Archive News #4 - Colocation and Open Beta
In this, our fourth Archive news post, the OTW is delighted and excited to announce Server Colocation and the Coming Of Open Beta! Yes, this extra special Archive post is brought to you by 'We own the goddamn servers!' Thanks to the generous donations of fandom and the hard work of our team, we’ve bought two shiny new servers! \0/ The Archive of Our Own will soon be moved onto these servers, which will mean that we will have enough capacity to increase our number of users and move into Open Beta. \0/
We know that people will have questions about the details of what we’ve selected and the path we take from here. This post will deal with some of the main issues, but please do leave us your questions in comments if there's anything else you'd like to know. (Specific comments about the design or usability of the Archive can, as always, be left as feedback on the Archive site itself, so it goes into our bugfix and design process).
Why is it important for us to own the servers?
Owning our own servers is at the heart of the OTW's mission as a nonprofit fan organization. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate. Historically, many sites that have hosted fanworks have not been interested in or capable of defending the legitimacy of fanworks and have therefore been quick to take down or delete fan content when challenged for whatever reason (copyright concerns, concerns over explicit material, business or advertising concerns etc). The OTW's goal has always been to host fanworks on nonprofit servers owned and maintained by fellow fans.
What’s the basic technical setup?
We have colocated servers. \0/ In brief, this means that we own the actual machines and we pay a colocation company to provide the physical space they're housed in. We also have to pay recurring costs for bandwidth and power. Two major advantages of this set-up are that the machines are ours, so no one can mess with them for any reason, and there is much more potential to scale up to support a bigger site if and when we ever need to. If you're interested in a more detailed explanation of colocation and why it is the best option for a site like ours, then we recommend you check out Synecdochic's awesome post on hosting options and colocation.
What are the specs on your servers?
After extensive research and comparison shopping, we purchased two shiny new Hewlett Packard ProLiant DL360 G5 rack servers, each powered by 2 Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5420 processors. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of memory to support simultaneous users and fast drives to ensure speedy response from the database to retrieve stories, so each server will be loaded with 16GB RAM, and 4×72GB 15k RPM hard drives arranged in a RAID10.
Each server will house both our Web application and database, but one will be primary for Web, one will be primary for the database, and they will each provide failover for the other.
How much is all this costing?
The two servers with extra RAM (they come standard with 4GB each, which we upped to 16GB each) cost US$6,330 and the hard drives cost an additional US$1,835 for a grand total of US$8,165 (including shipping.)
We will pay for initial installation/set-up, and then colocation hosting will be an ongoing cost of US$228.00 per month.
What happens now?
The colocation hosts will rack and install our servers and set things up so that our Systems team can access and administer the servers remotely. As noted above, they’ll also to do our initial OS installation for us. We have to pay for this initial set-up, but it’s worth it to lighten the load for our Systems team. (Our wonderful Systems volunteers are in heavy demand across the entire OTW, so we like to spare this small but incredibly hard-working team when we can.)
Once the basic set-up is complete, our Systems team will install any remaining software and code libraries necessary to run the Archive of Our Own. They’ll then begin the process of moving the Archive itself over to the new servers!
What’s the plan for moving the Archive?
- Our Systems team will deploy our stable Archive code on the new server. We’ll be deploying code which has already been used on the existing server for a little while so that we can easily spot any bugs that occur during the move. We’ll also be porting the existing data in the AO3 onto the new server.
- Our team of Testers and anyone else we can rope in will spend some time extensively testing the code, banging on every aspect of the site and generally making sure that everything is working as it should.
- We will refresh the data on the site to bring it in line with the existing beta site and delete any crud generated during testing, and redirect http://archiveofourown.org/ so that it points to our new home.
- We’ll move to Open Beta \0/
What is Open Beta?
Open Beta is the time when we start expanding our user numbers so that fandom can use the Archive for real! It won’t be completely open for sign-ups – we have to expand gradually, so we’ll be using an invitation system – but it will be many, many more than our current tiny testing userbase. We’re looking at moving from 277 users to c. 2000 users over the course of the first month or so, and we’ll keep ramping up from there.
Closed Beta was the period in which we did major code developments and tested them out on our willing victims volunteers. By the time we go into Open Beta, we will have built much of the major functionality for the Archive and tested it out a bit. Open Beta will let us see how the Archive runs with a lot of users. However, we’ll still be actively coding – building new features and refining the existing ones based on user feedback – and monitoring the site closely to see if and how it works. Contents may shift in transit!
For those of you who are currently using Dreamwidth, you’ll be familiar with how the Open Beta process works – managed user numbers and fairly frequent code pushes.
When will you move to Open Beta?
We’re hoping to move to Open Beta in late 2009! This is provisional, and is dependent on our move going smoothly, our coders not dying of exhaustion, etc. But our brilliant AD&T chair Maia has been creating detailed time plans, and things are looking promising for us achieving our goals.
How can I get an account once you’re in Open Beta?
It’s really important to us to ensure that everyone who wants one has the chance to get an account. We can’t just have open sign-ups, because we need to increase our numbers gradually, but we will have an open-access invitations request system. There will therefore be two ways of getting an account:
- Anyone who is interested will be able to add their email address to a queue, and we’ll periodically send out invitations to that pool depending on how many new users the site can take at any given time. This will be first-come, first-served. This way, you won’t have to know someone who already has an account in order to have a chance of getting one.
- Users who have an account on the Archive will be given a certain number of invitations to hand out to their friends. We know that people do like to share the fannish glee and to build their networks on new sites, and we want to give people a chance to do that. Extra invitation codes will be issued to users periodically depending on how many new users the site can manage.
We’re really, really excited about finally owning our own servers, and we hope you are too! AD&T committee member Amelia deserves a massive, massive shout-out for doing all the legwork on this – she has worked like a crazy person making technical comparisons, interfacing between all the people involved, and generally wrangling the whole affair. We’re also very grateful to PRK and JP, two non-fannish friends of the OTW who gave us lots of support and advice. Finally, we’re VERY grateful to all of YOU, our awesome fannish community who donated the money to make this possible. We’re really jazzed about seeing more and more wonderful fanworks filling up the Archive in the months to come!
We hope this post answers a few of your questions! Please leave other questions and comments here. We won't always answer comments on this post directly – we'll put your feedback into our pool of things to answer in future posts.