Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Server meltdown on the day Turbo10 "Registered"

Friday the 30th of May 2003 is something of a Black Friday for us and Turbo10.

It was the day the world finally registered that we have some serious search technology to offer but sadly it was also the day our one server had a serious meltdown - and there lies the problem.

Meg had done a fantastic job of managing the marketing campaign and the word was starting to get out. But we hadn't counted on receiving such a glowing review in The Register, "Make way for the contender to Google's crown." It took us, and everybody else by surprise. We were suddenly in the boxing ring with Google. Everyone flocked to Turbo10.

Unfortunately I was on a plane at the time and Meg had to call our data center in Texas to ask where our server had mysteriously gone? You can imagine the Texan drawl:
"I'm sorry MaaM your server is havin' a denial of service attack. I've never seen anythin' like this. I'm lookin' at the ethernet meter and it's gone pure green."
We were going pure green too. It wasn't a DOS attack - just lots of people interested in Turbo10. We we're happy, sad, elated, frustrated all at the same time. Happy and elated that our efforts and original ideas had been recognised but sad and frustrated that our search engine was failing under the load.

I fought for two days from the lobby of the hotel against a Portuguese keyboard and a torrent of incoming hits but our weeny server just couldn't handle it. For many visitors Turbo10, the "contender to Google's crown" was a blank page.

Well as a "contender" I felt like a boxer smelling the canvas. But despite our limited resources we got the server back up and four days later The Register reported: Turbo10: Getting back on its feet.

We promptly hit the canvas again! :-(

At the time we didn't have enough money to scale up our cluster. Two months before I'd approached Dell and IBM to see if they could help out with a "Powered By" server sponsorship but sadly they weren't interested.

Lots has changed since then. Instead of just one server we now have a load balanced cluster of over forty five servers! :-) But the lessons learnt while smelling the canvas have stayed with us and we're determined it won't happen again.

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