26 Nov 2019

All the Gritty Details of our new Server Platform

Disclaimer

This post has been a work in progress since mid January of 2019.  Sometimes these things take some time to hammer out, and sometimes, you’re still constantly improving and refining a thing, and keep telling yourself “I’ll just wait until the post is 100% accurate and complete, and then I’ll publish it”.  And eventually, sometimes you need to just acknowledge you’re trying to describe a moving target, and really just let things go and ship the post.

Overview

2019 has been a big year for us, and it all started with the rollout of a new ‘baseline server platform’ for the technology that powers our Shared Linux Hosting Servers.  Now, to be fair quite a bit of it isn’t exactly new technology, but rather, new to us.  One of the simple facts of running a stable hosting platform is, well, that key word.. “stable”.  We don’t get to play with the latest and greatest technological advances (at-least not on our production platforms), because above everything else, we need our platform to be stable, and frequently in tech, “new shiny” tends to mean the opposite of “stable”.  Often stability comes with usage, refinement, and generally, age of the technology in question.

But we’re geeks at heart, and we love to play with the new shiny.   New beta release of RHEL?  We’ll be there poking at the first chance we get, but when it comes to production systems, we tend to be a little gun shy of brand new releases. In fact, we generally won’t run a new OS anywhere in production until after the .1 , or sometimes .2 release comes out.  It’s just something we’ve learned over time is the best thing for everyone’s sanity.  But still, we keep tabs on all the latest shiny, and when it reaches the point that we’re comfortable rolling it out into production, we always enjoy doing so.

A Year of Enhancements

Man sitting at a retro looking computer command center

What our moms think we do

Earlier this year, as part of our big server migration, we established a new ‘baseline’ for how all of our shared linux web hosting servers are setup and run.  Included in that new baseline are a number of new (for us, in production) technologies, and we want to take a moment to acknowledge some of them and what they’re going to mean for everyone.

CloudLinux

We moved from CentOS over to CloudLinux as our basic underlying operating system.  I would best describe CloudLinux to someone as “CentOS, but with added features to improve the security, stability, and performance for web hosting”.

Some of the new CloudLinux features are strictly back-end, things to make our lives easier, like the KernelCare feature, which allows us to patch the running Linux Kernel for security vulnerabilities, in real time, without having to reboot the server.

Other CloudLinux features however, have a direct and easily recognizable benefit to our clients:

  • LVE Management and CageFS – Cloudlinux provides what they refer to as a “Lightweight Virtualization Environment”.  Basically, it allows us to track/limit the amount of CPU, RAM, and other server resources down to the user account level.  This means we can not only prevent a single user from monopolizing an entire server, or even crashing it, but it also allows us to expand the types of workloads we can safely allow clients to run under the ‘LVE wrapper’ of their account.  At the same time, CageFS allows each user to have their own ‘containerized file system’, similar to a chroot jail of old, but, securely.   The introduction of LVE and CageFS and the performance/safety they brought to the table cleared the way for a number of new features we were able to roll out in 2019:
  • PHP Selector and HardenedPHP – Cloudlinux not only provides a way, via the PHP Selector, for us to offer multiple versions of PHP for client use, but they also continue to back-port critical security fixes into some older versions of PHP that are no longer officially updated by the PHP community.  This has allowed us to continue to offer a secure version of PHP 5.6 past its official end of life date, for those clients who are not yet ready to jump onto the PHP7 bandwagon.
  • Python Selector – The Python selector, in combination with LVE, allows us to offer up (as of today) six different versions of Python for client use.  This allowed us to offer Python Hosting without having to choose a side in the great “Python2 versus Python3” debate that seems to consume everyone.  We offer both, and at this point would suggest Python3, but both are there for your use.

Apache Worker MPM, FPM-PHP, and LSAPI

So, the short version is that we got some really nice performance and security improvements in what amounts to the most basic and central service to our hosting platform, the act of actually serving up web pages.  This was such a big improvement that we did an entire blog post back in June just to talk about how awesome it is.  If you want the full story, by all means, go enjoy that one. 😉

The Path Forward From Here

Right now we have the basic tech stack of our hosting platform about where we want it to be in terms of features and capabilities, so I suspect things will be  a little more quiet in that area for a little while at least, but we’re always off tinkering with new ideas and new technology.  So as those technologies firm up, get baked a little firmer and start to turn into things we can build a business offering on top of, expect to see additional new and exciting features/options coming from us in the months ahead.

24 Nov 2019

Easiest Black Friday Savings Ever

Woman Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair Beside Coconut Drink

Relax, you got this

This year we’ve got your hookup for the easiest Black Friday Savings Ever!

New customers can save 20% off any new Domain Registration or SSL Certificate order placed between now and December 1st by using the promo code “BLACKFRIDAY” at checkout.

No parking lot fender benders, no jockeying for the last microwave on the shelf, just sweet sweet savings on domains and certificates.  And yes, this includes every Domain TLD, even the ones already on sale.

 

01 Nov 2019

A Farewell to Sitebuilder

RVSiteBuilder Screenshot

RVSiteBuilder Screenshot

Just under eleven years ago we rolled out RVSitebuilder as a new feature to our shared linux web hosting accounts.  At the time we had, of course, high hopes that clients would find it of value.

Over the years, folks have tinkered with it, we’ve seen at best estimate around 2% of all clients ‘poke at it’ to see what it could do for them, or perhaps just to get design inspiration?  But we’ve never actually seen much traction in the way of clients actually utilizing the functionally long term, but as it was a fairly cheap ‘addon’ that we had bundled in with our cPanel licenses via the cPanel licensing provider we use, we never really gave much thought to it beyond over the years from a ‘cost/value’ perspective.

But as regular readers may be aware, there was something of an upheaval with regards to cPanel licensing announced over the summer.

Not quite as widely known was that in the fallout of that pricing model change, one of the larger cPanel licensing vendors, well, they sold their entire operation.  Then, a little while later, the new owners basically announced that that were terminating some partnerships and a bunch of products you could previously license through them would no longer be available.

After a little bit of a scramble, we realized that, on top of the recent tripling of our per server licensing costs due to the cPanel increase, we could be facing a second round of increases for all of the ‘non-cPanel’ items we use alongside of cPanel on each server if the product was one being discontinued from our provider.

Short version?  The per-server cost of RvSiteBuilder would be tripling if we choose to keep it around.  After once again evaluating just how much usage it was getting, this week we’ve disabled it across all our servers, and are retiring the functionality.

We are currently evaluating some other, more modern site builder options for our client’s use, and hope to once again have a easy to use site builder option available in the future.

15 Oct 2019
04 Oct 2019

Upcoming Maintenance Windows

We’ve recently been notified by one of our data center providers that they need to schedule some emergency maintenance windows in order to apply some critical updates to the underlying physical hardware, and that these updates will require taking some of our servers offline while they perform the work.

While we know that these scheduled events are never ideal, we have <knock on wood> been very lucky in terms of infrastructure outages since moving from our own managed hardware into provider-managed cloud servers.

We’ve been collating the scheduled windows and are currently:

  • notifying all impacted clients via email of their scheduled outage window.
  • adding the impacting events into the Network Status / Scheduled Events section of our client portal.
    • This is particularly cool to us, as it allows us to input all future scheduled events, and clients will only see/be bothered by the events that actually impact them personally.  Yes, we’ve had the ability to do the same via email for some time, but this is just another cool feature of the ‘new’ client portal that we’re really getting to utilize for the first time.

We will continue to monitor the situation and should any further windows be scheduled by the provider, we will of course notify additional impacted users and add those events to the client portal as well.

 

 

12 Sep 2019

Node.js support is now live!

man holding a small sign that reads 'node js'This evening we’re taking the covers off our latest feature addition to our Shared Linux Web Hosting plans, everyone please welcome Node.js to our feature list!

The Node.js setups is very similar to the Python support we unveiled earlier his year, in that you can deploy a new Node application into your account by looking for the “Setup Node.js App” icon under the “Software” section in cPanel. You’ll be prompted to select the Node version you wish to use, where the application should live folder wise, and the URL you want to associate with the application, cpanel takes care of all the rest.

At this time the Node.js selector will default to v10, but you can also choose to run your applications under v12 if so desired.

17 Aug 2019

More details on the cPanel price increase

So, the great cPanel Price Increase of 2019people counting coins on a table is scheduled to go into effect in just over two weeks, and, not so shockingly, details are still a bit slow in coming.  Officially the word we’ve seen from our license distributor is “The pricing you saw previously is valid, that’s what we’ll be charging as of September 1.  As for any sort of volume discount or any details beyond what was in the original announcement, we’re still waiting for that information ourselves.

Short version for us is, that as of right now, cPanel licensing goes from approximately 6% of our cost per server, to about 18% of each server.   This does not include CloudLinux, Fantastico, or any other software we license for our server fleet, just cPanel itself.   cPanel by itself will, after September 1, cost us more per server each month by itself than what we pay for all the software we license for a given server today.

The good news for our clients is, we’ll be absorbing that cost directly.  We have no web hosting plan pricing changes scheduled or planned as a result of the cPanel cost increase.

Long term, we’re honestly still a bit worried about what this pricing model change is going to mean for cPanel in relation to the industry as a whole.  cPanel has long maintained a market dominate position simply by virtue of being the “best of the cost effective control panels”…  Starting September 1, they’re kind of moving themselves out of the “cost effective” category for a number of business models, and based on the rumblings we’re hearing inside the industry, we suspect you may see a spike in popularity and/or new Control Panel options entering the market.

For our part, we’re going to keep an eye on the situation as it evolves and see how it all shakes out.  But in the meantime we’re maintaining course for our clients.

(c) 2019 Pure Energy Systems LLC - All rights reserved.

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