Behind the Cloud It's Still Just Computers
I had the pleasure of joining a video conference with our local Drupal expert, Katherine Druckman, and Barry Jaspan, one of the system architects from Acquia. Acquia is a company that specializes in Drupal. While their company does many things for clients interested in using Drupal, we were specifically talking about cloud computing. Acquia offers a highly available, fully scalable, and managed Drupal environment. For the end user, it means you pay a set amount every month, and your website is always there. It's always updated, it's always backed up, and it's always available. For that magic to happen, however, the folks at Acquia have to play the man behind the curtain and become the Wizard of Oz. That's where the focus of our talk was, and it was fascinating to hear some inside info on running a cloud service. The folks at Acquia actually use Amazon's cloud services to make their own cloud platform. Perhaps that's a cloud within a cloud, but nonetheless it's an economical way to leverage other people's datacenters in order to provide a service of your own. Using Amazon's EC2 service to spin up servers as you need them is great. It does come with some frustrating hinderances too though.
- As client needs grow or shrink, adding or removing servers takes literally seconds.
- Hardware maintenance is "farmed out" to Amazon. No more failed hard drives, faulty network cards, or power concerns.
- As a vendor, you only pay for the server power you need. No need to over-buy servers in case you need them.
- While spinning up new servers is instant, you're limited (mostly) to spinning up servers. There is no SAN, which can be a real problem.
- Creating failover support must be done completely with software. Not having actual hardware is an advantage, until you wish you had specialized hardware.
- Scaling can be challenging. Granted Amazon offers different size hardware, but load balancing and scaling still aren't magic. MySQL for instance still runs on a single server.
That's Where the Magic Happens
At Acquia, they've created a complex backend. Clients don't see anything other than a working service, but they've solved some complicated issues rather nicely. For example:
Drupal's Data Store
Drupal stores local files. Yes, most of the content is dynamically created from the database, but there are some things that Drupal expects to see on a filesystem. Images, documents, files, etc. are stored on a local filesystem and accessed by the web server. In a highly available environment without a shared SAN, that can be challenging. Acquia currently uses a filesystem that is spanned across several servers in such a way that if a server fails, the others keep the filesystem going. It works a bit like a network based RAID5 array. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work the way the Acquians (can I call them that?) like. Rather than just leave a mostly-working system as their default, the architects are working toward a better system. Using Varnish to cache the files, it will likely be possible to allow a seamless failover to a mirrored backup rather than worrying about a network based distributed filesystem. How it will all come together is still being planned, but it's exciting to see software solutions for hardware limitations.
MySQL, Your SQL…
If you were hoping for a magic bullet regarding the scaling of MySQL, unfortunately that's just not in the cards. Oh, there are ways to make it more efficient, with things like memcached, but in the end an instance of MySQL requires a server to run on. Thankfully Amazon offers some pretty beefy server instances if you need them. In the end, expertise is what really makes the database back end able to handle any load. If a site is busy enough to overtax MySQL, even on a huge server, it's time to tune up your Drupal install. If every page load makes 11,837 database calls, there's no MySQL server in the world that can help.
Clouds Don't Make Geeks Obsolete
Cloud computing is really great for end users looking to farm out the management of their servers. It's also really great for a company that wants to offer services, but doesn't want to invest in a datacenter. At the end of the day, however, cloud computing isn't a magic bullet. It still requires geeks behind the curtain keeping things running. The exciting part, at least for me, is that solving problems in the cloud is drastically different than traditional datacenters. I'm an old dog that likes to learn new tricks, and solving application issues within the limitations of virtual servers in the cloud is a whole new game. So go spin up that EC2 instance, and start solving problems. You'll become a pretty valuable employee to someone!
Free Webinar: Hadoop
How to Build an Optimal Hadoop Cluster to Store and Maintain Unlimited Amounts of Data Using Microservers
Realizing the promise of Apache® Hadoop® requires the effective deployment of compute, memory, storage and networking to achieve optimal results. With its flexibility and multitude of options, it is easy to over or under provision the server infrastructure, resulting in poor performance and high TCO. Join us for an in depth, technical discussion with industry experts from leading Hadoop and server companies who will provide insights into the key considerations for designing and deploying an optimal Hadoop cluster.
Some of key questions to be discussed are:
- What is the “typical” Hadoop cluster and what should be installed on the different machine types?
- Why should you consider the typical workload patterns when making your hardware decisions?
- Are all microservers created equal for Hadoop deployments?
- How do I plan for expansion if I require more compute, memory, storage or networking?
|Dynamic DNS—an Object Lesson in Problem Solving||May 21, 2013|
|Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development||May 20, 2013|
|Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)||May 16, 2013|
|Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This||May 15, 2013|
|Home, My Backup Data Center||May 13, 2013|
|Non-Linux FOSS: Seashore||May 10, 2013|
- RSS Feeds
- Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)
- Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development
- Dynamic DNS—an Object Lesson in Problem Solving
- New Products
- Validate an E-Mail Address with PHP, the Right Way
- Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This
- A Topic for Discussion - Open Source Feature-Richness?
- Download the Free Red Hat White Paper "Using an Open Source Framework to Catch the Bad Guy"
- Tech Tip: Really Simple HTTP Server with Python
- Roll your own dynamic dns
4 hours 24 min ago
- Please correct the URL for Salt Stack's web site
7 hours 36 min ago
- Android is Linux -- why no better inter-operation
9 hours 51 min ago
- Connecting Android device to desktop Linux via USB
10 hours 20 min ago
- Find new cell phone and tablet pc
11 hours 18 min ago
12 hours 47 min ago
- Automatically updating Guest Additions
13 hours 55 min ago
- I like your topic on android
14 hours 42 min ago
- This is the easiest tutorial
21 hours 17 min ago
- Ahh, the Koolaid.
1 day 2 hours ago