State of the Cloud
Published: September 21, 2022
As promised, this post is a followup to my previous post on the state of my homelab.
My Approach to the Cloud
Before listing off hosts, I thought it'd be worth a discussion of how I approach "the cloud". I'll start off by apologizing for using the word "cloud" so much--it does feel buzzwordy but it's significantly shorter than "services hosted by cloud providers".
In general, I prefer to self host my own services, and have been since 2020. I self host because:
- It's a great learning opportunity
- I prefer controlling my data
- I feel it's important to maintain some semblance of an internet where anyone can run their own node (not just big companies).
There are, however, pragmatic limitations. I don't own the hardware in a rack in the datacenter because I simply have no need for that kind of compute power. Likewise, I don't run the services off of my home network because most internet providers explicitly disallow it in their terms of service. So "self hosting" is more about running software on a VM in "the cloud" and minimizing my reliance on hosted services.
The server hosting this site is a base-tier VM (1GB RAM/1 CPU) from OpenBSD.Amsterdam. It's reasonably priced at 60 euros/yr (Linode has the same host spec for $60/yr), especially when you consider the fact that 10-15 of those are donated to the OpenBSD foundation.
Ultimately I chose it because:
- It's the only service I know running OpenBSD VMs on OpenBSD servers and that's just plain cool. This really has nothing to do with security concerns, I just appreciate the fact that someone is doing it (and that they donate to the OpenBSD foundation!)
- It's so small scale that you end up emailing a real live human to register and for support which has been really pleasant (and said human is also super cool and gives conference talks about the setup--thanks Mischa if you're reading this!)
- They publish their scripts used to provision and deploy VMs, which is also really cool (have I said "cool" enough?)
I've been using them for a little over a year now and am a happy renewing customer. My only qualm has been that, being in Amsterdam, the latency from Boston is noticeable.
I can't say how well it would take load, since I've never had any real traffic spikes. If my site got uber-popular I'd re-evaluate the Acme theme first and then maybe make sure the VM is doing OK :)
As it says on the homepage, this server hosts:
- This blog / related archives (like jam setlists)
- My gopherhole
- Several git projects
Email -- I use the akarle.com domain for outbound mail from
cronso I don't have to ssh in to check if my TLS cert renewal failed (without tarninshing my personal alexkarle.com reputation)
- The soju IRC bouncer
This is the second iteration of alexkarle.com, the first being on Linode (running the same software). Migrating was manual, and I wish I blogged about it at the time--I'm sure I learned something in the process. Having been running for 1+ years now, the minutiae of the configs escape me a bit (although I of course track them privately in git).
Garbash, the tilde that I started with a friend, runs on Linode on a base $5/mo shared 1CPU/1RAM VM. It's running OpenBSD since booting a new Linux VM on Linode is just too dang easy (I really enjoy their developer experience!) and we needed a challenge.
Linode has treated me really well over the past few years, and I would use them for any professional work if I could (I've never worked somewhere early-stage enough to dictate the cloud provider).
I chose them originally because I wanted a hosting provider that wasn't one of the big three (Amazon, Google, Microsoft). Since self hosting is about exercising my freedoms, it feels backwards to do it on the servers of some of the largest tech monopolies.
The tilde project includes hosting almost all the same services (email, wireguard, web, git, etc) as alexkarle.com.
Every once and a while I kick around the idea of reducing my "sysadmin debt" and moving from self-hosted to "foss-hosted". It's still really important to me to stay indie and support small hosting providers, but I feel like a lot of the learning took place in the first year and has left me with only maintenance (and small bills to pay).
I've been a paying subscriber to Sourcehut for almost 3 years now and in that time they've released several projects that would alleviate some load:
- chat.sr.ht would save me from hosting soju (there is the real concern about someone having my personal chat logs, but realistically I mostly lurk on IRC and all the channels I'm in are public anyways--no private dms occurring to be worried about and for those I could always connect directly/avoid the bouncer).
- sourcehut pages would easily host my site (it actually already does in my experimenting with foss-hosted)
Of course their git hosting, which I already
use (and link to in blog posts since it has whole file blobs at
every commit unlike my
stagit(1)setup; I don't want dead links in posts!)
More problematic would be finding a home for euchre.live. Since it requires a running Perl backend, finding hosting might be a challenge. That said, the project hasn't seen much love since I started seeing my family for dinner and games in person (after COVID concerns became lesser), so I may sunset it soon.
Lastly, my gopherhole would have to find a new home. SDF is a good candidate since it has free Gopher hosting, but I would lose my personal domain and, unless I'm missing something, it's a stretch to call SDF "foss" since most of their code is proprietary (no shade on the tilde--the community is incredible and it's amazing to have lasted 35 years).
All things considered, the 5-10 minutes I spend per month
syspatch(8)-ing my servers is worth the freedoms that come
with root access and being able to run the software I want under
my own domain name, at least for now. If and when I need to migrate
hosting providers, I may feel differently about setting it all up
again a third time.