It is easy to get excited about Mosso:
- Run stock PHP/ASP.NET with MySQL/MSSQL in the cloud
- Automatic scaling for processing, disk space and bandwidth
- Pay only for what you use
- 24×7 Support
- Did I mention Rackspace?
So I made the recommendation to use them, the client happily agreed and we went on our merry way. 6 months later we’re switching hosting providers vowing never to return to Mosso. So, what went wrong?
The first thing that hit us was the amount of maintenance. Maintenance happens often and with little or no warning. Worse for us, it almost always happens at the same time (late in the night US time). For an Indian company serving Indian businesses this is the equivalent of scheduling down time during peak business hours. We asked if we could be moved to a cluster that had maintenance at a different time, they said that option doesn’t exist yet. Why do they need so much maintenance? Because they are still building and refining the system. Make no mistake, it will probably be rock solid and stable in a year or two. Right now though, it is a petulant child in constant need of attention.
When building complicated web applications you often need to be able to do things that require custom services running on your servers to provide the features required. On Mosso, because of the way the environment is structured, you can’t run your own services. Cron jobs cannot be run in less than 5 minute intervals. You can’t use mysqldump, you have to get data from phpMySQL. You can’t replicate your data off-site because MySQL is already running in clustered mode managed by Mosso. All these limitations remind me of lower tier shared-hosting systems. If you’re used to root level access or running your own servers Mosso will lead to a lot of roadblocks and will require you to use workarounds. In many cases there is no way around these roadblocks.
The SSL Screw-Up
Our SSL site was having some problems which were apparently due to a configuration error at Mosso. The fix included changing an IP address which they did without informing us. Suddenly our domain was pointing to a defunct IP.
The Russian Auto Hack
Some clever person managed to fool Mosso’s routers or load balancers (as far as I can tell) into pointing all traffic to a Russian Auto site. For a while, anyone that visited our site was redirected to a shady Russian Used Car Listing. When you’re dealing with sensitive businesses a security breach of this sort undermines your entire operation. This was a big reason for the switch.
Things went wrong with regularity, from PHP failures to load balancer configuration problems to write locks on MySQL. Seemingly anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. A quick glance at status.mosso.com will show you just how often this stuff has been happening.
I happened to be the 500th person to follow Mosso’s Twitter stream and have been given 1 year of free hosting at Mosso. I should have been a staunch advocate. As it stands I don’t think Mosso is ready for prime-time. Maybe we just had incredibly bad luck and other, luckier people will never face these issues. However, I do believe that you judge a service on its worst possible problem and how it gets handled. After raising a stink about our problems in Mosso’s highly public Twitter stream we got traction with upper management at Mosso, but by that point my client was already determined to move.
Mosso is a great idea and will probably turn out to be a great platform. But for the time being, if your site needs to be up all the time, Mosso is not reliable enough to bank on.