Author Topic: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server  (Read 59760 times)

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Offline Mike Bobbitt

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The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« on: May 13, 2014, 12:46:40 »
I think everyone will agree that server stability has become a problem we can no longer ignore. As a result, I've come up with a plan that should see us through an upgrade for at least the next 12 months.

Summary

Migrating to a new server has two parts: the up front cost to "rent" a server, and the hourly rate to run it. As we run the server 100% of the time, we pay more up front to lower the hourly rate, as this generates significant savings over time. Previously, we rented a server with a 3 year term, and are just entering the final year. (So we are 2/3 through that rental agreement.) Given the issues we have had I think that 3 years is too long a term, or we have to greatly over-engineer the next server we select to see us through significant growth.

Choosing a 1-year term means that we have the flexibility to migrate again in 12 months to a more appropriate server for our needs at that time, but also incurs the up-front cost annually. We end up paying more per month and more each year with the up-front cost, but it means we can migrate without penalty to match our utilization. The up-front cost for the new server we are considering is just under $1k, taxes in.

I believe we can absorb the moderate increase in monthly costs (about $40/month), but we will need to fundraise for the up-front costs.

Our current target is to raise the $1k for the up-front costs, however if we end up raising more than the target we may be able to go up another tier and give us more room for expansion. I'm going to give it a bit of time and scrutinize the books to see how far we can make things stretch. I'd really like to see us move to a reliable long-term platform if possible.

Details

For those who want to see the numbers, here they are.

[ Updated details here ]

Current Specs
  • Server type: Amazon EC2 m1.large
  • 7.5 GB RAM
  • 4 (2 core x 2 unit)
  • 160Gb disk base storage
  • 64-bit architecture
  • Network: Moderate / 500 Mbps
Proposed Specs
  • Server type: Amazon EC2 m3.xlarge
  • 15 GB RAM
  • 4 vCPUs
  • 80Gb SSD storage
  • 64-bit architecture
  • Network: High / 1000 Mbps

Current Costs (monthly)

  • Data Transfer: $60.45
  • EC2 m1.large server platform: $37.44
  • Storage/backup: $27.66
Total Monthly Cost (current): $125.55
Proposed Costs (monthly)

  • Data Transfer: $65
  • EC2 m3.xlarge server platform: $54.02
  • Storage/backup: $45
Total Monthly Cost (proposed): $164.02

This is not a significant increase from the current cost ($40 / month), but it does imply that we pay the $1k up-front cost every year. That means banking some cash so we don't go without service or pay the top per-hour rate when the current contract runs out.

We also have to accommodate traffic growth. When we started on this server 2 years ago, monthly traffic was 123 Gb. Last month it was 540 Gb, and I expect it will continue to increase at a steady rate. We have exceeded the traffic cap for our plan, so each Gb costs. The plan must include some leeway for covering increased traffic costs, in addition to measures I have taken server-side to reduce traffic.

So, that is the plan in a nutshell, I would be happy to answer questions or explain further. Thanks again for your patience through all this, I hope to have things on track again soon.


Cheers
Mike
« Last Edit: May 15, 2014, 16:16:47 by Mike Bobbitt »

Offline milnews.ca

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2014, 13:37:08 »
Thanks for all the hard work and electron wrestling, Mike - a bit of PayPal love to help out inbound.
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Offline NSDreamer

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2014, 13:39:15 »
 I've been hiding in the corners long enough, I echo milnews sentiment, expect inbound when I get home from work!

 Keep up the good work Mike!
Something relatively witty.

Offline Mike Bobbitt

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2014, 14:32:40 »
Thank-you Tony! And with that folks, we are on the way. I'll track our fundraising progress here: http://army.ca/php/server.php

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2014, 14:40:46 »
Count me in, too, Mike; I just made my donation.

ERC

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Offline mswirski

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2014, 14:51:06 »
Have you considered options outside of Amazon EC2?

In particular, I'm a big fan of Linode (https://www.linode.com/pricing) , and in practice they can be setup to behave quite similarly, where extra 'linodes' will be recruited to deal with spikes in traffic.
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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2014, 15:02:30 »
EMT inbound Mike.
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Offline dapaterson

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This posting made in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 2(b):
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication
http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/1.html

Offline Mike Bobbitt

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2014, 17:11:35 »
Have you considered options outside of Amazon EC2?

I have, and nothing is "off the table." Most solutions I've checked into so far aren't priced competitively with the Reservied Instance option Amazon offers.

In particular, I'm a big fan of Linode (https://www.linode.com/pricing) , and in practice they can be setup to behave quite similarly, where extra 'linodes' will be recruited to deal with spikes in traffic.

Linode definitely bears some investigation, thanks for pointing me in their direction! I've created an account and will see if they fit the bill. At first blush, they appear to be inexpensive and powerful. Their simplicity (E.G. SSH only access and basically no support) is fine with me.

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2014, 17:18:26 »
Sent something your way.
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Offline expwor

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2014, 17:58:12 »
I'm not much of a poster, more a consumer and enjoy reading the various boards.  That said, next week (payday) I'll fire something in via email money transfer

Thanks

Tom

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2014, 21:06:33 »
Hey Mike

Once again, I'm in. shoot me PM and I'll do the same as last time.

Hugh
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Offline CBH99

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2014, 21:54:36 »
Hey Mike,

I'll happily throw some $$ your way!!

The forums & your hard work are MUCH appreciated.  The forums are definitely a part of my daily life.  Always enjoy waking up to them & peaking at them throughout the day. 

$$ inbound. 



Cheers,
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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2014, 07:03:57 »
Just a bump to remind you:
1)  we came up with the first $1000 here in something less than a few hours;
2)  is it worth a few bucks to you to get even better Milnet.ca/Army.ca/Navy.ca/AirForce.ca connectivity?

C'mon, you KNOW you can help do it!  Thanks.
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2014, 07:56:55 »
Just a bump to remind you:
1)  we came up with the first $1000 here in something less than a few hours;
2)  is it worth a few bucks to you to get even better Milnet.ca/Army.ca/Navy.ca/AirForce.ca connectivity?

C'mon, you KNOW you can help do it!  Thanks.


Yes, indeed milnews.ca; we haven't had Routine Orders for about a year now - and they're not missed, Mike, they were mildly interesting but not worth the time and trouble you took to collect and publish them - but back the, Spring 2013 and earlier were we showing a consistent "active member" base of 1,500 to 1,700. Surely 1% (15 of us) can cough up $100.00 each, and 30 more (2%) can give $50.00 each and 60 can send $20.00 and maybe a few can sign on as subscribers, and get some free Army.ca swag, too.

I remember discovering Army.ca ten years ago ... it was a revelation then, a web site with (mostly) serious discussions about the military, national defence and related social, political and economic issues. It remains sui generis today; there is not, I think, anything quite like it.

I'm proud of the 9 symbol beside my name. It means that I do a bit - not much, not as much as Mods, like you, for example - where I can to help keep this treasure "on the air." It would be a shame if a few of us, say a hundred, couldn't help Mike to keep this site going for the thousands who use it. We need to recognize that not all members can afford $20.00 or $30.00 but those of us who can should.
 
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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2014, 15:42:42 »
EMT sent
"The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind....for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole."

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Offline Mike Bobbitt

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2014, 16:13:53 »
Thanks all, for the overwhelming support.

As you can see, we blew past our initial objective pretty quickly, and are now working on an intermediate/final objective. (I think I've been doing too much ATOC reading!)

The new target is as follows:

Current Specs
  • Server type: Amazon EC2 m1.large
  • 7.5 GB RAM
  • 4 (2 core x 2 unit)
  • 160Gb disk base storage
  • 64-bit architecture
  • Network: Moderate / 500 Mbps
Proposed Specs
  • Server type: Amazon EC2 m3.2xlarge
  • 30 GB RAM
  • 8 vCPUs
  • 160Gb SSD storage
  • 64-bit architecture
  • Network: High / 1000 Mbps

Current Costs (monthly)

  • Data Transfer: $60.45
  • EC2 m1.large server platform: $37.44
  • Storage/backup: $27.66
Up Front Cost: $1,200 for 3 years
Total Monthly Cost (current): $125.55
Proposed Costs (monthly)

  • Data Transfer: $65+
  • EC2 m3.2xlarge server platform: $106.58
  • Storage/backup: $45
Up Front Cost: $1,772 for 1 year
Total Monthly Cost (proposed): $216.58

As we don't have enough usually in the coffers to cover $216 / mo I'm trying to buffer that by making it to a point where we can bank some of that cost in advance. You'll also note the "up front" cost goes up by $500, but more importantly, is a 1 year vs. 3 year reservation. Going with the m3.2xlarge server for 3 years is a whopping $2691. Not sure we can get there but if we do, we will have a pretty firm hold on our future.

Again, thanks to everyone who has contributed. I realize each person's situation is different. While some have been overwhelmingly generous, that is certainly not the expectation. Whether you can chip in a bit or not, even the moral support goes a long way.


Thanks
Mike

(All prices are USD)

Offline Mike Bobbitt

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2014, 16:19:09 »
As a side note, I just realized this is topic # 115,100 and reply # 1,309,124 (roughly). It's no wonder we are outgrowing our current digs.

Offline Mike Bobbitt

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2014, 11:35:34 »
Some additional analysis, as we get closer to our goal.

If we are targeting m3.2xlarge, which roughly quadruples our capacity in the important areas, we have two options:

Option 1: The 1 Year Commitment route gives us a monthly cost of about $365. At the end of the 1 year, we are free to move on to a bigger/better platform, but will need to pay the up-front cost again.

Option 2: The 3 Year Commitment option is $272.35 per month, and locks us in to that price for 3 years. The downsides are that the up-front payment is significant ($2691 vs $1772) but this is balanced by the fact that we don't need to make another lump sum payment in a year.

Note that both option 1 & 2 include additional charges of $65+ and $45+ per month for traffic and storage costs above those included in the plan. These prices also differ from the above ones because I have "amortized" the up-front cost over the 12 or 36 month plan. This is not entirely accurate - we will owe the full up-front cost on day 1 of the changeover - however it helps for planning purposes and comparing apples to apples.

Option 3 which is still on the table, is Linode. An equivalent server is their 32 Gb Linode, at $350 / month. This is on par with Option 1, but requires no up-front commitment and actually offers a more powerful server than the other plans. Alternatively, we could go with the $175 / month Linode. This per month cost is in line with our current costs at Amazon, but gets us a server that is a bit better than 1/2 the power of what we are considering as an upgrade. (It's more in line with the m3.xlarge, not the m3.2xlarge offering.) It is still roughly "twice the server" that we have now.

The math, for those who are interested:

Option 1: ( $1772 + 365 * 24 * 0.146 ) / 12 + 65 + 45 = $364.25 per month

Option 2: ( $2691 + 365 * 24 * 3 * 0.12 ) / ( 12 * 3 ) + 65 + 45 = $272.35 per month

Option 3: $0.48 / hour = .48 * 365 * 24 = $4204.8 / 12 = $350.40 per month
« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 16:09:21 by Mike Bobbitt »

Offline GAP

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2014, 13:32:38 »
Instead of having to do massive fund raisers, why not add a category of "builder" subscriber.

Price it a somewhere around $50.00/year in addition to the annual subscription rate.

It wouldn't offer anything additional, except to those dedicated members who would like to see the site maintained and grow. That way the "builder" $$ could be set aside for stuff like this.

 :2c:
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Offline Flavus101

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2014, 15:21:04 »
Instead of having to do massive fund raisers, why not add a category of "builder" subscriber.

Price it a somewhere around $50.00/year in addition to the annual subscription rate.

It wouldn't offer anything additional, except to those dedicated members who would like to see the site maintained and grow. That way the "builder" $$ could be set aside for stuff like this.

 :2c:

Having multiple tiers of subscriber levels is an interesting idea.  :nod:

A question to Mike, how difficult is it to transfer the site from the current servers to Linode servers?

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2014, 15:38:21 »
Having multiple tiers of subscriber levels is an interesting idea.  :nod:

...


It is, but I would worry about classifying us by our ability to send money rather than by our willingness to help it all the ways we can: most important by being Moderators, also by making good, helpful posts and also, indeed, by sending money when it's needed ... I think it's important that Moderators are clearly visible as Directing Staff, I think we can all identify the regular participants in discussions - some of us are members, some veterans and a few are even fixtures or legends  :o , and I, personally, think it is sufficient to show that some people can and do support the site. I'm not sure making some more 'important' because of how much they send compared to others would achieve much.
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Offline Flavus101

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #22 on: May 16, 2014, 15:51:29 »

It is, but I would worry about classifying us by our ability to send money rather than by our willingness to help it all the ways we can: most important by being Moderators, also by making good, helpful posts and also, indeed, by sending money when it's needed ... I think it's important that Moderators are clearly visible as Directing Staff, I think we can all identify the regular participants in discussions - some of us are members, some veterans and a few are even fixtures or legends  :o , and I, personally, think it is sufficient to show that some people can and do support the site. I'm not sure making some more 'important' because of how much they send compared to others would achieve much.

By having a separate "Builder" subscriber that is more or less creating a tier above the current subscriber, no? I agree with you completely on being cautious, we have to be careful with how much we label people through monetary donations. I think that is why there is a set subscriber rate and then if people feel as if they wish to give more to the site they can use the donate feature. (Correct me if I am wrong, I am not exactly sure how that system works).

You now have another subscriber Mike! Army.ca has been a huge help to me and it has been a very enjoyable time.

Offline Mike Bobbitt

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2014, 15:54:15 »
I've thought about multiple subscription tiers in the past, but going the other way. The thought is to offer a $10 tier that does not provide the goodies (shirt, badge), but does allow the user to support the site and tout the Subscriber badge. The general idea there is to make it more widely accessible. I still think this may be viable; when we are in need, it seems the majority of those who provide support are the same ones that did the last time (and the time before). That's not a bad thing, but I hate to keep leaning on the same group over and over.

Maybe I've had too much exposure to sales folks, but their notion of prioritizing "new business" makes some sense. You can't keep milking the same crowd and expect to grow. You need to expand, even if by small amounts.

A question to Mike, how difficult is it to transfer the site from the current servers to Linode servers?

Moving to Linode is definitely more work than moving to a new EC2 server. In the latter case, I literally image, restore and assign our IP address to the new more powerful server. For Linode, it's more of a "build it piece by piece in parallel until it looks the same" scenario. The cutover process involves propagation delays that can be measured in days in some cases. The actual difference in my time is probably 3-6 hours vs. 3-6 days, and in downtime it would be hours vs. days as well. (Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on caching, etc.)

Although not identified as a factor in previous posts, cutover time has definitely been in the back of my mind.

Offline Flavus101

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Re: The Time Has Come: Getting a new server
« Reply #24 on: May 16, 2014, 16:08:18 »
Moving to Linode is definitely more work than moving to a new EC2 server. In the latter case, I literally image, restore and assign our IP address to the new more powerful server. For Linode, it's more of a "build it piece by piece in parallel until it looks the same" scenario. The cutover process involves propagation delays that can be measured in days in some cases. The actual difference in my time is probably 3-6 hours vs. 3-6 days, and in downtime it would be hours vs. days as well. (Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on caching, etc.)

Although not identified as a factor in previous posts, cutover time has definitely been in the back of my mind.

Thanks for that! Do you feel the Linode server would be able to handle our current traffic and provide enough growth for the rest of the year if things stay on the current pace?

What I liken this to is buying a house. Let's say you want to get a nice house for your wife and you, this means you will need enough room for two people. Eventually you have a family and that means you need room for 4. The kids move out and now you have a bunch of wasted space...

The problem I see with getting a three year term is that a lot can change in three years. Growth may be exponential and we run out of room again a year and a half in. Growth could die down and we are now running a server that is 3x more powerful than we need for a lot more money. My train of thought is to eventually get to this m3.2xlarge server, but to have a sort of bridge server in between. If we can run the Linode for a number of months until it maxes out than switch to the Amazon we would be using money more effectively. The biggest question is how long we can run on the Linode before needing to switch to a bigger server.