Deploying Rails Applications

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-05-21 Print this article Print

The goal of Rubinius, said Phoenix, is to write an environment that is much more open and to build a better Ruby environment in terms of performance, execution speed and such features as garbage collection.

"As we see more adoption of the language it's time for us to start to grow up the environment a little," Zygmuntowicz said.

Engine Yard has "solved a lot of these problems over and over again," including issues of scaling Ruby and Ruby on Rails applications, said Ezra Zygmuntowicz. He recently co-authored the book "Deploying Rails Applications," which provides tips on scaling Rails applications.

According to a description of the book by its publisher, O'Reilly Media, "Until now, the information you needed to deploy a Ruby on Rails application in a production environment has been fragmented and contradictory. This book changes all of that by providing a consistent, level-headed book containing advice you can trust. You'll get the inside angle from those that have built, deployed, and maintained some of the largest Rails apps in production, anywhere."

Zygmuntowicz said of the book: "It helps with starting off with Rails all the way up to scaling to clusters and multiple MySQL instances."

Regarding claims that Rails doesn't scale and that the popular Twitter social networking and messaging application is suffering outages and problems because of Rails scalability issues, Zygmuntowicz said: "Mostly that's kind of BS. You just have to architect properly for it. In most Rails applications the database becomes the bottleneck before anything else."

Moreover, "There's no language that scales; languages don't scale, architectures do," he said.

"Twitter's problems have nothing to do with Rails," Zygmuntowicz said. Twitter is "right down the block" from Engine Yard in San Francisco's South Park neighborhood, and he said he has worked closely with Twitter engineers and has seen the issue firsthand.

Scaling Rails

To initially scale Rails applications, Zygmuntowicz said, "You have a number of Rails application processes behind a load balancer, so to scale you add more servers and application processors." Yet, the problem with Rails is "with the database becoming a central point of contention."

However, the first way to get around that is to "get a bigger database box, which is scaling vertically," Zygmuntowicz said. "Next is to add a couple of slave databases that replicate all the data written to the master," but that doesn't cure all ills, he said.

"Twitter scaled their database to as big a box as they could get, but they have so much data being written all the time that they have a hard time keeping up," Zygmuntowicz said. They also have a "sharded database" to scale horizontally to many databases, which helps alleviate some of the strain on the system.

"In general, I host many large applications with 4 million to 5 million transactions a day, and Rails scales just fine," Zygmuntowicz said.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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