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  1. #1

    Advice on Building a Scalable Webhosting Service Platform

    Dear Forum Members:

    We have a small web+email hosting and data center business in Africa. We've been providing hosting services to our clients using Plesk on Dell-based servers (connected over a Fiberchannel interface to a SAN). Our data center is connected via an STM-4 and multiple STM-1s to 2 different upstream providers.

    The problem we're having is (as a result of our own lack of knowledge) that our solution is just not scalable in the current configuration. We essentially buy a Dell server, install Plesk and keep provisioning customer domains (web and mail hosting) on it till capacity runs out (we max out on average at 400 domains per server) and then buy the next Dell machine and repeat.

    What we're looking for is advice on building a more scalable and automated solution. Essentially we're looking for a software and hardware solution (blade solution with web and mail software that is able to harness the power / redundancy of multiple blade servers) that enables us to provision thousands of customers at one go (and simply add more blades servers as needed).

    Can somebody provide me advice or point me in the right direction?

    Thanks so much.

    Best Wishes,


    D

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Santa Monica, CA
    Posts
    3,372
    That's the problem with control panels like plesk and cpanel; they are made for standalone servers and not suitable for efficiently hosting with more than a few servers. However, Parallels has a product that integrates with Plesk and provides centralized administration with decentralized services and remote servers. Here is a good start: http://www.parallels.com/spp/parallelsautomation/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    2,050
    Plesk expand can be used at initial stages and then you can move to HSP complete when the budget and business permits. You should also look towards Hosting Controller which provides an excellent Clustering option.
    Prashant T.

    Don't run after Success. Run after Excellence and Success will soon follow.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Brighton, UK
    Posts
    63
    What you're looking for is basically a web cluster - at Digital Crocus we're actually working on a product that will do exactly this. We're calling it the Hybrid Cluster and we expect to be launching into the cloud computing market within the next 6 to 12 months. We will be hosting our own cloud on this technology, but we'll also be selling the technology to web hosts such as yourself.

    Our product is built upon rock solid FreeBSD and commodity hardware - our unique selling point is that we use ZFS file replication to perform clever load balancing on our sites. The cluster will allow you to configure it to keep each site on at least 2 servers at once, or 3, or 4 or however much redundancy you need. When one server becomes too busy, some of the load is automatically shifted onto another server by transferring some sites across. This all happens seamlessly and when your cluster becomes overloaded, provisioning a new server is simply a case of setting up the hardware and putting in an install CD - the cluster will then automatically recognise the new node and shift some of the sites over to it such that the entire cluster is load balanced.

    Our product is very much under-wraps at the moment and we'll have a press release when we have a finished product - we're expecting this software to take the web hosting industry by storm.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Shoreline WA
    Posts
    160
    kieransimkin, that sounds like a really cool idea. You will see that popping up all over the place now that the enabling technologies are emerging. Though this is clearly the way to go in the future, for now dlakhani, I would suggest that you look into virtualization technologies. In the past I would have suggested Virtuozzo, now called Parallels, but we have used them from when they were very little, and I can not say I trust their ethics or business practices. It started out with heart and passion for a beautiful product, but greed and poor management got the best of them very quickly. I would not say that their product is worth the high price tag that undoubtedly will change over and over down the road. I would suggest perhaps Xen, or something along those lines. I still do believe that Virtuozzo is a great product, but I would stick close to only using their virtualization product, and not any of their other products, that is a web you do not want to get caught in, just google around, you will see the real and true to reality situations that have come about due to HSPC and various other products that they have bought and taken over.

    OpenVZ is another option, it is open source, a little stripped down from what Virtuozzo is capable of, but all in all, it can really help you use your hardware better. It is nowhere nearly as scalable as Virtuozzo, due to differences in how it handles templates, the filesystem, and file caching, but as long as you do not create too many VPSes, you will make much better use of your hardware without hitting the disk IO limitations too hard.

    Xen is best for those that want to have as close to a real server as possible out of a VPS. It allows an end user to run any OS, without any dummy packages or weird customizations to trip up updates, or installable software applications. It may have a massive learning curve, I find it harder to grasp so far than OpenVZ or Virtuozzo, but it may be worth it to learn, as it will give you options that other virtualization software solutions will not, and will handle some situations better than others.

    I would suggest reading up on these different technologies, and playing around with them for a while to see which could benefit your company the best. Train a few people up on your choice and see what you can do with it. Be wise about when to use a VPS and when not to, too many people are just tossing around a VPS without the slightest need for it, or any benefit from using it, and in that case, it is a waste of resources.
    Jonathan Kinney
    Data Systems Specialist
    Advantagecom Networks, Inc.
    http://www.simplywebhosting.com

  6. #6
    @dlakhani

    Whereabouts are you in Africa. We don't often have a chance to learn about networks and data centers outside of the US/EU.
    edgedirector.com
    managed dns global failover and load balance (gslb)
    exactstate.com
    uptime report for webhostingtalk.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    291
    Interworx is clusterable/scalable so is HSphere...

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