX in college (mostly Sun Solaris at the time) and many open source tools along with it, such as elm, pine, emacs, perl, and the venerable fvwm window manager (ah, the good old days…).

When we first discovered and then became hopelessly hooked on the web, the fact that it was itself open source (thanks to “view source”) meant we could quickly learn how it worked.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE TIME

From that early foundation, open source has been such a vital aspect of our business that’s it’s now been encoded into our company core values as “Embrace Open Source”. As a company we believe that open source is just a better way of working. Scientific research has even shown that humans are predisposed to cooperation and generosity. Beyond that we are hackers and tinkerers. We like to know how things work and know that in a pinch we can fix problems ourselves. That’s also encoded into one of our other core values: Speak Hacker.

The set of DreamHost core values was established just a couple of years ago after 15 plus years of being in business. To come up with them we went through a comprehensive, open, company-wide process to find the values that were already there so we could write them down. One of the values that came out of that process was our commitment to open source and with that it became encoded into our approach to business. A lot of companies rely on open source as part of their operation but what does it mean to make it a core value?

Everyone on our team might have a different answer to that, but for me it means that we are committed to being an active member of the open source world community. We’ve taken a lot from open source over the years and we acknowledge we to work to give back. Our business would not have been possible without open source and it’s on us to do what we can to make sure there’s a future for other open source-based businesses. The best way we can do that is to support open source with our time, our code, and where needed, our money.

More generally, the world needs open source, too. Many of the problems being tackled today are larger in scope than any problems in the history of humans. Big problems like these are fun to work on, but they are also hard. Small companies have never been able to tackle big problems alone, but now even the big companies can’t do it on their own. Openstack is perhaps the best example of that going on today. With Openstack, many of the largest technology companies in the world have decided to work together to build a common cloud platform we can all leverage to build amazing future-looking products. DreamHost was a founding member of the Openstack Foundation and we have been actively working on it since 2011. In turn, we were able to create a full-featured publicly accessible computing cloud with a lean team of developers and engineers.

Long before our work on Openstack, DreamHost co-founder Sage Weil was working on Ceph, the open source massively scalable distributed storage system. We incubated it within DreamHost before spinning it out into a sister company, Inktank. Ceph is now in its tenth year as a project and is leading the open source storage revolution under Red Hat’s stewardship.

While building out DreamCompute our cloud team found the time to build a production-ready set of network virtualization services called Akanda, which is of course also open source. Akanda, Inc, the sister company we started to promote Akanda is hiring, too.

Some other notable projects by DreamHost team members are a lean python web framework called Pecan and a perl tester’s toolbox and best friend, Fennec. Check out github.com/dreamhost for lots more!

About the author

Dallas Kashuba