In July of 2003 Spry moved into our first office space which we shared with NameIntelligence. It was quite a feeling of accomplishment at the time. It really helped us realize that we weren’t doing this as a hobby, or a side gig, that Spry was for real. If I recall properly at the time Spry had 4 employees: myself, 2 tech support/billing, and a sysadmin/developer.
Around this time I realized that not all of our customers were exactly like me. Many of you do not know, but my background before joining Spry was strictly UNIX and network engineering. I had never sold a product, or designed a website in my life. Not being very knowledgeable about selling servers, I decided it was time for us to hire our first employee for marketing and sales. I thought that someone that had been working in this arena for years would be a great fit, bring in some of the ‘gray hair’ to help us model the traditional ways products had been marketed. It seems very evident while writing this that was a rather short sighted decision. The internet, and especially virtualized operating systems were almost brand new! What could someone that had been promoting vacuum cleaners and hair-dryers their whole live know about search engine optimization and web design philosophies — effectively nothing.
We decided to enhance the product line to help increase revenue. We added three new product lines almost simultaneously; shared hosting, colocation, and dedicated servers. While we had always sold dedicated servers, there was nothing about them on the website. All of these were substantially tougher to manage than a relatively small number of VPS customers. It was time to invest in infrastructure again.
The network and our colocation footprint had been rapidly growing. We were up to what seemed like a massive 2.5 racks. We had obtained our autonomous-system number from ARIN, which allowed us to have our own IP space. We had connected to the Seattle Internet eXchange, allowing us to peer with both local and international providers. We also ‘upgraded’ our network to Riverstone networks. The switch to the Riverstone platform is one that I often think about. A close colleague of mine was very adamant that I invest in Cisco gear, saying ‘Once you go Cisco you’ll never go back’. We needed advanced router software to handle our Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) connections to our upstream providers, which the Riverstone provided at a very low cost. The Riverstone gear was not on our network for long, and for any customers who were with us during that period — I’m sorry. The lesson learned there was ‘We are not rich enough to buy cheap tools’. The cost of downtime, coupled with having to purchase Cisco gear in the end was an extremely expensive lesson.
After several months of shopping we got our own datacenter space, rather than just renting racks from a provider. It was Suite 911 in the Westin building. We had room for about 30 racks. We finished our network upgrade to all Cisco gear, and began selling colocation in earnest. That takes us through to November 2004.