Having the proper IT infrastructure in place to support growth is challenge
number one for any new business, but it's especially important for a hosting
company. When it began operations in 2000, Louisville, Kentucky-based MaximumASP
decided to standardize on one hardware vendor to ensure that it would have a
platform - and a partner - that could foster continued growth, at whatever pace
that might occur.
As it turns out, that growth happened quickly, even in Internet time. Founded
by three hosting industry veterans, MaximumASP started with a bare-bones staff
and just six Dell servers. Today, the company hosts more than 44,000 domains for
customers in over 60 countries, and has become a top choice for developers
seeking a robust Microsoft Windows-based hosting platform for missioncritical
Even though MaximumASP was a small startup at the time it began sourcing from
Dell, Dell made it clear that it wanted the business, and treated MaximumASP
with the same respect and urgency it offers its larger enterprise clients.
"Some of the other big hardware providers didn't see the potential, and
probably didn't look at us as very big fish at the time and kind of moved on
down the road," says Wade Lewis, operations manager at MaximumASP and one of the
company's founding partners. "That attentiveness on Dell's part was really big
for us, so we chose to standardize on Dell for hardware and Microsoft for
Simplifying Growth For Success The hardware infrastructure at MaximumASP
ranges from older Dell PowerEdge and SC series servers all the way up to the
latest high-performance PowerEdge 2950 and 2970 servers.
"When I walk into our data center, it blows my mind to this day," says
Dominic Foster, senior systems engineer and MaximumASP's very first employee.
"We started in a tiny little rack with six Dell servers, and now we have rows
upon rows of Dell servers. It still amazes me that we've grown so much."
Dell hardware has supported MaximumASP's rapid growth through
reliability-instead of worrying about servers going down, engineers can spend
time innovating new and better products for MaximumASP's customers.
"We've found that Dell makes the most cost-effective and reliable equipment,"
says Silas Boyle, managing partner at MaximumASP. "If you go out on our data
center floor, you will not see another server product. This business has changed
constantly over the past seven years, and being able to grow alongside both Dell
and Microsoft has been nothing but good for our business."
A Brainstorming Partnership Dell has helped MaximumASP not only to secure
existing business, but to win new business as well - by acting as a consultant
and showing MaximumASP how it can take advantage of Dell products to take new
offers to market.
"We can go to Dell and say 'We want to do this,' and there's a brainstorming
partnership that occurs," says Foster. "Dell will put us in touch with their
engineers, and we'll come up with a new product out of it."
Lewis agrees, adding, "What that allows us to do is get on with the latest
and greatest technologies from Microsoft, which is the other piece of the puzzle
for us, and be able to deploy the new technology such as offering beta versions
and new software releases to our customers."
Running It Faster, Straight Out of the Box In November 2007, MaximumASP
released the first Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Beta project in a hosted
environment - in conjunction with partners Dell, Intel, Microsoft and the
Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) - to give first movers in the SQL
developer community an opportunity to try the new technology for free. The
offering has been very successful, and has been an ideal proving ground for
MaximumASP's new Dell servers.
"We're running the SQL Server Beta on Dell PowerEdge 2950 servers with the
latest generation Intel Xeon 64-bit quad-core processors," says Sarah Barela,
manager of database services at MaximumASP. "They're especially good at allowing
many users and multiple processes to run at the same time, which is really
important in a multi-tenant environment."
Quad-core technology uses four execution cores on a single processor chip.
This helps increase system performance so the processor can simultaneously
handle multiple threads, reducing lag time when running more than one
"SQL Server 2008 has performed great on the Dell PowerEdge 2950s," says
Barela. "We've been trying to stress the servers, and have been unable to reach
that saturation point in our testing. At this point, the Dell hardware is more
powerful than our tests. It will allow us to better manage the shared
environments so that the customers can get better performance out of the SQL
2008 database. We'll also see more standardization in how we manage our SQL
servers, and that translates to reduced costs for us."
MaximumASP anticipates being able to support as many as 2,000 concurrent
users on its current platform.
"The latest generation of Dell servers is optimized for Microsoft SQL Server
2008, and will help improve the performance of many other applications as well,"
says Foster. "They run great right out of the box. Dell and EMC, positioned as
leaders in both the server and storage worlds, help ensure that hardware
compatibility is not an issue. Implementing the most recent generations of Dell
servers with an EMC CLARiiON SAN involves little more than installing HBAs [host
bus adapters], configuring zoning and presenting storage. To date we have had
zero downtime from our CX3-20."
Reducing Complexity With A Single Vendor Dell has helped simplify
MaximumASP's business by acting as a single source vendor for server and storage
hardware and also as a consultant to help manage it.
"By standardizing the equipment, it makes it that much easier to repair,"
says Lewis. "I think companies that have a very distributed hardware
architecture are often challenged by having to deal with multiple vendor
relationships. When things go wrong, you really don't know whom to call, and
patterns don't develop like they do when you're using the same vendor. Dell has
been very responsive, which has been a big help to us."
"We get alerts ahead of time so we can proactively fix servers during the day
before the customer even notices an issue," says Foster. "It definitely beats
getting calls at three in the morning and rushing out to the data center."
Dell Warranty Parts Direct helps keep MaximumASP stocked with the parts it
needs to maintain and repair its many servers. "We can keep all the parts in
house, so we're able to do break-fix on site," says Lewis. "That's a huge plus
for us and something I haven't heard of a lot of people doing with other
Standardizing on Dell has also helped save the company time in procurement
due diligence, enabling easy order tracking and inventory management, as well as
streamlined customer relations when rolling out servers. What's more, the
out-of-the-box compatibility that Dell provides means that MaximumASP's
engineers don't have to worry about driver conflicts or a motherboard that won't
talk to a video card.
"The bottom line," says Lewis, "is that we want to be able to say to our
customers, 'These are the servers we offer. We order them from Dell. We open the
boxes up. We provision and manage the servers using systems that Dell helped us
find. When we put them out on the floor, we know they're going to run for four
or five years if they need to.' And that really is a big simplification for us."
Building a Green Machine Over the past seven years, MaximumASP has seen its
Dell hardware evolve with the times - often even ahead of the times.
"Dell has helped us simplify our business by releasing new products that
anticipate market demand," says Foster. "These days everybody's talking about
going green, but Dell servers were already doing that two years ago. We've saved
48.75 amps, or 61% savings over our previous systems, by consolidating 40 older
servers onto five Dell PowerEdge 2950 servers."
MaximumASP is using Microsoft Virtual Server to further help reduce cooling
and power costs and increase the company's profit margins.
Listening to the Customers MaximumASP's relationship with Dell is not unlike
its relationship with its own customers, Lewis observes.
"The reason our customers use our services is that they're Web developers,
not hosting companies," he says. "Well, we're not server builders, and we don't
want to be. Dell's willingness to sit down and ask 'Hey, what do you guys need
out of hardware?' was a good indicator of the fact that they are willing to
listen to hosting providers and that has been borne out over the course of our
relationship. Simple things like form factors that Dell is taking into
consideration in new product development are a big plus for us - life gets that
much easier when we're not dealing with boxes that are changing size every six
months to a year. Dell does a great job of listening and responding to our