21 Jan

Server Migrations and The Future…

As previously discussed back in November, we’ve been working on a project to upgrade all of our server infrastructure to both stay up to date with the latest operating system releases, as well as to unlock some new technology and ultimately improve the service we provide to our clients.   This project has taken a couple weeks longer to complete than we had originally anticipated as we discovered a couple of additional benefits of the new plan, and wanted to properly investigate how to best implement them, but I’m happy to say that we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Within the next two weeks we should be wrapping up the last of the account transfers, which means that since we can now see the light at the end of migration tunnel, it’s time to talk a bit more about the changes that occurred, and to start thinking ahead to what we do once we do come out through the other side.

Under The Hood

There’s a number of “geeky fun” changes under the hood that will improve both stability and performance of all our servers.  I’m going to add a TODO item on my list to talk about them a bit in-depth in a separate blog post, so that folks who are interested in that type of thing can geek out with me, while everyone else can just focus on the user-noticeable changes.

What I will say now though is, for the first time in a very long time, once this migration is complete, all of our hosting servers will be on the same hardware platform, the same OS releases, and the same software stack, all configured in the very same way.  And that makes our lives much easier going forward.

User Noticeable Changes, Day 1

No more additional cPanel Themes

For anyone who didn’t notice, some of our servers had additional cPanel themes installed on them, allowing users to choose how cPanel would look to them.  It was something we implemented a couple years back as a bit of lark to see how people liked it.  At the end of the day, data showed us that only a small subset of clients ever checked out the alternate themes, and even fewer stuck with them.  The confusion they created by not matching our documentation only caused problems.  We actually stopped rolling these out on new servers quite some time ago, but with the migration project, the last vestiges of “alternate cPanel themes” will cease to exist entirely.

Ruby (Rails) Support Goes End of Life

Late in 2008 we added support for Ruby on Rails applications to our servers.  With the way these integrated with Apache/cPanel, it was always something of a headache for everyone involved.  Applications needed to be setup for Passenger, firewall ports needed to be opened,  it was, quite honestly, just not as easy as PHP, for us or for our clients.  Much like the cPanel themes, client interest was extremely minimal.  In the last 10 years we’ve had perhaps a couple dozen inquiries around Ruby.

Because the implementation of Ruby under cPanel was always somewhat sketchy, we never felt comfortable marketing it as a big selling point, and at the same time, I’m sure that true Ruby aficionados tend to steer clear of cPanel based environments for their Ruby hosting needs because they’ve heard the stories.   At the end of the day, we want to focus on what we can do best, and always offer a service that we’re proud of, so we’re discontinuing Ruby support across our entire fleet once and for all.  From what we’ve seen during the migrations, there are no active Ruby applications hosted on any of our servers, so I believe this is more of a housekeeping / cleanup issue than something that will actually impact clients, but we want to be transparent about Ruby’s removal.

Better Performance

While I’ll cover this more in depth in the later, ‘technical nitty gritty’ post, the short answer is that we believe all clients will see an improvement in the performance of their sites.  Even clients on servers that were already at our current standard level in terms of hardware will see an improvement based strictly on the performance gains we’re seeing utilizing the new software stack.

User Noticeable Changes, The Future

Plan Resource Upgrades

Hardware gets more powerful/less expensive with time.  Our policy has always been to pass our savings onto our clients in terms of increased resource allocations in each of our plans.  It’s been 4 years since our last resource adjustments to our plans.   We’re due for an upgrade, and getting all of our servers upgraded is the last blocker to us unveiling our next round of upgrades.  While we’re not quite ready to release the hard numbers just yet, I am comfortable in saying this much:

Our 2015 upgrades resulted in around a 33% increase in resources.
Our 2019 upgrades will exceed that percentage increase.

More details will be forthcoming regarding the resource upgrades once we get the last few servers migrated.