Weeknote #83

Published 2011-11-04 by Jochen Lillich

In our weeknotes, we’d like to give you a short recap into what’s been happening at freistil during the week. The numbering is based on the age of the business in weeks and because the latest incarnation of freistil IT officially started on April 6th 2010, this is Weeknote #83.

It’s been a long time since my last weeknote. Over the recent months, we’ve been very busy and traveled a lot. We took part in three Drupal conferences , namely DrupalCon Europe in London, Drupal Commerce Camp in Lucerne and DrupalCity in Berlin. Each and every time, we had the pleasure of meeting customers we hadn’t met in person yet as well as making new aquaintances. Having many opportunities to talk to people proved at least as valuable as the conference sessions where people talked to us. It’s really fun to be part of such an amazing community.

A huge part of our work is done behind the curtains. For example, we continuously improve our infrastructure management . We monitor an increasing number of servers (currently more than 70 dedicated machines) and services (more than 1000 individual checks every few seconds). Switching from a run-of-the-mill SMS service to PagerDuty allows us to effectively alert the on-call engineer and escalate an incident to the second level, if necessary. At the heart of our infrastructure management, we use Chef to automate all our system administration tasks. There is no day we don’t add new “recipes” or improve existing ones. Jochen recently built a dedicated storage cluster for our central backup system. Based on a distributed GlusterFS filesystem, this storage cluster can be expanded by simply adding new storage servers while a rebalancing process makes sure that files are spread evenly on all storage nodes.

Of course, we’re also heavily improving our products. Especially our DrupalCONCEPT ELITE customers that pay for an all-inclusive, highly scalable hosting infrastructure benefit a lot from many performance and stability improvements .

Because we are very aware that our daily workload must not prevent us from planning ahead, we’re doing quarterly two-day strategy meetings . Our last get-together was at the beginning of October and we made some important decisions for the coming year. One of those was to rebrand the company under the name “freistil IT” (see our announcement).

We also defined a new hosting product line that will close the price gap between our entry-level products and our offerings for higher demands. These new hosting products will be based on our own private cloud , i.e. virtual servers we can quickly provision with exactly the system resources the customers need. By operating this private cloud ourselves, we benefit from higher flexibility as our customers do from lower prices. (Infrastructure projects like this make sure that Jochen doesn’t get bored with just rebooting servers from time to time.)

A feature our hosting customers have been requesting for a long time is a self-service dashboard . After deciding to ditch Ruby on Rails and build upon Drupal (as was the original idea in the first place), Markus is now making rapid progress and we’re aiming for a first production version before Christmas. This is a very important project for us because the more settings our customers can configure themselves without our help, the more time we gain to work on value-adding projects.

We’ll try to post weeknotes now on a more, well, weekly basis. To give you an interesting insight, we’ll be taking turns (tip o’ the hat to the guys at Third Wave). I’m already curious what Markus will be telling next time!