VMs, RAM, BigV and the cloud


I’ve been using a VM at Bytemark for almost ten years now. It’s the low-end configuration. I’m mostly running mail services, although it runs a few other things for me from time to time. Recently I’ve started running out of RAM for ClamAV, and I notice the platform hasn’t received any RAM upgrades in a while.

It looks like BigV would give me more memory for less money — are there any hidden costs of switching to that service? And if not, is there a migration process or is it just a case of spinning up a new VM and copying everything over?

And what are some pros and cons of BigV as compared to other cloud providers?


Hi Matthew,

10 years is a good run for the classic VM platform(s)! With BigV, we’re building something that we plan to last at least that long, if not more, using our experience of what we’ve done so far and what our customers have been asking for.

One of the main differences between BigV and the classic VM platform is that the commitment is much less - you can pay for as little as a day’s usage vs 30 days. There’s also much more scope to manage your own requirement for extra RAM, hard drive space and CPU cores.

However, we did make a compromise by not including backup space as standard, so this is one potential cost of switching to BigV from a classic VM. 50 GB of ‘archive’ grade storage on BigV is only £2/month extra on top of the basic £10/month cloud server though. You’ll have to configure this yourself as backup space but that’s straightforward through Symbiosis.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-click migration process as yet but this does mean we will keep supporting the classic VM platform for the foreseeable future. Many customers take the move to BigV as an opportunity to streamline their setup and soon, we’ll be releasing Symbiosis for Debian 7.0 (wheezy) so it might be worth waiting til then anyway.

There are some key benefits to using BigV over other cloud providers:

  • BigV is designed, supplied and supported completely by Bytemark. There’s no third-party and we take complete ownership of any issues. You talk to the developers, sysadmins and hardware engineers who have put it together (and not a call centre).
  • BigV requires no commitment - you pay for as little as a day of usage, so if you need to test something out or you break a box, it’s not a big deal. This also applies to scaling up your server so in the event you were expecting a traffic spike (Hackernews?), you’d be able to apply more CPU and RAM in moments with a reboot.
  • Symbiosis, our easy hosting management software, is supplied as a standard image on BigV, making it easy to quickly setup websites and email in a standard Debian environment. Symbiosis avoids opaque control panels and enables the migration of websites and email through sensible paths.
  • If you fancy hacking around with a more obscure operating system in the cloud, BigV lets you mount an ISO to your cloud server directly over http or even from your desktop. You can even host FreeBSD or Haiku on BigV (though the latter can be flakey). More interestingly, this opens up access to beta operating system versions that might not be released yet or application-based server images from sources like Turnkey Linux.
  • BigV is hosted completely within the UK, unlike some other providers that spread their clouds across the Atlantic. This means you know what legal environment applies to your personal data. You are also welcome to arrange a visit to the datacentre, if you’re interested in seeing what it is that you’re buying :slight_smile:

BigV can sometimes work out more expensive than the giant providers like Amazon for small instances. That’s fair enough - their infrastructure is staggering. But for £10 per month, Amazon won’t give you phone support, only community support whereas Bytemark offers phone support at any price point (and a dedicated support contact for managed customers).

The above only scratches the surface of what BigV can do for you. There’s more at http://www.bigv.io/indepth/.

Finally, I hope that we’ve served you well to date and we’d like to keep doing that. Our success to date has been thanks to our customers staying with us and recommending us. This means that we can keep supporting many of the open source and community projects that are close to our hearts and do good for the internet.


Thanks for the detailed reply! How much slower is the archive storage compared to the regular kind — and how do both compare with the older VM platform?

The documentation makes it look like I could request a disk size that’s not on your price list. How is that billed? If I asked for (say) 30GB of archive storage, would that be pro-rated or rounded up to £2?


Based on the new beta Big V console the cost is rounded up to the next full amount, rather than having partial increments from the published pro https://panel-beta.bytemark.co.uk/network/add-vm


Hi @mpowell - sorry for the super-slow response. This somehow slipped through the net.

The archive storage is really designed only for local archiving. We don’t recommend using it to deliver content to the Internet if avoidable, because it’s much more contended than regular sata storage (and priced accordingly). Compared to the classic VM platform, BigV’s architecture is different with VM heads and storage tails abstracted rather than local storage, meaning storage should be less contended. We also have the advantage of being able to migrate cloud servers live between storage tails to balance out the platform or rescue servers from an ailing tail.

As @smsm1986 says, the storage is sold in units so requesting 30GB of archive space would see you charged the same as 50GB and thus rounded up to £2. I’ve spoken to @steveu about this and we’ll try and make it clearer.


The beta panel does prompt you to increase for free, if you’re in between units.