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Scale Out For SharkTank

Recently one of our clients was featured on SharkTank, the critically-acclaimed business-themed show, featuring the Sharks and their continuing the search to invest in the best businesses and products that America has to offer.

Fohawx is a line of cool accessories that can easily attach to any kind of safety helmet – instantly transforming annoying headgear into a fashion statement. The appearance on SharkTank was a great opportunity for Fohawx to showcase their product.

Based on past experience we know that their web site could get 5000 or more simultaneous users. The small RackSpace Cloud Server on which they were hosted would be vaporized by this traffic. Due to the proprietary nature of their application server (ColdFusion) we could not add additional web servers. So a couple of days before the event we outlined measures to temporarily scale out their hosting capacity:

1. Re-sized the web server to 16GB of RAM. We wanted to go to 30GB but there was not sufficient space available on the “huddle” so we could only go to 16GB. We could move to a diffierent huddle but this would require and IP address change.

2. Added a separate database server. We spun up a 60GB server in RackSpace’s new Performance flavor and moved the application database from the web server to this new database server. The goal was to offload the web server and allow for faster database operations.

3. Added a pair of Varnish cache servers in front of the web server. The Varnish servers were built on small RackSpace Cloud Servers. As a caching proxy, Varnish can be used to offload static content from the web server. We used two Varnish servers to provide redundancy and increase throughput.

4. Added a RackSpace Cloud Load Balancer in front of the Varnish servers. The Cloud Load Balancer was configured to distribute traffic evenly between the Varnish servers.

In total this configuration cost about $3 per hour to operate and it ran for 4 days so the total cost was less then $220 hour.

The Sharks were not big fans of Fohawx but viewers seemed to disagree. In the hour after the initial airing the site served more the 1 million hits with a peak of over 4100 simultaneous users. Amazingly the Varnish cache servers handled 99% of all request and only passed 1% through to the web server.

This case study demonstrates how Reliable Penguin can combine RackSpace Cloud services with open-source components to rapidly meet emerging hosting challenges.

Watch the SharkTank episode here:

Fohawx starts around 00:23.

And don’t forget to get your Fohawx at: