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Tomorrow morning, I’m going to jump on the train to the first DrupalCamp Frankfurt. I’m looking forward to meet my friends of the German Drupal community and also to get to know some new folks, so say hi!

If you’re interested in how to build a Drupal development environment with Vagrant and automation tools, come by my session that I’ll be doing on Sunday morning!

See you in Frankfurt!

11 Apr 2014

And just so, the first quarter of 2014 has passed. Wow, time flies when you’re busy. And busy we were!

Our conference schedule for this year is so packed that we need to distribute events within the team. In March, while I visited Szeged, Hungary, and enjoyed the community feeling at the Drupal Developer Days, Markus attended DevOpsCamp Nuremberg. DevOps is at the core of our business, so DevOps Days and DevOps Camps are ideal opportunities for us to exchange experiences with other IT specialists and also gain new inspiration.

freistilbox

Our managed hosting platform freistilbox keeps growing and now hosts 282 websites (Feb: 266, +6%). Our total uptime was 99.93% (Feb: 99,97%) and with 11.96 TB, our website traffic came up to about the same level as in the previous month (Feb: 12.5 TB).

We’re working hard every day to keep our promise, “Work efficiently, sleep peacefully.” And it’s feedback like this customer’s that always makes our day: “Pingdom reports 99.99% availability of our cluster for March. Thank you.”

Help Center

In March, we achieved a great improvement in tech support quality. While ticket traffic resembled the one in February, our reaction times were substantially better.

We got 150 support requests (Feb: 149) and were able to resolve 126 tickets (Feb: 127), leaving a backlog of 48 (Feb: 35). Our average first reply time came in at 16h, a whopping 31% less than last month (Feb: 23h). You can see the cause in the time breakdown: We shifted a significant part of “tickets we didn’t answer within 24h” to the 8h bracket. This month, we tackled 42% of all tickets within an hour (Feb: 43%) and 31% within 8h (Feb: 23%); together, this makes 73% of all incoming requests. The number of tickets answered within 24h stayed the same (Feb, Mar: 15%), and only 12% took us longer than 24h (Feb: 20%).

With these results, it’s not surprising that our customer’s satisfaction feedback stayed at 100% “good”. These are some of the comments we got from solved support requests:

  • “VERY fast and great support!”
  • “CSI Varnish ^^”
  • “Super fast response, thanks!”
  • “A kind of magique”

Customer happiness is our primary goal and we’re glad that we’re well on target here.

Operations

Since we’re able put existing capacity to more efficient use, we only added 2 new hosts to our infrastructure (Feb: 282). From all these hosts, we’re collecting 108,880 distinct health and performance metrics (Feb: 107,706) — every 10 seconds.

The number of on-call notifications decreased further to 1122 (Feb: 1397, –20%). This number doesn’t mean that we experience an outage every 40 minutes on average. We’re quite happy that the biggest part of these alerts get automatically resolved within minutes because the issue (for example a high system load) was only short-lived. As soon as we get to fine-tune our alert thresholds, the number of notifications will go down significantly.

All in all, it’s been a great month and a successful first quarter. We’re looking forward to what’s coming next!

07 Apr 2014

Next week, I’m going to attend the Open Source Datacenter Conference (OSDC). Conviently for me, the event will take place in Berlin now after Netways, the company behind the conference, decided to move it there from its traditional location in Nuremberg.

The OSDC takes place on Wednesday and Thursday and is packed with sessions about the newest developments in Open Source technology. Some of my personal highlights:

  • Jordan Sissel: “Find Happiness in your Logs”
  • Andreas Schmidt: “Testing server infrastructure with serverspec”
  • Martin Gerhard Loschwitz: “What’s next for Ceph?”
  • Mike Adolphs: “How we run Support at GitHub”

On Thursday, I’ll give a talk myself, titled “Dynamic Infrastructure Orchestration”. My goal is to point out possible next steps after getting configuration management solutions like Puppet or Chef in place. I’ll cover two different approaches:

  • using central key-value stores like etcd for service discovery and
  • configuration, and
  • decentralising system automation with tools like serf.

OSDC always is a fun event and I’m excited to meet old colleagues and talk to fellow IT professionals.

Hm. I wonder if the city has changed much since I last visited Berlin in 1987…

04 Apr 2014

Three findings on my flight home:

  • Compared with Hungarian, German with its puny three umlauts can pack up and go home.
  • Compared with Ireland, Hungary has much nicer weather.
  • Compared with the pubs at home, in Hungary you can treat four or five times as many people to a beer for the same amount of money.

As you can see, Hungary has the advantage in many regards and I had a great time here at the Drupal Developer Days this past week.

When I arrived in Szeged on Wednesday evening, Drupal 8 coding sprints had already been running for a few days and they’d continue all week. During this time, up to 150 Drupal developers were working to make progress on code and documentation issues. There were 115 commits to Drupal core and after removing 19 blocker issues, we’re now 40% closer to Drupal 8 Beta. Our Git repository traffic was so high that it even triggered drupal.org’s DDoS defenses!

At the event location only, we consumed 5500 sandwiches, 1000 servings of coffee, 240l of beer, 300kg of sweet snacks and 120kg of bananas. The venue was a really good choice. It had all the space we needed, good catering and the WiFi worked well throughout the event. And having the Novotel (with its amazing value for money) right next door is unbeatable convenience.

From Thursday to Saturday, there were a lot of interesting presentations as well as a reprise of the “Caching Deep Dive” multi-hour workshop that had a lot of success at DrupalCon Prague. Almost every talk referenced the upcoming Drupal version. And although many things are still in flux, it feels to me like Drupal 8 is taking shape.

What drove engagement most was the great community spirit. Everyone was welcome, from the Drupal novice to the long-time core contributor. There were smiling faces all around and you could simply walk up to anyone to have a chat or ask a question. People got together spontaneously, be it to code or to go have dinner. These personal experiences are what I love most about the Drupal community. If you haven’t been to a DrupalCamp yet, go to DrupiCal now and see what’s happening near your place! Go on, I’ll wait here.

My personal highlight was the #AberdeenFreistilCloudBox party on Friday night which I had the pleasure to co-organize. I had contacted Aaron Porter before the event, suggesting we join forces and do something about the community’s lack of awareness of our European Drupal hosting companies that we both had perceived at DrupalCamp London a few weeks earlier. When I met Aaron on Thursday morning, he invited me to join him in scouting for a party venue for Friday night. We looked at two bars in the center of Szeged and decided on hosting (that’s what we’re good at, after all!) the party at the CoolTour Cafe. We were able to make a deal that secured our guests 100 free beers as well as free admission to the concert room where one of Hungary’s best-known Jazz singers was going to be on stage. And when on Friday afternoon the number of sign-ups for the party crossed the 100 mark, Aaron and I decided to throw in another 100 beer vouchers. The party was a success and fun was had by everyone. The title of “drink distributor extraordinaire” goes to Dave Hall who’s apparently related to a huge Dutch family since he returned every few minutes to grab a voucher for another member of the Needabeer clan.

In the end, I’d like to congratulate the organization team around Kristof van Tomme to a great Drupal community event! I’m thankful for a lot of good conversations, and happy that I overcame my initial reluctance to register and got to be a part of Drupal Developer Days Szeged 2014.

31 Mar 2014

I'm going!

2014 is the year of Drupal 8 and we’re getting our freistilbox hosting platform ready to host its first Drupal 8 websites. Of course, Drupal 8 will be the central topic of the Drupal Developer Days in Szeged from 24 to 30 March. We can’t miss such an important event, so Jochen will be following DrupalMarvin’s invitiation from DrupalCon Prague last year.

Jochen is going to be in Szeged from Wednesday the 26th to Sunday the 30th, so if you’re there, make sure to say Hi! He’ll be more than happy to get you a beer or coffee, and you can ask him whatever you’d like to know about freistilbox.

And don’t forget to pack your towel!

22 Mar 2014

February put an end to the quiet time at the beginning of the year. We went into our final preparations for moving our business to our Ireland-based company freistil IT Ltd. From April on, all our services will be provided – without any changes in quality or technology – by our new company. We’re very excited about this new phase in our company’s development!

We kickstarted our community engagement by visiting DrupalCamp London. With about 600 attendees, it was an impressively big event for a local DrupalCamp. Discussions at the CxO meet-up and conversations during the whole event made us realise that we need to ramp up our marketing efforts because most people seem to know only the two US providers for Drupal hosting. We think this needs to change. ;-)

Taking the opportunity of Markus and me being at the same place, we stayed for another two days after DrupalCamp for our Q1 board meeting. Inspired by Marc Benioff’s book “Behind the Cloud”, we worked on defining our company’s key vision, values, methods, obstacles and metrics. I’m going to write some more about that at a later time. Culture is an important part of business and these basic aspects will be the foundation on which we’re going to grow our company.###freistilbox

Our hosting platform keeps growing steadily, with now 266 websites running on freistilbox (January: 233, +14%). We’re happy to see our availability improving as Pingdom reports a total uptime of 99,97% (January: 99,94%). Last month, we expected our traffic to cross the 10 TB mark, and it did so with an impressive 30% jump from 9.6 TB to 12.5 TB!

###Help Center

Probably mostly because of the short month, our technical support numbers are a bit lower than in January. We received 149 new support requests (January: 181) and resolved 127 (January: 140). The ticket backlog was 35 (January: 41).

This month, our average resolution time came in at 22.6h, nowhere near the insane 250h in January. We managed to answer 43% of new tickets within an hour (Jan: 45%) and another 23% within 8h (Jan: 28%). 15% of new requests were answered within 24h (Jan: 8%) and the remaining 20% took us longer.

We’re glad to report that our customers’ support satisfaction remained at 100%.

###Operations

In February, we grew the number of servers to 282 (Jan: 264, +7%). We’re now collecting 107,706 metrics in our monitoring system (Jan: 99,518). The number of on-call alerts went down to 1397 (Jan: 1781, –27%) and we’re working on improvements that will lower this number even more significantly.

###Other notable stuff

In February, I celebrated my 44th birthday. It was my first birthday party in Ireland. It feels good to get settled in, and having freistil IT based in Ireland now, too, will make me feel at home here even more. I’m very excited to see how my life and work will develop over the coming months!

20 Mar 2014

Tomorrow, I’ll fly to our neighbor island for DrupalCamp London and Markus is going to join me on Friday. Together, we’re going to breathe some community air again and get a feel for what British Drupal shops need in terms of hosting.

With 600 attendees, DrupalCamp London is going to be an impressive event! There will be 30 community sessions as well as BoFs and sprints across the weekend. I’ll certainly try to at least attend the “Next Generation DevOps” and “Concurrent Programming” talks. I’m also looking forward to the Drupal CxO meet-up on Friday before the actual conference.

For Markus and me, it’s a valuable opportunity that we’ll be at the same place at the same time for a change. That’s why we’ll stay a few more days more after the weekend to do important strategy work for 2014 together.

We’re very excited to meet a lot of enthusiastic Drupal developers In London! So, if you’d like to join us for a pint and talk about your Drupal hosting needs, simply drop us a line via email or on Twitter!

26 Feb 2014

Do you still remember these text messages you should not have sent last night? SMS von gestern Nacht (“last night’s text message”) does! The entertainment website publishes texts from its users that are simply too good, funny or rad to be read only by their original recipient.

SMSvonGesternNacht.de has been running on freistilbox since 2013. We thank the founding team for their following feedback:

Why we chose freistilbox

Our first contact with freistil IT was already in 2010 when they still offered their hosting under the name “DrupalCONCEPT”. We were looking for good hosting solutions for Drupal and had found freistil. Back then, we decided on a single managed server from another provider. Over the years, we extended it to a group of three servers. When we planned a relaunch in 2013, the Drupal experts from Palasthotel recommended a switch to the freistilbox hosting platform that they praised enthusiasticly.

Out of experience, we wanted to build on a proven and reliable solution. To learn the detail aspects of freistilbox, we invited Markus from freistil IT to our office in Berlin. In this meeting, we worked out that freistilbox would cover our needs very well. Its caching infrastructure, optimised for Drupal, promised high delivery performance for our many anonymous visitors. At the same time, the price was very attractive; we don’t pay significantly more for freistilbox today than we did previously for our managed servers. freistilbox brings additional advantages, too, for example the developer-friendly design and the fast technical support. The easy scalability is another important factor because our traffic grows steadily.

Our hosting setup

At launch, we started with a cluster of two freistilbox S. Since performance is more important to us than availability, we decided after a short time to switch to a single freistilbox M.

The launch

Our start with freistilbox was a very good experience. With one exception, everything worked out of the box. And the problem that our voting feature at first didn’t work because of the necessary extra cookie was quickly resolved by the freistil team with a custom cache configuration. The target-oriented way we discussed and solved this problem together with Palasthotel in a “war room” chat conducted by freistil IT significantly increased our trust in the team’s competence.

Daily operation

Hosting on freistilbox is fun because we don’t have to take care of anything. freistilbox simply works and we notice little of daily operations. Our questions usually are answered in much less than 24h and contact with the freistil IT technical support always is a pleasant experience.

If there is a problem eventually, someone immediately deals with it. At the end of 2013, our website suffered from network issues, today our availability is 99,9% even without redundant servers.

Since the launch on freistilbox, our traffic has more than doubled from about 18 million to 40 million page impressions per month. The highest traffic spike has been 1.5 million PI on a single day. The website still runs with full performance without us having to grow our configuration. We’re now considering allowing user logins which would probably require an expansion.

freistilbox leaves little to be desired. Comprehensive statistics that show how well our cluster is working would be a great additional feature, though.

freistilbox clearly holds up to its promise “work efficiently, sleep peacefully”. When the next vacation comes up, we’ll be able to go on holidays without worrying about our hosting.

13 Feb 2014

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