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A Group of Friends Making One of the World’s Most Popular Panels: Interview with DirectAdmin’s Co-Owner, Martynas Bendorius

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Date/Time: April 28, 2021 @ 12:00 am, by raindog308

Our interview series has featured some of the true titans of the hosting industry.  We’re very excited to interview Martynas Bendorius, one of the owners of DirectAdmin.  As one of the most popular and respected hosting panels, DirectAdmin has been in the game for 20 years, which is like multiple lifetimes in the software or hosting industry.  In this interview, Martynas gives us a look behind the scenes at DA and talks about the panel’s future.

So where in the world do you live?

I live in EU, a small country near the Baltic sea – Lithuania.

What is your role within DirectAdmin?

I am responsible for the technical part of DirectAdmin (new features, configurations etc.)

DirectAdmin has really grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years.  When you started working on this project, did you think DA would get this huge?

Yes, I always did. We’ve always done our best to keep the product top-notch, however, it was
wrong to focus everything on the backend code. That’s why we’ve employed dedicated people working on frontend 🙂  We’re glad that frontend part of our product is top-notch as well, it’s a single-page-application, all written in Vue.

Going back a few months, cPanel had a huge price hike. That had to be a tremendous opportunity for you guys. How has that benefitted DA?

Some exposure, and lots of pressure. We started to look for new talent for the team. This month we had 4 new colleagues here. We feel the demand.

I have to put you on the spot because the question comes up. Does DA intend to go to per-domain or per-user licensing?

We have no plans for this at the moment. If the future brings 4TB RAM servers with 512 CPU cores that could host hundreds of thousands hosting customers – we’d just start discussing it with the community.

Unlike some of your competition, DA supports many different operating systems. That has to be a lot more work in terms of QA, development, etc. Why do you take this approach?

You are totally right. At first we did not know which distribution is going to be the most popular 🙂  Now we know that it’s definitely Linux (CentOS/AlmaLinux, Debian and Ubuntu). We have no official plans to support FreeBSD13, as we’re thinking to dedicate more of our time for Linux development.

Your software downloads and builds your own versions of web servers, etc. from scratch.  Why do that instead of basing your work off the distro’s own package managers?

We patch the software to support some specific features. For example – suexec in Apache to support per-directory user definition or linux cgroups. It’s possible to use our own repositories and packages for this, but newest packages would need to be packaged by us. At this time, for example, customers can simply download any version of php from php.net, specify custom version – and they get it installed. We’re thinking about providing a selection (compilation or OS packages from our repositories) in the future, but we have no ETA on this yet.

What’s your company culture like inside?

Very relaxed, like a group of friends. :) We are the same people from the beginning and we do not have outside owners or investors. The culture is what we want it to be. This can make the hiring process more difficult because someone being a good fit personally is just as important as their skills technically.

My perception is that DA as a company is a lot smaller than cPanel. Do you see yourselves as the underdog in the panel market?

Yes, we are much smaller for size and market share. This can be an advantage, so we can control our growth to a reasonable pace. Too much & too fast means burning out. Some people ask why we are not more aggressive, but this can lead to problems.

Every now and then, I see posts on LowEndTalk about how panels are going away and in X years, because “the big clouds” will make hosting a web site so easy that the current model of getting an account and managing it with DA or cPanel will no longer be needed. What are your thoughts on the future of “traditional shared hosting”?

Things have changed, for sure. There was no cloud computing when we started, and even VPS was a new & experimental thing. :) Back then, control panels were simpler too. I think there is still demand for control panels because they have become more complex and do more things.

Have you been following the DA “product improvements” thread on LowEndTalk? Have you taken any plans from it?

Yes, I follow that thread and many adjustments/new features were implemented because of the feedback in that thread. I’d like to thank the community for their time/efforts there.

I imagine one of your nightmares is a security vulnerability that results in DA sites being compromised. What’s your recipe for keeping DA sites safe?

We implement additional security measures like bubblewrap to isolate user environments. In addition to this, we’re working on complete user isolation on the control panel side. It would be technically impossible to escape your own user isolation when executing anything under DirectAdmin. No one is fully protected, but we do as much as we can to keep DirectAdmin secure. This includes yearly security audits to the codebase.

The cPanel ecosystem of add-ons, plugins, etc. is significantly larger than DA’s. Are you interested in growing the DA marketplace or are you more interested in adding features to the product itself?

Most of the time native features work the best, so we’d like to get more and more of them into our codebase.

Also, we do not chase after others to make plugins/add-ons. Any 3rd party software for DA exists because somebody thought it would be useful and valuable. Any growth of this sort is natural. Some people say organic, but it reminds me of food. :)

Where do you see DA in 5…10…20 years?

DA is almost 20 years old so another 20 would be great. :) We are the same people who started this from the beginning and this is our job. We don’t want to do anything else. It is difficult to say what the future will be. One thing for sure, people will keep giving feedback and requests,so we will never run out of things to do.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about DirectAdmin?

I forgot to mention earlier, I started off as a stranger to DA. I joined the forum, became a contributor, and then an owner. It is nice to have my efforts recognized but this is not why I mention it.

I mention it because this is so opposite of the things going on now. People are nervous about control panels for reasons of business ethics. They ask us, will we change pricing structure, or sell to investors. But look at our decisions almost two decades later. Instead of selling out to strangers, a long-term contributor and friend gets formal recognition & ownership. I think such things would scare investors. :) We are as much a group of friends as we are a business entity.


Thanks, Martynas for the insights!  Be sure to check out DirectAdmin and also the rest of interview series for more insights from industry and community leaders.

I'm Andrew, techno polymath and long-time LowEndTalk community Moderator. My technical interests include all things Unix, perl, python, shell scripting, and relational database systems. I enjoy writing technical articles here on LowEndBox to help people get more out of their VPSes.

6 Comments

  1. I got to talk with Martynas multiple times on support ticket. Nice guy, never said no whenever i needed help. 🙂

    April 28, 2021 @ 3:57 pm | Reply
  2. Snerden:

    Please give us Git support! It’s overdue

    April 28, 2021 @ 4:16 pm | Reply
  3. elena caramanico:

    I really appriciata Direct Admin..i think they need to invest in ux design after that they can win the “battle” against cpanel or plesk.

    April 28, 2021 @ 5:15 pm | Reply
  4. eleni:

    I really appriciata Direct Admin..i think they need to invest in ux design after that they can win the “battle” against cpanel or plesk.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    April 28, 2021 @ 5:15 pm | Reply
  5. Collin Andrews:

    Good Interview, nice to read Andrew. Keep up the good work and development Martynas and team! (Happy DirectAdmin user+).

    April 29, 2021 @ 8:25 am | Reply

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