Linode Rocks (and Thanks for All The Fish)

Tag: , , — October 23, 2010 @ 9:50 pm

This year has really been hectic thus lack of posts here. This will be a short post as well as I aimed to finish my tax matter this weekend (for Australia, personal tax return is due at end of October each year). It basically details some of the changes I had with my hosting arrangements for the past few months.

I migrated HostingFu from SliceHost to VPSLink last November, however HostingFu has actually been running on a Linode (aff link) in Dallas for a few months now, after the sale of VPSLink/Spry to Endurance International. I previously had pretty good review on their Xen VPS, and had 2 VPS with them — one OpenVZ and one Xen. Cameron and Dan have been great to work with, and they ran a great setup in Seattle.

However the sale ruined it. Migration of all servers to Boston is not well executed. After all I do not think I can recommend them any more. I used to have $1000+ of referral credit under my account but it disappeared into nowhere after the transition. My 8-core Link-4 Xen VPS now only can access one CPU core. So I decided not to renew, and a sample of their dying forums is also full of similar stories of people migrating elsewhere. It’s sad to see how a once great company has fallen.

Hello Linode

Well. I am no stranger to Linode — I became a customer when I first reviewed them almost 3 years ago, and had hosted my biggest site with them — until this week but more about that later. So when I decided to move HostingFu away from VPSLink, and was too busy to find a new host, I turned to Linode. I used that opportunity to write an article on how to deploy a Linode with their API, and that newly deployed node ended up running HostingFu.

It had been smooth sailing since May (as expected), and Linode even gave a free RAM upgrade back in June (a bit unexpected). $19.95/month for a Xen VPS running Ubuntu 10.04 with 512MB of memory, 16GB of disk space and 200GB/month of data — not the cheapest but probably no competitor in stability and flexibility at this price point. It’s now also running all my git repositories and a private Trac instance. Two thumbs up.

I also have a pair of Linode in Fremont running a busy Drupal site — and the web node (Linode720, Debian 5) is having uptime of 319 days. On September 12 my database node in Fremont went down (Linode1024, Ubuntu 10.04). By the time I noticed my Pingdom alert, Danny Ariti from Linode (their Australian support guy) has already created a support ticket and kept me informed throughout the 1 hour down time. Top quality support I’ll say. Linode rocks.

Bye Bye Linode, and Hello Crucial Paradigm

Then last week I made an important decision to move my busy Drupal site from the pair of Linode in Fremont to Crucial Paradigm in Sydney Australia. I have been thinking of moving that site for quite a while because it does not make sense not to, as 95% of visitors are coming from Australia. Why then should I deprive them with 200ms of latency across the Pacific Ocean? I went with Crucial Paradigm because I have reviewed them before — again due to my lack of time to do more research so I have to trust whom I have previously worked with.

There were some big disadvantages moving from Linode to Crucial Paradigm though. First of all it’s the cost. A pair of Linode1024 costs USD$80/month with 800GB of data, and that’s $81.63 AUD at the moment. On the other hand I am paying a lot more — AUD$400/month for one single VPS in Australia. It has better spec (6x E5620 cores, 6GB memory, 300GB storage — way more than I need), but lacking in data (600GB/month, after Aaron W generously doubled that for my package).

While Crucial Paradigm is also a great company, it still does not have the flexibility Linode gives me. Because my requirement of Ubuntu 10.04 they have to put me on a Citrix XenServer node (rather than HyperVM node). Which means rebooting need tickets, and I don’t get OOB console either. Obviously I do not have the flexibility to quickly deploy a new node to test something and decommission it (and costs me only the time it’s up). Private IP? API access? Rescue mode? Backup service?

Well, I’ll see how it goes. I am hoping a better experience for my visitors would offset the deficiencies of moving away from Linode. Hopefully.

MemcachePool::get() Server failed with: Network timeout – Possible Fixes

Tag: , — October 21, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

Migrated my busy PHP/Drupal website last night from one VPS hosting provider to another. In the process I am also upgrading the operating system from Debian 5 “Lenny” to Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”. A bad move especially when I have not tested the new platform thoroughly — with new stacks such as MySQL 5.1 (from MySQL 5.0), PHP 5.3 (from PHP 5.2) and Python 2.6 (Python 2.5, as part of the service was written in Tornado). Ended up spending the morning picking up broken pieces.

I am also using Memcached for various caching, and to share variables between my PHP 5 Drupal setup and my Tornado server. Move from Debian 5 to Ubuntu 10.04 means moving from Memcached 1.2.2 to 1.4.2, which supports new UDP and binary protocol. Right after turning the service back on I am getting errors such as this every 1-2 seconds:

MemcachePool::get(): Server localhost (tcp 11211, udp 0) failed with: Network timeout (0) in /var/www/my-script.php on line 123

New server is running Ubuntu 10.04 x86_64 on Xen HVM, with 6GB of memory and access to 6 cores of Xeon E5620, which should be significantly faster than the host I migrated from. I could not figure out the actual cause (too many opinions and “fixes” from Google that do not work). However it turns out with PHP memcache module, using pconnect() rather than connect() almost eliminate the issue.

  $memcache = new Memcache;
- $memcache->connect('localhost', 11211) or die('Cannot connect to memcached');
+ $memcache->pconnect('localhost', 11211) or die('Cannot connect to memcached');

It’s not completely eliminating the issue as I am still getting around one time out every 3-4 hours. It’s not heavy usage either — only around 50 get/set commands per second.

Rackspace Announced OpenStack

Tag: , — July 19, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

Just saw Rackspace just announced OpenStack, the open source software that powers its cloud computing platform. Currently licensed under Apache 2 license. There is a big list of big names showing interest in this project, which basically allows companies to run its own cloud platform — useful in the situation where “data stored on 3rd party computers” are taboo words (i.e. finance sector where I am currently working at).

You can get the documentation for both storage (Swift) and computing Nova). Very Pythonic. According to Hacker News, Swift is pretty much production ready as it’s the code behind Rackspace CloudFiles. I wonder whether Nova actually resembles CloudServer code, which would be related to SliceHost’s manager/console?

Deploying Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx via Linode API

Tag: , — April 30, 2010 @ 2:14 pm Comments 3

Ubuntu has just released their latest LTS, 10.4 “Lucid Lynx” today, and immediately Linode made it as an available distribution for deployment. Definitely kudos to team Linode there. I have actually been holding onto creating a new VPS (to run git + back trackers for some of my projects) because of pending release of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. There is nothing stopping me now :)

Well. I am doing it a bit differently today, and decided to do it via API. I went with Ataraxia Consulting’s Python binding as it’s a language I am fluent in. These are the steps that I took.

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EveryDNS Transition to DynDNS

Tag: , , — February 4, 2010 @ 12:30 pm Comments 39

Got an email from David Ulevitch on 12 Jan to all the current EveryDNS subscribers that Dyn Inc has acquired EveryDNS. In the acquisition FAQ,

3) Will the service remain free?

While we don’t 100% have the answer to that yet, we will not be making any changes to the service you are currently receiving for the foreseeable future. We will be discontinuing signups in the near future but existing accounts will remain active and fully functional.

Looks like the reality is slightly different. Just got another email from Dyn Inc with regarding to the transition.

First off, anyone who has donated to David and EveryDNS since 2001 will be grandfathered into free Custom DNS hosting with DynDNS.com…

So not everyone will be migrated but those who donated. Well I did donate and got unlimited domains + unlimited records from EveryDNS (although I only have ~10 domains there). The Custom DNS hosting offer is valued at $30/year so that’s the saving a previous donator. However that’s only for 1 zone.

I have to say that DynDNS has pretty good reputation in hosted DNS space, and having 100% DNS availability is arguable even more important than your having your web servers online all the time. Still a hefty price to pay though. With EditDNS going to pay model, EveryDNS migrating to DynDNS and lots of issues with ZoneEdit. Which other free DNS provider would you put your trust on?

Why I Don’t Care About “Guaranteed Memory” on an OpenVZ VPS

Tag: — January 5, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

If you have been hunting for a virtual private server for a while, you should know all the metrics that service providers use in their advertisement and package/plan pages. You have your monthly data transfer amount (which sometimes are confused with “bandwidth”). There is a disk storage space for your operating system and data files. For OpenVZ based VPS hosting, there is also “guaranteed memory” and “burstable memory”, which I think are probably one of the most-misunderstood concept on forums such as Web Hosting Talk. This post is a reflection of what I commented on WHT last week, in a thread that discusses Xen vs. OpenVZ (which I also wrote about 2 years ago).

Basically, my conclusion about looking at an OpenVZ hosting plan is — just look at the burstable memory and (most of the time) you don’t have to worry about the guaranteed memory.

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Coding Horror Meets Hosting Horror

December 12, 2009 @ 8:19 pm Comment 1

Interesting story that got picked up on Hacker News and Proggit this morning — Jeff Atwood’s blog, Coding Horror, lost 100% of its data. Jeff puts 50% of the blame on the service provider of its VPS, CrystalTech, as they failed to back up the server as they were paid to do, and 50% on himself for putting full trust on the service provider, and keep only backups on the same server, i.e. not real back up at all.

And as it was recorded on the Hosting Gospel,

1There were some present at that very time who told him about Coding Horror and Blog.StackOverflow’s 100% data lost. 2And he answered them, “Do you think that Jeff Atwood was a worse sinner than all the bloggers and web masters, because his blogs suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you implement a real backup strategy and verify it regularly, your websites will all likewise perish.

Yup. Sorry for mis-quoting Luke 13, but whenever I read about this kind of disasters, let it be a reminder that I should also make sure my back up works.

More on SliceHost vs. Linode

Tag: , — December 7, 2009 @ 12:53 pm Comments 6

It all started when Eivind Uggedal posted his performance comparison of various Xen VPS providers — Linode, SliceHost/Rackspace, Prgmr and Amazon EC2. Here’s the summary:

Summarizing the benchmarks gives us one clear winner: Linode. 32-bit gave the best results on the Unixbench runs while 64-bit was fastest on the Django and database tests. Since Linode also has the highest included bandwidth I have a hard time recommending any of the other providers if performance and price is most important for you.

It has been posted on various startup/programming community sites (Hacker News, Reddit, etc) and got a mention on Linode’s blog. A small thread has been started on Linode Forums on migrating from SliceHost to Linode, when SliceHost, Linode’s direct competitor, appears to perform worse and costs more in the performance comparison.

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Google Announced Public DNS, a Domain Name Resolving Service

Tag: , — December 4, 2009 @ 10:39 am Comments 4

Saw the announcement this morning on the bus — Google Public DNS. My immediate reaction (as recorded on twitter) is — I’ll hate to be OpenDNS right now. David U. at OpenDNS quickly responded saying basically “ARGH! OpenDNS is better! Google could be EVIL! But it’s all good for the DNS space”.

Well. Let’s compare them side by side, from my perspective:

  OpenDNS Google Public DNS
IP Address 208.67.222.222
208.67.220.220
(Anycast)
8.8.8.8
8.8.4.4
(Anycast)
Cache Size BIG Gonna be MASSIVE
Latency to Australia Sucks (170ms) Sucks Less (150ms)
Handling Non-Existing Domain Resolve to OpenDNS
(Configurable)
NXDOMAIN
Configuration Options Lots! None

Well. Please Google put a resolver somewhere in Sydney! Otherwise a local cache + forward is still preferred. But for now running a cheap virtual server with a badly configured resolver from the provider, I am more likely to jump on Google Public DNS because

  • It’s just much easier to remember 8.8.8.8 than 208.what?.
  • NXDOMAIN works by default — there is no need for me to log into OpenDNS to set up subnet rules under my account.

OpenDNS does have one advantage for developers though — CacheCheck, which allows you to request the cache to be flushed. Very useful when you have just changed some records, and would like to see that applied to the whole OpenDNS cluster. Google on the other hand gives NIL functionality except something listening on port 53.

For enterprise users it could be a different story though. Having ability to fine tune the behavuour of NXDOMAIN handling, blocking certain domains, phishing/malware/botnet protection, etc — these would be much more useful for an organisation. Will Google gradually roll out similar tools? No idea — just like we have no idea that Google is entering into the public resolver market.

Let’s wait & see.

GeoVPS/Layerboom KVM Virtal Server Review

Tag: , , , — December 3, 2009 @ 3:13 pm Comments 2

GeoVPS This is a quick review on the KVM virtual server provided by GeoVPS. Howard from Layerboom first contacted me back in May 2008 through this blog and LinkedIn, and that was before Layerboom was even started. We clicked as both of us had our origins in Taiwan, and Howard mentioned that he has assembled a team to start up a developer-focused virtual server/cloud server company similar to SliceHost and Linode. Over a year later it is finally launched in October this year (as posted on Peer1’s blog). It is called GeoVPS — and it is no ordinary VPS provider.

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