The State of STH – July 2013 Edition

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2013 July Pipeline
2013 July Pipeline

About twice a year we do a public state of the site review. We are a few weeks shy of turning 50 (months) old and this seemed like as good of a time as ever. With the site’s growth, we have had some major learning points as well as some great accomplishments along the way. Summer in the northern hemisphere tends to be a slower part of the year for STH making it a good time to reflect on accomplishments and direction. Hopefully this serves as a bit of insight into what is going on with the site for those wondering.

Fun fact: My original name for the site was going to include Windows Home Server. Since Microsoft discontinued that line, I am very happy I did not tie the site’s name to that product now over four years later.

Let’s do a quick recap of a few key areas of the site.

STH Colocation Update

Earlier this year we did a series comparing the costs to compare our previous cloud installations versus building out a colocation installation. Here it is in all its glory! Labels are added to make it a bit clearer regarding what is in the picture.

STH Colo 10U Rear Picture - Annotated small
STH Colo 10U Rear Picture – Annotated small

 

We have some results to share:

  • Performance is way up. Average response times on the forums have gone from a terrible over 800ms down to a very reasonable 72ms. The colocation servers are at less than 1% capacity
  • In our previous infrastructure, we were running out of RAM everywhere along the way. With the new infrastructure we invested in adding significantly more RAM to the equation. The net impact is that we are now utilizing only a small portion of the 192GB of RAM that we have installed in the four main processing nodes for the colocation

    STH Colo 192GB DDR3 RDIMMs
    STH Colo 192GB DDR3 RDIMMs
  • Our decision to use the Dell C6100 XS23-TY3 seems to have worked well both in terms of service levels, the machines certainly work well, and in terms of being a resource for the community. The main Dell C6100 forum thread alone has well over 500 replies.
  • Monthly costs are much more predictable. We have stayed within our 50mbps 95th billing allotment and unlike Amazon Web Services where bandwidth is quite expensive, we have a constant hosting cost now
  • We had issues upon moving to the new infrastructure regarding
  • We are now using Amazon Route53 for DNS services. We were initially concerned with the costs, but they are negligible at a few dollars for the month of June
  • Overall a very fun process where I learned a lot. It certainly did take a considerable amount of time though

We did have an outage recently due to a hiccup at the datacenter and one mis-configuration. We posted this in the forums, however anyone using Proxmox VE for website hardware virtualization should ensure to have their virtual machines start on boot.

Proxmox - Start Virtual Machine on Boot
Proxmox – Start Virtual Machine on Boot

One can see the four dual processor node cluster being used for STH and the forums and the setting that was not checked. A great learning experience from a few weeks ago.

Review Pipeline

This is certainly going to be a busy area. We have quite a few products sitting in the lab ready to be reviewed at this point. Here is a quick snapshot of what is easy to get (e.g. not in a rack) in the lab to test just in the main lab and excluding other authors.

2013 July Pipeline
A portion of the 2013 July Pipeline

Suffice to say, we are very busy. We have started to also review more motherboards from additional vendors including the recent ASRock Z87M Extreme4 review. Expect more soon!

Renewed Focus on Forums and Community

One major effort we have undertaken this year is to build up the forums now that performance is more in-line with expectations. During the colocation move, we changed the web server platform from apache to nginx, improved database infrastructure considerably and now have something that is significantly faster.

The forums are still not growing as fast as we would want, but on average have more than 3x as much activity as even six months ago. We have an awesome community and just this week launched a new Commercial NAS forum where people can discuss ready-made NAS units such as Netgear, Synology, Drobo, Thecus. In the first day we have already seen more activity than I had expected on day 1.

New Commercial NAS Forum
New Commercial NAS Forum

What can you do? Join the forums and participate in the community!

To those that have already contributed, thank you! It has been a major part in taking this site from a personal blog years ago to a reference resource with an awesome community behind it.

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Patrick has been running STH since 2009 and covers a wide variety of SME, SMB, and SOHO IT topics. Patrick is a consultant in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about server, storage and networking, building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “… My original name for the site was going to include Windows Home Server …”

    Interesting. I’m not sure, however, that “Serve The Home” as a site name adequately reflects the current data center, colo, SMB, performance-oriented … technical expertise in your forums.

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