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Server farm daydreams via Amazon.com

23 August 2009 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in diary, technology | 8 Comments »

As my regular readers know, my translation business has really been on the rocks lately. This isn’t all bad. Being dead broke serves as a lot of motivation to look around for other things to do.

Way back in 1994 I registered the domain cat.net, when such things cost around US$50 per year. For the next six years, cat.net served as my own personal domain, with a Linux server at home and as many as 8 smaller machines in the house at different times. In 2001, I handed the cat.net domain over to my ex-wife as part of our divorce settlement and started using gogulski.com instead. She later sold the cat.net domain for a rather handsome sum, and the domain has been “parked” with various “coming soon” and parked-domain monetization schemes since then. In 2000, the main host, squeaker.cat.net squeaker.gogulski.com (“Squeaker” is one of Henry’s nicknames), moved into collocation with my ISP employer, carrying all of its email accounts, mailing lists and websites with it. The company collapsed, along with my interest in running my own Linux box, and I started migrating people off before everything at the office got shut down. I haven’t been involved in maintaining my own servers since.

Since June of this year, though, I’ve become very involved in building and supporting web infrastructure for various liberty causes, including operating websites for the Free Agents Network, the Motorhome Diaries, and the Ladies of Liberty Alliance. I’ve also started a blog hosting service, Freedom Blogs, which has now grown to a whopping ten users with no promotion, and am working on a few other new web projects besides.

And I’ve started running into limitations with DreamHost, the web hosting provider where all this stuff lives. I love the reliability and security of having the infrastructure taken care of in a secure data center, but, ARGH I want more control over my hosting environment.

So, I’ve been off at Amazon for a little while putting together a short shopping list for a web hosting cluster.

First, some cheapish web servers:

This could be okay for a just-starting-out database server:

But, oh, I need two of those. One for the database server and one for the storage server. Maybe they can back each other up.

And then a switch, of course:

All this for a mere $30,836 plus tax, shipping, insurance, etc. Oh, and then I need some UPS units, some cables, a rack, a KVM switch. I guess I’ll put this on my Christmas list.

Meanwhile, something like just two of those DL320 machines would work. $2576, plus extras… tra la la. Daydreams sure are nice.



  1. 8 Responses to “Server farm daydreams via Amazon.com”

  2. By Kevin Dean on 23 August 2009

    You’re talking about stepping up from a shared-hosting to running a cluster… sounds like you’re planning on geeking out more than getting work done.

    A well-provisioned VPS will give you just as much uptime, bandwidth and reliability as coloing your own stuff. Full root without having to fuss with hardware failures and failed RAID cards.

  3. By George Donnelly on 23 August 2009

    You don’t need to spend all that. Cisco? HP? Gah why throw your money away?

    First, to get started, I think it’s best to lease servers.

    But if you want to colo right off the bat, lease a 1/4 cab at a place that gives you ethernet drops. No need to get a router off the bat. If you do want one tho, get one of those HP ones, much cheaper and just as good.

    Servers, go generic supermicro. Very cheap and good quality. I don’t remember the name of my old supplier right now but I can hunt it up if you like.

  4. By Mike Gogulski on 23 August 2009

    @Kevin: I keep looking at VPS plans and thinking: “Can’t I do this more cheaply with my own box in a colo?” You’re right, though. Got any VPS provider recommendations?

    @George: I did say it was a daydream :) Started browsing around Amazon and these were the sort of items that came up. Sure, I don’t really need 2x8TB db/fileservers with 64GB of RAM each, but if I’m gonna dream, baby, I’m gonna dream big!

  5. By diego on 23 August 2009

    Maybe you should take a look at WebFaction. I was daydreaming myself. I was going to experiment with the Factor language and needed a host. As long as your software can listen in on a port, you can run it on their “shared hosting” plans. Full shell access included.

    “Shared hosting” does not do them justice. They have a proprietary setup where it’s something between “shared” and VPS. More info. under “Scale as much as you need” here: http://www.webfaction.com/why-webfaction/

    You can combine different shared accounts, do load balancing, and manage then within a single browser window.

    I plan to take a small site I have on Heroku and moving it to WebFaction. They also have a blog post on shared hosting myths: http://blog.webfaction.com/3-myths-about-shared-hosting

    SliceHost (VPS) is the one I would use if I were brave/smart enough to setup my own box: http://www.slicehost.com/

  6. By Kevin Dean on 23 August 2009

    I would recommend against Slicehost, actually. They have a great reputation, but they were bought by Rackspace. Rackspace ALSO has a great reputation, but my experience with them wasn’t something I’d do myself, let alone recommend to others. Slicehost might never reflect Rackspace’s issues, but they might.

    I’ll send you an e-mail about my recommendations. Depending on what you need specifically, it would change.

  7. By George Donnelly on 23 August 2009

    if Mike wants to set up a hosting company, none of those options really work for him.

    Slicehost I don’t like after trying them bc it’s 64bit, so everything uses gobs more RAM than it does under 32 bit – so it turns out to be more expensive.

  8. By diego on 23 August 2009

    My mistake. I misinterpreted what Mike wanted. Feel free to delete my comments then. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  9. By Michael Hampton on 27 August 2009

    I long ago decided I didn’t want to worry about hosting other people’s web sites. Now I just lease a couple of boxes and a couple of VPSes from various places, and I’m much happier.


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