In private conversations I’ve already been talking about our “new architecture” for some time, and today, we present it to the world. On behalf of everyone here at freistil IT, I’m very happy to announce the release of freistilbox — our next-generation managed hosting platform!
We’ve taken everything we’ve learned over the past three years to build this platform. We’ll have a technical article for those interested soon. Until then, here are the big benefits of our freistilbox hosting platform!
Scalability made simple
freistilbox is built to scale without forcing our customers to deal with the complexity that comes with a growing hosting infrastructure. To get more capacity (and higher availability as a side benefit), you just add more “boxes” to your hosting platform. These boxes are dedicated server instances that host your web application. Everything else — databases, caches etc. — is managed by our operations team behind the scenes.
Only our DrupalCONCEPT ELITE customers had access to a load balancer that distributes incoming requests between two or more application servers.
For freistilbox, we’ve built load distribution right into the core infrastructure, so as soon as you have two or more freistilbox instances, incoming requests automatically get distributed between them. Should one of these freistilbox instances suffer an outage, it will automatically be left out, so your website visitors won’t notice.
With DrupalCONCEPT, while answers to HTTP requests are answered very fast by a Varnish cache, SSL-encrypted traffic gets delivered directly to the web application servers. There, the requests have to be first decrypted and then answered by Drupal — every single time, because we are going around the Varnish cache. That’s why SSL-heavy sites tend to be slower and need a lot of processing power.
On our new freistilbox infrastructure, SSL requests are decrypted immediately when they arrive by a dedicated SSL offloading layer. This not only takes computing load off the application servers but also allows the HTTP cache to speed up both encrypted and unencrypted traffic.
Integration of external repositories
In DrupalCONCEPT, the Git repository containing the web application code is tightly integrated with the website instance itself. We use Git for freistilbox, too. But if you already have a Git repository that supports webhooks, for example at Github, you can use that one to deploy your code instead of the default repo we provide.
Deployments take less than 10 seconds
With DrupalCONCEPT, if you wanted a site update rolled out, it would take up to 2 minutes for the deployment mechanism to do its thing. Now, thanks to a newly designed deployment process, it takes less than 10 seconds.
Web dashboard and API
Not only does freistilbox offer a web-based dashboard where you can see (and, in later versions, change) your customer data and website configuration. The dashboard application provides a RESTful API that we’re also going to document and expose to the public. That means that you will be able to make changes to your platform parameters either manually in your browser or automated via software.
There’s no set schedule for these yet, but we know you want them, and we’re testing them. We’re working hard to bring you:
- Separate SSH servers to execute commands like mysqldump or drush manually or via Cron, without using precious application server resources
- Secure external access to your MySQL database Of course, as we know ourselves and our customers, we’ll add many other things over time that we don’t even think about today.
What about DrupalCONCEPT?
No change on this front. We’ll continue operating all DrupalCONCEPT installations that already exist. We’ll just stop adding new ones from today on.
So, what do you think?
We’d love to know what you think of our new hosting platform, so head on over to www.freistilbox.com and make sure to drop us a note in the comments below!
03 Oct 2012
Hi there and welcome to freistilbox, our next-generation managed webhosting platform! Everyone here at freistil IT is very excited that we’ve finally reached its launch day!
You can read more about what freistilbox is all about on our company blog. And, of course, just check out the navigation menu above to find all the details!
01 Oct 2012
From August 20th to 24th, Drupal users and experts from all over the world visited Munich for DrupalCon Europe 2012. Among them, Markus and I. Since we do what we can to be a good community member, we backed the event as a Bronze Sponsor. And boy, did we get something for our money!
Let me put it first that the organization team did an amazing job, in front of and during the conference. They chose the Westin Grand Hotel and the nearby Sheraton as venues for all the talks, show floors and group meetings. It didn’t take long after arriving to notice that this was a very good choice. Not only was there enough space for almost 2000 conference visitors but the hotel staff also mastered the logistics of providing everyone at any time with coffee, water and food. There seemed to be a food table and coffee stand at every corner and I never saw a queue worth mentioning. The food was so great in terms of both quality and variety that I didn’t dare to get on my scale for the following week. There were a few weak points, too, for example the badly ventilated “Garmisch” conference room in the basement.
Another great idea was to merge the conference bagde with the program guide. If you wanted to see what was going to be on next, you conveniently flipped open the booklet on your chest.
The most important part of DrupalCon is, of course, the sessions. This time, they were divided into the following topic tracks:*Coding and Development
- Business and Strategy
Additionally, you could take part in the Core Conversations discussing Drupal’s future and watch live discussions at the Day Stage. In sum, visitors could choose between 78 sessions. All of them (AFAIK) were recorded and the A/V team managed to put the recordings online within impressively short time.
I’m proud to have given two sessions myself: “ Simple devops workflows with Kanban” and “ Use datacenter tools to make your dev life easier”. I’m going to write some blog posts following up these sessions soon.
Speaker support by the DrupalCon team had been impressivly intense. Not only did they make sure that the speakers finish their materials in time but they also offered several webinars to help the speakers ramp up their presentation skills. The quality of the sessions I visited was quite mixed, though, and many people I spoke to wished for more pro-level topics. I think it’s a reasonable demand that DrupalCon sessions meet a higher standard than those at local DrupalCamps.
On the vendor show floors, most companies had chosen the dull and boring approach of having a more or less sophisticated booth where people handed out stuff and talked to visitors. Two of the few notable exceptions were propeople with their giant Jenga tower of Drupal components and Comm-Press who handed out T-shirts with QR codes that matched in pairs. Those who made the effort to find the Drupalista wearing the matching shirt could win an iPad or tickets for next year’s DrupalCon Portland.
There was a lot of buzz about the merger announcement of four well-known Drupal shops. Like everyone else, I was amazed that this made them the world’s biggest Drupal development business and surprised that they chose to keep the name of the smallest business, the german “Wunderkraut” (which translates, unbeknownst to many, as “wonder herb”). Looking back on my experience with big mergers, I wish them best of luck with the challenges they’re facing, especially the essential task of building a common company culture.
I’d like to end with shout outs to some people I enjoyed spending time with: Gerhard and Kris – thanks for having me on the DevOps track and for all the support! Micha, Thomas, Jan – thanks for a great evening with Pizza and late desserts! Barry and Josh – I had a lot of fun with my fellow Drupal hosting experts at the DevOps Meetup Munich and in the English Garden!
And finally, a big Thank You to the Drupal Association for organizing such a great event! I’m already looking forward to the next DrupalCon!
03 Sep 2012
It’s been 3 weeks now, but I still wanted to write and say thanks for making Drupal Camping the way it was!
It were 5 days of Drupal, great people, sunny weather, hard rain, interesting sessions and a generally a very nice place to be at.
Thank you for being so great, Drupal community :-D
And thanks a lot to comm-press for making this happen.
See you next year!
27 Jul 2012
A few weeks ago, we put our first MySQL cluster equipped with solid state disks (SSD) into production. It turned out to be a great improvement to our hosting platform, so from now on, we’ll put all new databases of our DrupalCONCEPT ELITE clusters on SSD-based database clusters!
An SSD is basically electronic memory with a disk interface so you can use it like a normal disk drive. But since it doesn’t need to move a head over a spinning magnetic surface to access its contents, it is faster than a normal harddisk by orders of magnitude.
This is a great advantage, especially for write access. On our harddisk-based MySQL clusters, we can boost read access by caching data in server memory at the first request and serving it from there for subsequent requests. Write requests, though, need to always go directly to the storage device to prevent data loss in the case of a sudden server crash. Normal hard disks have decent performance writing big chunks of data but look quite bad when they have to swing their heads all over the place for random write accesses. Unfortunately, most write requests on database machines actually are small changes at random places. The common way of mitigating this performance degradation is by combining many harddisks to a RAID array. The goal in this case is not to combine their storage capacity but to get as many independently moving disks heads as possible. Since, in this case, a RAID–10 configuration (data protection by mirroring complete disks) is superior to RAID–5 (data protection by calculating checksums), building a high-performance database server with harddisks becomes quite expensive.
By using SSDs as database storage, we can solve the performance problem quite elegantly. We combine a few of them into a RAID–10 array and add two normal harddisks in a RAID–1 configuration for data that is written in contiguous chunks, for example log files. The result is astonishing database performance (both read and write), paired with the still necessary protection from data loss.
And this awesome performance and data protection will be available to all our DrupalCONCEPT ELITE customers – both new and existing – from now on. And at no extra cost, too!
Too good to be true? Well, there’s actually one downside: If your application does some kind of insane database query that produces gigabytes of data, our new database clusters will deliver them so quickly that it will probably eat up your server’s network bandwidth. So tame those monster queries, folks! ;-)
If we already provide you with a DrupalCONCEPT ELITE cluster and you would like to migrate your existing databases to a SSD-based database cluster, please drop us a line. If you are interested in what makes DrupalCONCEPT ELITE one of the best Drupal hosting platforms in the world, check out the DrupalCONCEPT website!
11 Jul 2012
Just in time for this big meeting of Drupal developers, we’ve got a new offer: free development instances !
Every development instance comes with its own Git repository, database, and Apache Solr core. They’re hosted on a shared DrupalCONCEPT PRO cluster, so these development instances offer great availability – no more worries that your dev server might die right before the project deadline! Since the only limitation for development instances is that they can’t be assigned an official domain name, they are an ideal solution for developing and testing your Drupal website.
How do you get your free DrupalCONCEPT development instance? It’s easy:
*Go to our order form,
*get started and have fun!
The Drupal Developer Days will be a great opportunity to exchange ideas and practices with Drupal devs from all over the world and we at freistil IT are happy to be a sponsor of the event! We wish all participants a successful conference and great days in sunny Catalonia!
15 Jun 2012
I’m writing this post on my flight back to Germany from DrupalCamp Scotland, which took place on 25 and 26 May in Edinburgh. I had been invited to take part in a panel with major Drupal hosting providers and had responded happily with “Challenge accepted!”
The Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh was an ideal venue for DrupalCamp Scotland. There was enough space for sessions and meet-ups, and with all those coffee shops, pubs and beer gardens in the vicinity catering for students, we could easily continue our talks over a latte or a beer. Speaking of catering: Nobody had to go home hungry thanks to tasty sandwiches for lunch, and tea, coffee and cake during all the breaks. The second conference day even concluded with an assortment of ales sponsored by the Williams Brewery!
The DrupalCamp programme was interesting and diverse. On the first day, titled “Drupal for Business”, people mainly learned about Drupal and its advantages. Jeremy “Jam” McGuire set the tone in his introductory note by describing how Drupal fits neatly into the successful open source ecosphere of projects and businesses. Other sessions were about e-commerce, project management and social media.
On Saturday was the official DrupalCamp and it got more technical with sessions like “Storage API”, “Symfony: An Introduction” and “Entities Everywhere”.
For a final session titled “Roast of the Hosts”, the Drupal Scotland team had put together a panel of three Drupal hosting specialists, namely Acquia, Pantheon and freistil IT. Jakub Suchy, Josh Koenig and myself each had 5 minutes to present our hosting platforms and then answered questions from the audience. I’m really, really proud that our DrupalCONCEPT platform was considered to be part of this panel and I had great fun – on the panel as during the whole DrupalCamp.
So, many thanks to all the organizers at Drupal Scotland for their efforts! And since Edinburgh is a great city, too, I’m sure that this won’t have been my last visit to Scotland!
27 May 2012
I just hopped on the train to Vienna where I’ll participate in the Drupal Business Days conference from Thursday to Saturday. I’m taking the night train, so I’ll reach Vienna in the early morning hours. Markus will follow tomorrow, because he’s still busy with client work. Additionally, that way, we make sure that there’s at all times someone on the team with decent internet connectivity should some server hiccup.
All previous Drupal business events I’ve visited so far this year were great successes, overall and for freistil IT in particular. Both in Amsterdam and in Rome, I’ve met great people, had inspiring talks and learned new things that helped us improve. In return, we decided to become Gold Sponsor of the European Drupal Business Days. I’m sure that the next three days will be worth a multiple of the sponsorship fee.
We’re IT guys, so we’ll be more than happy for everyone who would like to talk to us. ;-) Especially if it’s about running small, medium or huge Drupal websites and in how many ways your website could benefit from running on our DrupalCONCEPT hosting platform. If you do want to meet us, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a direct message on Twitter @freistil! Alternatively, simply look out for our green DrupalCONCEPT shirts!
The CxO Meetup on the first of the three conference days will be another Drupal event that benefits from Microsoft’s hospitality. To many, this may still sound odd, but I have experienced twice now how their representatives manage to blend in and even add useful insight to the discussion. So, kudos to Microsoft for doing another kind of great hosting!
Thanks also to the nice folks at ProPeople for organizing the conference!
It seems that the weather will be nice in Vienna, so that’s one more reason to look forward to the Drupal Business Days. See you there?
02 May 2012