By eweek  |  Posted 2006-01-29 Print this article Print

So you started out small, in terms of hardware. How did it grow from there? We had this one box in production—the plan was to pull that box out, and then do this cutover of our Web site from the E-Trade look and feel to the E-Trade Financial look and feel, which coincided with the Super Bowl that year. Everyone was so pleased with the performance and rock-solid reliability that we were seeing, that we left it in. Operations said, we want to look at this, we want to keep it in, we want to study it.
We had a lot of work to do from this mid-December date in 2001 to merge all the changes back into the main code base. We did so, I think, over New Years Eve that year, and merged the code back, and now were back to a single code base. And so all the changes that were done for the Linux variation of the stack were merged back into the Solaris code base, and now were shipping one product out to two different operating systems. And we continued to do that until we got the rest of the stack done, which was the Java application and all the configuration parameters worked out for Solaris and OpenSSL, which are different from the way you run the encryption on the iPlanet side.
So we went through that, through spring, bought, I think, one, maybe one and a half racks of servers. I think a rack is 52 servers from the floor to the top. … We plugged all those servers in, installed the apps, and then in the load balancers, kicked over load. Ten percent, 25 percent, 50 percent and then 100 percent of our load went from the gigantic rows of Sun 4500s over to the open-source stack, which was Red Hat, Apache, Tomcat, Tuxedo on Linux. One of the most dramatic things that happened is, almost everybody who runs some kind of commerce facility on the Internet looks at [benchmarks from] Gomez and Keynote, which are these point-of-presence scanners on the Internet, where they have all these little agents all over the Internet that will run through a sequence of queries on some kind of commerce facility—like if you were going to do reservations for travel or go to Amazon and buy something, or if you want to trade a stock on E-Trade. On E-Trade, what Keynote does, for instance, is they log in, get a quote, they place a trade, they cancel a trade, and they log out. Read more here about Keynotes efforts to give e-commerce companies comprehensive views of performance and usability. On the Solaris stack—a quarter million dollars a box, huge rows of machines—[Keynote measured the transaction] running about 8 to 9 seconds for us. After we were 100 percent on Linux, we were running, I believe, in the 4 to 5 seconds range. This is kind of a flexion point for me, technically. So were now at summer of 2002, and at this point, I realized, this is a much, much bigger phenomenon than simply taking [down the] dramatic cost of the data center, which it definitely was—millions and millions and millions of dollars came out of our expenses to run our facility. This was very welcome news from our business perspective, considering the diminished trading volume that we were incurring. So that was a fantastically successful project. However, something else was also going on, and I did a deep dive on open source at this particular time. I started running lots of different distros. I ended up running Gentoo. Personally, I run the Gentoo distro. Next Page: The Gentoo phenomenon.


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