Unlike most posts this one isn’t about technology or security. Just a little history.
Back in 1994 four Apple engineers (Kevin Brooks, Antonio Ordonez, Scott Winders and Dave Wells) decided it was time to build out our own part of The Internet. With Dave’s knowledge of the BBS world, especially the discount program available to “BBS customers”. Kevin and Antonio were the Unix guys and Scott and Kevin were the networking guys. With the skills to build out OSPF and BGP networks we applied for our ASN number and our first block of IP addresses. Because there wasn’t any better technology we ended up racking hundreds and hundreds of modems (and power bricks), I have a picture somewhere – I’ll post when I find it. We deployed shared hosting on an Apple AWS 95 running Apple’s Unix OS A/UX. That little server ran email, shared hosting, DNS, radius authentication and USENET news for our first customers. As we grew and added more servers to distribute the load it became a news only server before being retired for a faster and rackable model.
The only web server code available at the time was the NSCA server code, but it lacked any multi tenancy capabilities. Kevin added a few bits of code and we were able to start selling shared hosting over a single ISDN line out of a small office in Santa Clara California. We were also selling shell accounts, an IRC hackers playground – sigh. As much utility as we saw in the product we had to shut them down after just a few months. Ironically, today you can spin up a “cloud shell” on Google or Amazon with the click on a button.
We had the “NetGate Mall”, allowing early e-commerce services for our customers. We also shut that down as customers migrated to their own SSL certs and hosted (ShopSite) stores. That was until PCI compliance caused almost everyone to run to e-commerce providers (Shopify, BigCommerce, etc.). If only we hadn’t shut down the mall. How times have changed. If only we had known what the future would bring.
Instead of racks of modems and servers our infrastructure is now 100% hosted at Amazon. We haven’t sold dialup accounts in a very long time. Today we focus on providing best in class hosting services for DNS, mail and web (everything needed by every business).