DigitalOcean: Minimize Complexity, Focus on Transparency and Affordability

Interview with Shiven Ramji, VP of Product for DigitalOcean

While many web hosting companies provide solutions for customers with little technical knowledge, but DigitalOcean is passionate about simplifying web infrastructure and building a product that developers love. With over 2.5 million unique visitors per month and 1700 tutorials, it’s one of the most comprehensive libraries of open source resources available, while at the same time allowing for transparency and good pricing. We had the opportunity to talk with VP of Product Shiven Ramji about the future for this fast-growing company.

Hostadvice Digital Ocean interview

HA: Hi Shiven! Tell me a bit about yourself, your background, and how you came to be the VP of Product for DigitalOcean.

My background includes a variety of disciplines, most of which were specifically in product management. I’m lucky to also have had marketing, analytics, data science and engineering experience in the past. Before this, I had executive roles at Amazon, LiveIntent, Comcast/NBC, and Nielsen.

I joined DigitalOcean in March of this year. I joined with the idea and firm belief that developers are not just customers, they are innovators, distributors and the new decision makers.

I’m excited to work at the intersection of product, design and technology, and empower developers to solve problems.

In addition to overseeing product management, I also own the developer relations and partnerships functions. This is a component which nurtures, helps and gives back to the developers.

HA: You’re new to DigitalOcean as the VP of Product. What are the future plans for the company, from the product side?

Sure. We’ve had a lot of exciting new products and features coming out for developers. Looking past this current year, which included three big launches and major upgrades, we’ve extended the availability of our Block Storage to other data centers, and introduced new products such as Cloud Firewalls, Load Balancers, as well as a Cloud Monitoring service with alerting capabilities. Our Object Storage is another major new product currently in early beta.

All of these products are part of our strategy for providing scalable, secure, highly available, reliable solutions for cloud infrastructure.

For the rest of this year our developer customers will continue to see new features and an improved experience on our platform. We also have some interesting plans for our One-Click Solutions for developers.

HA: I see that you’ve brought Block Storage to Toronto and Singapore. Can you elaborate on that?

Every quarter we launch new data centers with Block Storage. We announced four more data centers that will get Block Storage during Q3 and Q4. We currently have 12 data centers in different cities all over the world.

There are three core components of the cloud: computing, networking and storage. For our computing capabilities, our flagship product is the Droplet, our name for cloud servers, and then we also provide networking features that allow you to scale and secure your applications. Block Storage provides the storage for your applications in the cloud.

The reason we are bringing Block Storage to our datacenters is that we have a global developer base. We have developers with applications that need to be available in different regions, as well as developers who are actually located in those regions, so having regional and global availability for all of our products is critical.

Digital Ocean hosting Block storage

HA: DigitalOcean’s product offerings include networking, storage, data processing, and developer tools. These go beyond the shared hosting, dedicated servers, and VPN services generally offered by web hosting companies. Who are you marketing to with these products?

Sure. For everything that we build, we think: what are the different developer personas or use cases that we want to address, and we work backwards from there. We have all kinds of developers on our platform, as you can imagine – sys admins, application developers, data engineers, data scientists, and even students taking computer science classes.

We have a lot of developers who use us for personal projects, and for hosting critical business applications.

The way we think about it is this: we are the cloud for developers – individuals, as well as teams, can use our platform to build, deploy and scale applications of any size in the cloud.  There is something for everyone.

HA: Can you describe your main services briefly? Which specific audience is each targeted towards?

Yes. A full cloud computing infrastructure offers three core components: computing, storage and secure networking. We provide the computing services for the servers, or Droplets, and storage, which includes Block Storage, and in the future, Object Storage. We also have secure networking, which includes everything from floating IPs and DNS to Cloud Firewalls. These are the essential building blocks that a developer needs. This is the foundation.

On top of this, we build software and services that make the management and building of these applications easier. A few examples of this are: One-Click Solutions, integrations with Terraform, Cloud Monitoring, Load Balancers, and securing your applications with Cloud Firewalls.

Developers have the option to use all of these offerings in tandem with their applications, but it really depends on the type of application that they are building. For some types of applications, load balancing may be important, because there is a lot of traffic. Other applications may require more computing power, so they’ll need a High CPU plan for CPU-intensive workloads.

It’s really dependent on the use case. The one thing we ensure across all use cases is that we minimize complexity and focus on transparent and affordable pricing. We provide the best offering in the simplest way possible. That’s our big advantage.

HA: How many customers do you have at the present time? Who are some of your biggest or most noteworthy customers?

We have one million users, meaning customers who have spun up a Droplet. We also have 64,000 engineering teams that are active on our platform. Our teams feature allows for collaboration, as it’s often the case that our customers are a team of developers working together. Our teams feature allows you to collaborate on your business projects and work together to utilize these resources.

Digital Ocean customers

HA: Where are your headquarters and datacenters located? Can you briefly describe the company culture?

Our headquarters are in New York. We recently opened an office in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

We have 12 data centers in 8 cities: New York, Toronto, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Bangalore and Singapore.

We have a very interesting company culture, but I’ll try to highlight three main takeaways. First, we focus on innovation and simplification. We really strive for simple and elegant solutions. This starts with the brand, color and tone of the website, through sign-ups in the control panel, and all the way to interaction with the community. We really strive for simplicity through all touchpoints with a developer.

The second takeaway is the notion of love for our customers and employees. We do the extra things that we may not have to in order to delight our customers and deliver a better experience. Once you remove friction, working with your product and services becomes a delightful experience. For example, we create custom, high-quality illustrations for most of our community tutorials, social media announcements and website. We also listen to developers and their most-requested features through our uservoice forums.

The last takeaway is community. We’re very conscious of the developer community. We really believe in both the developer, and the open source community. We provide tutorials with the idea of removing friction and helping developers get up to speed and scale their applications.

Digital Ocean hosting global deployment

HA: Is there anything else that you’d like to add for our readers?

I want to reiterate that we care about developers – we want them to develop the best software they can in the cloud, and be sure that they can rely on us in terms of what we provide. We do our utmost to make sure our services are transparent and affordable, and build the best community so that our customers can be successful.

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