Interview: “DreamHost will always favor open source solutions to commercial software, and we owe much of our early success to the world of open source.” – Brett Dunst, DreamHost

5 Mins read

The onset of a new year has brought with itself new challenges and trends to look towards in the technology landscape in 2018. Nearly every industry is getting acquainted with the changing customer preferences and is thus undergoing a transformation to meet customer expectations. Hosting industry is not an exception.

DreamHost is one of the leading web hosting services provider who leverages open source technology OpenStack for its cloud services software. Open source technologies are the most demanded technologies today.  Open source technologies are the most demanded technologies today.

We got in touch with the Brett Dunst, the VP of Corporate Communications at DreamHost to discuss about the changing web hosting industry’s landscape, the threats, opportunities and challenges lying ahead.

With a proud host of over 1.5 million websites, WordPress blogs and smart applications for developers, designers and small businesses, DreamHost works with the vision to provide users the freedom to choose how their digital content is shared.

In this interview, Brett talks about:

  • web hosting transformation into an ultra-competitive market,
  •  Remixer website builder by DreamHost,
  •  Managed WordPress hosting,
  • Its much talked about computing platform – DreamCompute,

and many other things. Let’s get started:

1. How has DreamHost – which has been in the hosting game for 20 years now (!) – seen the web hosting industry change over those two decades, and how it succeeded in an ultra-competitive market?

We’ve certainly seen a lot happen in the hosting world.  Users have gotten more sophisticated and service offerings have grown to match their needs. There’s also been a tremendous amount of industry consolidation over the last two decades.  We’re proud to be one of the few remaining independent service providers who remain accountable to our users.

By listening to our users and respecting their preferences over the years, we’ve always had a clear view of where the market was headed.  We’ve been leading in the Managed WordPress arena for over a decade, and it remains our largest focus now in 2018.

We’ve built a world-class team of experts across many disciplines who understand the power of WordPress, and we’ve got big plans in store for DreamPress in the near future!

2. Tell us about Remixer. How is this website builder from DreamHost different from other drag-and-drop website builders available in the market?

When we set out to build Remixer, we knew we were entering a crowded market. There are many established players in the world of site builders with giant feature lists and years of experience behind them.

These are powerful, mature options. All of that legacy can lead to feature overload and user confusion.

We saw an opportunity to focus directly on making it easy and fast to build and deploy a new website by presenting users with only what they’d need to get up and running quickly. We wanted to remove the intimidation factor from users who had never had a web presence before and who may have entered into the process cringing about the unknown. Users have told us that we’ve succeeded in making Remixer a truly easy-to-use option.

3. Turning to your managed WordPress hosting product, DreamPress…how does the Jetpack plugin help boost a user’s WordPress site? Why does DreamHost see managed WordPress as a particularly key ingredient to its next 20 years of business?

WordPress powers over a quarter of the most popular websites in the world, and we’ve certainly seen that played out in our own user metrics. It’s a powerful tool with humble beginnings, but it’s grown into a tremendously useful platform for users to publish their content, giving voices to an untold number of people who may not have otherwise known how to get themselves online.

We’ve been offering Managed WordPress for over a decade, and it’s been tremendously popular with our users. DreamPress has been one of the biggest successes in DreamHost’s history.

We are focused squarely on providing the best Managed WordPress experience on the web, and Jetpack plays a huge role in enhancing WordPress and helping us to deliver on that goal.

Jetpack brings additional functionality to WordPress in a way that feels completely embedded and natural. Among its many features, Jetpack’s free option includes access to an image CDN, in-depth website statistics, downtime monitoring, and a ridiculous number of other enhancements.

In April 2017, we began bundling Jetpack Premium (a $99/yr value) with DreamPress. The response was so overwhelmingly positive from our users that in December we began bundling the top-tier Jetpack Professional – a $299/yr value – with DreamPress.

Jetpack Professional adds a video CDN with no bandwidth restrictions, comprehensive spam protection, daily backups powered by VaultPress, automated and on-demand malware scans, access to over 200 high-quality premium themes, advanced SEO tools, and priority access to WordPress experts at Automattic. Our users have definitely taken full advantage of Jetpack and we’re proud to include it as a key feature of our world-class Managed WordPress offering.

4. Which types of hosting customers does DreamHost tend to attract (and why)? What makes them choose DreamHost over other leading web hosting and cloud players in the market?

We attract a lot of small businesses, but also a lot of programmers. We’ve always provided plenty of command line support to users who’ve wanted to build not just websites, but also great web apps. Being software developers ourselves, seeing those apps come alive is tremendously exciting for us. It hearkens back to the early days of the internet when creativity, not dollars, ruled the world of content.
People who follow the hosting industry are also sensitive to issues of consolidation. They like the fact that DreamHost is independent, private, and focused on the interests of our users, not shareholders or investors.

5. Shed some light on DreamCompute – what led to DreamHost’s foray into the cloud computing realm? Also, could you elaborate on DreamHost’s open source ethos, and how that has played out in its use of OpenStack for its cloud services?

DreamHost’s co-founder, Sage Weil, had created an open source file system called Ceph out of a personal interest and a professional curiosity in making large-scale storage more accessible and more affordable. Ceph was designed to store petabytes of data across thousands of servers using inexpensive, off-the-shelf hardware, and it does that capably and gracefully.

We built a company called Inktank to provide support services for Ceph which eventually sold to Red Hat in 2014 for $175MM. Ceph powers the technology behind DreamObjects, our object storage service, and is the storage option of choice for many OpenStack clouds. Our own public cloud service, DreamCompute, is powered by OpenStack as well.

For us, OpenStack came along at just the right time. Back then, the software that powered AWS, Azure, and many other clouds lived largely in a black box. Even today, users are left mainly in the dark when it comes to details about implementation of their cloud apps’ platforms. That runs in stark contrast to the philosophy of the Open Web, which has embraced more open technologies like Perl, Linux, Apache, MySQL, etc. OpenStack represented a collaborative and open approach to a cloud stack, and we knew it was a great fit for us.

DreamHost will always favor open source solutions to commercial software, and we owe much of our early success to the world of open source.

6. If a customer is looking at different cloud-based storage solutions, what are the benefits that he or she can get with DreamObjects over other cloud storage hosting solutions?

We’ve worked hard to build predictable, easy-to-understand flat-rate pricing into DreamObjects from the start. Competitors’ often-confusing pricing structures tend to incentivize users into storing more data to get better rates, but that can lead to vendor lock-in and can be a real deterrent to smaller developers who may not have the volume to justify higher prices. DreamObjects is a great option for users who need the flexibility of cloud storage but don’t ever want to deal with an enormous surprise in their end-of-month billing statements.

DreamObjects is API compatible with S3. In many cases, porting over an existing app to DreamObjects is as simple as changing a single hostname. We’ve seen many users do exactly that!

7. Thanks, Brett, for giving us insights about DreamHost. Wrapping up, what are the new product and service releases that DreamHost has coming up in the very near future?

We’re always cooking up new things at DreamHost! Keep an eye on DreamPress, the best in Managed WordPress, in 2018!


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