CoTech Hack 2018/Shared Hosting and Infrastructure

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CoTech Shared Infrastructure Meeting - Nov-29 2018

  • Duration: 1600 - 1730

Present At meeting

  • Shawn from Brighton DX
  • Chris
  • Stephen from Agile collective
  • Nic
  • Tom from Aptivate
  • Leo from Autonomic
  • Matt from Outlandish
  • Luke from Aptivate
  • Ed from GreenNet
  • Liam from MediaBlaze (via video).

Meeting notes

Context of discussion on shared infra:

  • Providing hosting services for:
    • Members
    • Non-members
  • We acknowledge this is hard:
    • Getting people to move is a big ask (because it has costs).
  • Would like to explore options
    • cloud etc.
  • Manchester discussion (stalled since)
    • was good - people are doing stuff in this space already.
    • what ever we make isn't about competing with that - but what could we do together to use existing skills?
  • We've had a lot of requests from people [Shawn]
    • for an Amazon like coop cloud, supporting virtual servers.
    • It's hard to see how to get this off the ground with out a substantial amount of money - we've not got the money to fund this.
      • Can we do this incrementally? [Stephen]
        • setup something in some one else's cloud?
      • It's not just the hardware costs [Shawn]
        • It's the learning and billing infra etc.
  • What would we be offering that's different to services outside the coop sector?
  • What's interesting is the interface between developers and hosting [Nick]
    • Each place doing development is also doing dev ops.
    • It makes sense to offer the services for CI etc, dev ops to people in the network.
      • They are high value.
  • Liam - Media blaze has billing infra and control panel.
  • USPs for this: [Shawn]
    • We're the coop alternative.
    • Privacy - creating an alternative to big tech / capitalist surveillance
    • We can do the whole stack [see Brighton digital exchange - WC owned data centre]
    • Greennet - green hosting, independent (privacy intl. are users)
      • Greennet - do everything (full stack), feels like a lot for a small org
      • advantages in sharing the burden of keeping independent internet alive.
  • ERPNext.org billing solution
  • In terms of known coop infra existing:
    • Tier 2 DC (in Brighton digital ex)
    • Coop owned racks/DC/fiber early in 2019 (in Ashton-under-lyne).
      • See email [Shawn] on this opportunity.
    • Liam has a number of customers, already providing services.
    • Phone coop - has some servers that it might like to outsource (not core business).
      • ~250 VPS, some basic hosting.
      • Coop now taken over, might be looking for opportunity for support.
    • Greennet services.
  • As a whole (the above) there is significant potential to build something.
  • Ready for a Business plan idea? Think we need more discovery first [Shawn]
  • Building a mega-hosting-coop sounds hard to manage [Nick]
    • How would the individual coops currently existing fit/work together - don't yet have this picture.
  • Agile collective, looking at monthly spend on servers would be keen to push to coop providing it if possible.
  • Would like to show everyone this can be done. [Shawn]
  • Having independent infra is a goal itself too. [Ed]
  • There is political case for building a coop alternative for hosting [Shawn]
  • Context of doing this is the success of CoTech - support people operating the coop tech space. [Shawn]
  • Timing - people increasing unhappy with big tech - looking for alternatives, they need to be easier to access - potential growing business case [Ed]
  • Ethics, Service, Price [Stephen]
  • To get more people on board with the Ethical argument would need massive amount of marketing [Liam].
    • Would say the big names are becoming untrusted, so this is happening [Ed]
  • Doing this Incrementally [Stephen]
    • Raising capital harder.
  • A proposal - Phase 1 [Shawn]
    • We're not setting out to take any one on.
    • We're trying to consolidate, make coherent what we already do.
    • Start applying standards to those to make it a coherent product.
    • ie. if GreenNet has rack space. some one else starts to use.
    • Leading to building it so the open market can use it.
    • Pooled effort.
  • A proposal - Phase 2 [Shawn]
    • Create products for ppl who are just looking to use a coop version of something.
      • ie. a email service.
  • Concern on proposal [Leo]
    • Need more competitive costs (have looked at WebArchitects and GreenNet)
    • they are much more 4x rest of market.
  • What does consolidation mean:
    • Moving from coops doing everything by themselves.
  • Visibility of each coops technical offerings.
  • Potential amalgamation of who's doing what.
  • What are the differences between what people doing already (Compare WebArchitects and MediaBlaze)?
  • What are the stoppers/blocking issues?:
    • Say different standards re. using open source / free software
    • What's the offering difference from the POV from clients?
  • Using Coop legal structures to put together groups of coops working on projects.
  • Pricing:
    • Competing on price?
      • Is that possible?
      • Smaller players it's harder for.
    • Pricing is dependant on context (people pay different prices for same thing, because).
    • Being too cheap isn't sustainable (don't cannibalise business).
      • But if it's possible, offer for the price point that fits.
    • The main business opportunities might be outside the cotech network (orgs looking for more ethical/coop solutions).
  • Federation of coops:
    • Why can't various coops share (why the need to amalgamate)? [Luke]
      • We need to have coherent pricing, offering, standards. [Shawn]
      • There are ways to do this without creating a new coop.
  • On joint responsibility - one coop tends to take the lead (legal, contractual, client facing, liability), but would source services from other coops.
  • Bytemark are half the price than WebArchitects [Stephen]
    • Might be possible to offer cheaper services without hurting the business of WebArchitects (and would have a value to grow the coop hosting network).
    • Pricing, race to the bottom, friends company are much more expensive - and still it is viable and profitable (the value add of support) [Nick]
  • GreenNet - people want the client support.
  • Have multiple channels for people to contact us on support [Liam]
  • Brighton DX can't join CoTech (their members are private businesses) [Shawn]
    • We are probably OK working with them as coops (they are buying into the coop movement which is good - and it's not Amazon or whatever).
    • We might be OK working with a stack closed source with another coop.
    • There are ways to stick it together despite incompatibilities

Actions

  • Next step:
    • Create an inventory of what we all offer already (discovery phase)
    • Create an inventory of what we all buy already (discovery phase)
    • Put this data in a spreadsheets on new nextcloud servers.
  • Create the template for the spreadsheets [Nick/Leo] (CoTech shared infra)
  • Setup a survey [Liam]
  • Plan another meeting.
  • Can we buy this within the coop.
  • Look into the Phone Coop (do they need someone to take on their servers (as CoTech - with some one taking a lead on it)?)