Hello, my name is Sara and I lead the Product Team at (mt). We are a team focused on many things — from creating the beautiful design and intuitive user experience of our products; to managing the development of projects; to writing clear, concise content; to making sure our existing products are working to meet your needs; to developing and delivering new features and enhancements out to the site; and, a little bit of everything else in between. Basically, our entire job is about customer experience. We are passionate about features, designs, grammar, code, deadlines, and we like to have a bit of fun along the way.

I’ve been with (mt) for just over a year but it feels like I started just a week ago. Nonetheless, today I am excited to finally introduce myself along with the rest of the Product Team to you.

Without further ado… Here’s the (mt) Product Team!

Back row, from left to right: Robert V., QA Engineer; David B., Sr. Software Engineer; Chad S., Project Manager; Mike M., UX Engineer; Matt J., Product Manager, @ehmatt; Paul S., Product Designer, @scrivs; Jon S., Creative Director, @jonsetzen.
Front row, from left to right: Julian N., Software Engineer; Shiloh G., Project Manager, @shi_at_mt; Elite B., Technical Writer, @mt1337; Sara H., VP Product, @saralouhicks; Ian M., UX Engineer; Dain K., UX Lead, @dainbrain. Not pictured: Matt B., Software Engineer, @mdylanbell.

Let me start off by acknowledging that this update is overdue! This post is my first communication of many where I intend to share updates on some of the awesome things we are releasing. While we’ve been working incredibly hard, we feel we can do better in communicating more often and with better clarity. Hence, one step forward in this goal, I have recently published our Product Roadmap. This new resource will help you to stay updated on what we’re working on and what we’re releasing.

Next, I’d like to review the progress we’re making. In 2011, we’ve had a sharp focus in a few key areas:

  • Reliable performance across all of our technologies.
  • Re-designed architectures to replace aging systems developed in our early start-up years.
  • Release often, be happy. Just as important as new code, (mt) needs best-in-class practices to assist our team’s ability to happily build, maintain, and continuously improve our services.

While these key areas may not represent the shiniest bullet points you can imagine, we believe this focus is a necessary priority for (mt) Media Temple to prepare us for what we’d like to do next. Especially with technologies like our (gs) Grid-Service, our mission to solidly deliver on our customer promise has never been as strong. So far this year, the results have lead to dramatic improvement in overall reliability, reduced latency, time-to-repair, and new feature release times. In summary, 2011 has been all about being more disciplined, focused and relentless in helping people achieve success in business and in their personal lives using our technology.

(gs) Grid-Service Improvements

Improving the overall stability and improving the up-time performance of the Grid has been our number one priority this year. This is an area where we’ve made numerous “under the hood” changes. We think the results have been paying off, but as you can see from the graph below we still need to improve.

This 2011 (YTD) heatmap represents the number of times per day we didn’t meet our goal of having the Grid’s response time delivered in under one second. In the beginning of the year, you can clearly see that we suffered slow periods and even lack of availability. Things improved in the second and early third quarters, but then we had a few incidents in August. The good news is that the past couple months have been our best yet. We’re going in the right direction. We are working on this area constantly and you can expect to see even more improvements before the end of the year.

Improved Web Response Times

Since ‘up’ means we are delivering what you expect, we worked to improve how fast your websites load. Early in 2011, we added SSD (Solid State Drive) technology to all of our storage, delivering your ideas 25% faster. We wrote about SSDs here on our blog and below is a graph that illustrates the performance improvements we’ve seen.

Improved Mail Performance

We’ve been painfully aware that many Grid users have been unsatisfied with email stability and web response time. As a corrective measure, we upgraded all of the base software to Dovecot which resulted in some improvements to the email experience. This was just the start. In a prior post, we announced plans to completely separate our email and web clusters. This large project is going better than expected and will be complete by January.

CloudFlare

We released our partnership with CloudFlare to become the web’s easiest speed and security system hosting solution. We’ve already helped thousands of people accelerate their websites, at no additional cost, which has helped conversions, SEO, security, and more.

(dv) Dedicated-Virtual 4.0

In February, we fully updated our (dv) Dedicated-Virtual Server product line with a totally new hardware platform and a completely updated software stack to bring users the most powerful and feature-rich VPS we’ve ever offered. If you missed it, you can read up on the details on our blog. And, just this month, we updated the (dv) 4.0 line to Parallels Plesk Panel 10.3 giving you access to the newest Plesk features.

Coming Soon: Finish the Year Strong!

SiteMover

Our SiteMover product is a premium offering to help anyone move their site to or from Media Temple. Initially, we will be focused solely on WordPress sites but our intent is to expand this to all sites. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for anyone to move their site. We expect this to launch this week. Stay tuned to our product roadmap and to our blog for details.

Software Stack Updates

In addition to installing SSDs, we overhauled the software behind your websites. We upgraded the root operating system, migrated everyone to MySQL5 databases, and made future upgrades easier by managing your servers with Puppet.

The next step, which is long overdue, is to eliminate old versions of PHP across the whole system. PHP 5.3 is the default for new (gs) services, but you haven’t had access to it from the AccountCenter yet. New controls are in progress to make choosing and updating software easier than ever. We’ll share full details on our blog about what these changes mean for you as the time nears.

(mt) Mail: Premium Mail Service

Soon, after several months of development and testing, we will release a new email service that provides a completely redesigned experience to web and mobile email. Some highlights include:

  • Web and Mobile mail: Access email, contacts, and calendar from anywhere with a browser or mobile device.
  • Getting Ready for Business: The new email service is designed with intense infrastructure to deliver fast, supported, business-class email – all at a low price.
  • Calendar: Modern calendar management supporting mobile sync, social sharing, and CalDAV.
  • Address Book: Modern contact management supporting mobile sync, social sharing, and CardDAV.
  • Quality IMAP Support: Proven software stack, reliable IMAP connections that you’ll love.

(mt) Mail is a professional-class mail product that will be available for a fee. We’ll have all the details on features, pricing, and all the other bells and whistles when we get closer to launch. The good news is that our new (mt) Mail product will be free for Grid users! The roll out will start later this year. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready.

Support Chat

We are adding yet another channel to our customer support systems. As one of the first and most active companies on Twitter and Skype, we’ve decided to add Chat to our available options. We’ll start a limited beta later this year.

We Know You Want to Hear About (cs) Cluster-Server

Last, but certainly not least, we have a much anticipated update regarding our (cs) Cluster-Service project. Many of you recall that, in 2009, we announced that we were working on the successor to the Grid, a new product called the (cs) Cluster-Server.

In our State of the Grid update last year, we commented that we realigned and strengthened our teams and shifted focus to make (cs) happen. I am happy to report that we’ve made significant progress. Before I get to the details, it’s important to note how our thinking about (cs) has evolved since we first started talking about it in 2009.

While many of the ideas around (cs) were solid and many of the core principles live on in our newest designs, we have decided to move on from some of the original concepts and from the (cs) name itself. From 2009 to now a lot has changed in the technology space, so much so that we’ve been able to take advantage of new ideas to develop a new platform and product from the ground up. We’re sure you’re eager to hear more. So, please read on to learn about what’s next.

Introducing a New 1-Click Application Experience and Hosting Platform

For most of this year, we’ve been working on our next generation hosting platform and we’re eager to share the details and deliver the new features. The first step is an entirely new 1-Click Application experience, built on top of an entirely new platform. The (gs) Grid-Service today hosts hundreds of thousands of applications like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and others. Brand new controls and hosting architecture will simplify the app installation process and make maintenance easier than ever.

Your applications will be installed on new innovative architecture and back-end systems that are reliable, fast, and powerful. We think one of the most exciting developments is our new storage back-end. For years, hosting platforms have had to choose between high-performance direct attached disks or a high-availability network attached system. Our system uses synchronization to provide the best of both worlds — blazing fast and rock solid.

The applications that power your website will be accessible via an entirely updated and modern interface. This will be the first step of many as we completely overhaul the AccountCenter over the next year to improve and simplify your experience.

What does this mean? This means that soon you’ll have access to a large gallery of apps and it will be easier than ever to install, manage, secure, and update your applications. We plan to take away the headache that is managing your applications so that you can focus on what’s important, your website.

We know that the real test will be when you experience this new product for yourself. We will be launching in limited beta later this year. As I mentioned before, this is our first step toward releasing our next generation hosting product. It’s a small start and we have many exciting plans for where we intend to take the product next year. We’re sure you have many questions, especially around what this means for the (gs) Grid-Service. We’re working through the numerous details and will have much more to share in the coming months.

Our Newly Published (mt) Product Roadmap

Lastly, we are super excited to share our (mt) Product Roadmap with you. Our Labs page, where we used to post information on what we were working on, was grossly out of date and in need of an overhaul. Our new Roadmap page will be your one-stop shop to find out what’s happening. It will be updated regularly, in near real-time, to include new projects and will include status updates on projects in progress. Our goal is to be ridiculously transparent with regards to what we’re doing. We also want your feedback. If there’s something you feel passionate about and it’s not on our Roadmap, then let us know.

I would love your feedback on anything mentioned above or questions about anything else that’s on your mind. You can leave a comment here on the blog, find me on Twitter @saralouhicks or join us in the User Forums. As I said, going forward you can expect to hear from us much more often!

Thank you for your continued loyalty to (mt) Media Temple.

Sincerely,

Sara