The tech team just rolled out Beta 5 of the redesign. This beta release is comprised mostly of important back-end changes — if you saw the site during beta 4 you won’t notice much that has changed in the last couple of weeks, but still waters run deep. We asked Dan Russell, our head of operations, to share with us what he’s been up to. In the fury of switching servers and writing configuration changes, here’s his note.
We’re not just modernizing the look and feel of the TED website, we’re also replacing pretty much everything under the hood. The original site was built in 2006 using the most common practices of that time: a monolothic webapp running on dedicated hardware in a single high-quality colocation facility. But web infrastructure management has changed dramatically in the meantime, and we’re taking this opportunity to modernize.
The new TED site uses a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), which means instead of one big application that tries to be all things to all people, we have many smaller applications, each of which has a specialized purpose. This software architectural change allows us to take full advantage of the major web hosting change of the last few years: cloud computing.
We consciously developed the new TED website to run well on any commonly-available cloud hosting platform. We currently use Rackspace Public Cloud and Amazon Web Services, but can easily switch providers as costs or geographic locations drive us.
Choosing an SOA does have a downside: your website has a lot more pieces to monitor. Thankfully, the industry and Open Source community have provided many excellent tools to help us keep track of things. We use Nagios to poke at our servers and ensure things are working, Ganglia and Graphite to collect and expose performance metrics, and the fabulous Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana suite to collect detailed logs, and let us find that needle in a haystack.
All these changes let us take advantages of the cloud computing revolution, which ultimately leads to a faster, more cost-effective, and easier-to-manage site!
Dan Russell is TED’s Director of Technical Operations. He makes an art out of packing for work trips.