You’ll notice a lot more news and talk about the Grid in the next few months. We’re continuing to develop the Grid to be the world class hosting platform it was built to be. We’re happy to announce the first phase of a faster, easier to use Grid. We think the best way to introduce the new Grid is by introducing you to the team behind the it, and we made the Grid easier to share.
Meet Dante Baker, Shared Services Product Manager and Bill Wheatley, Shared Services Team Lead.
Why is the Grid a special hosting platform?
D & B: It simply solves a lot of issues that no one else seems able to address. With traditional shared environments, or even utility cloud environments like Amazon, if a web server goes down, you’re pretty much out of luck without some heavy customization on the user end. The Grid removes all that complexity from the user. If a web server goes down, you have multiple other web servers there that can handle the additional traffic. Your site is actually living on an elastic cluster that is built to scale.
Delivering this kind of elasticity and reliability at an affordable rate is a hard problem to solve, which is why most in the industry stay with the old paradigm of single server shared hosting. Another important note: every cluster is identical in every way a customer would care about. We want to make sure you have a uniform experience, whether you have one Grid service or several.
How are we better delivering on the value proposition of Grid Hosting?
D & B: We’re not only providing a very stable and reliable place to host, but we’re not falling asleep at the wheel either. We’re continuously looking at ways to further improve performance, whether it be through hardware or software solutions. One of our current initiatives involves usage of Flash based storage at strategic locations. So while we’re implementing SSD based solutions, we’ve also jumped ahead of the curve to start looking at Flash and other emergent technology.
With constant modernization of the hardware, process improvements around managing these upgrades, we’ve learned a lot! Things like, how to properly handle multiple user environments if one user’s activity went off the charts. We’ve also turned a difficult thing (managing a large distributed environment) into an advantage. Now, our processes enable us to roll out upgrades and features to tens of thousands of customers at once versus the alternative of upgrading traditional shared boxes one box at a time.
We know there are immediate core changes happening now to increase speed across the board. Can you elaborate on those?
D & B: We’ve individually been fans of both PHP FastCGI as well as Pagespeed (mod_pagespeed) for some time now, and have been throwing it on our own personal servers. It was well beyond time for us to bring it to the customer base, and the speed increases are phenomenal. As I mentioned previously, we’re also looking at some hardware changes that may help, but that’s still in the discovery phase. We’re definitely seeing great results with SSD drives over traditional spinning disks, and you’ll continue to see that permeate our fleet of hardware.
What does it mean for the average site owner running WordPress or any other popular CMS?
D & B: Switch on FastCGI, and your site just became much faster. A great example: a base site that normally took 2.5 seconds to load, took just 400 milliseconds after implementing PHP FastCGI! That’s 6X faster. You should also be able to support many more concurrent sessions to your site/application. So all in all, some pretty awesome performance increases.
What’s in the pipeline for the future of the Grid?
D & B: Oh man, this is where we get really, really excited. Remember, we want anyone who doesn’t understand the complexities of System Administration, security, or IT to be able to focus on content, not servers. To that end, we’re working on a litany of things such as:
- Automated backups
- Enterprise email
- Security enhancements
- More SSD hardware for our database architecture
- Potential Flash-based hardware
- Object Storage
- Open Stack initiatives
- Premium WordPress offering with Git cloning, staging and deployment, and automatic updates
What’s driving these changes?
D & B: We’re in the business of promoting great ideas. The more we can abstract hosting from that so people can concentrate on those ideas, the better we can progress as a whole. We’re driven to bring our customers a hosting platform that’s not only industry leading, but is exciting for us to work on as well! We take a lot of pride in being geeks that can deliver a product that’s worthy of the trust our customers put in our service.