It is always a great feeling to bring together two good organizations together and that has certainly been the case for me with Team-BHP and E2E Networks. Team-BHP is arguably one of the biggest automobile forums on the internet, run by a bunch of really passionate petrolheads, with an audience that even with a restricted membership is massive by any standards. E2E is the spiffy young hosting provider on the block, especially for sites that have a big chunk of their traffic originating from India, run by a bunch of geeks who make everyone’s life much easier by knowing, better than anyone else, what they are talking about when it comes to hosting infrastructure.
I had already done two projects with Team-BHP, both dealing with custom development of certain new features on the site. They have been one of the best clients I have worked with, being meticulous in what they do and most importantly, they know exactly what they want to do get done, which makes a vendor/consultant’s job a breeze, compared to the usual one-line brief that we often get to work with. The site had been hosted with WiredTree since 2009 and it had largely been a good experience, but things had slipped in recent times with the growing requirements, so they were on the lookout for a new home, which was preferably in India as the majority of the traffic for the site originates from here.
Decisions about infrastructure at this scale is never straight forward. There are numerous factors to be taken into consideration, some of which are:
- Level of support (managed or un-managed?)
- Cost of bandwidth
- Hardware SLAs.
- Application-level support.
- Traffic mix (is it equally geographically spread or largely local?)
- Connectivity at the service provider’s end.
Taking an informed decision about this is often not possible for most organizations as it requires both experience and knowledge that is usually quite specialized and not readily available within organizations. This a the crucial gap bridged by a consultant like me. Moreover, a property that is the size of a Team-BHP would normally have been in operation for at least 4-5 years, meaning the application stack often has a lot of legacy issues and complicated dependencies to handle. They have to be taken into account and best practices have to be rolled out where it is possible, without disrupting existing operations.
The Big Move
After evaluating various options, we decided to go with E2E Networks. They were already doing managed services for some substantial online properties from India and were also hosting some of the properties of the companies I knew personally and the feedback had never been anything short of spectacular. I am also very partial towards top management in infrastructure providers who are reachable on the phone and know what exactly are they doing and Tarun from E2E is a prime example of that. What helped was also the fact that they went out of their way earlier, before signing up with E2E, to fix a major problem that was bringing down the site while on WiredTree. It is not often that you get to see something like that in the industry.
Finally, after much testing and some delays (caused by the rather ill-timed Heartbleed bug and a DNS reflection attack), we started moving the sites late this week and the final piece of the puzzle (the main forum) was moved to E2E today. As things stand they look quite good and stable and hopefully both Team-BHP and E2E Networks will have a long and fruitful association.
Why Not AWS?
An important question in this regard that I often face is, “why not AWS and a CDN?”. For one, AWS is not cheap, especially when you have to get decent, hands-off managed support for it. Insecure public-facing web servers are the bane of the cloud hosting world and unfortunately a staggering number of companies learn about this the wrong (and often costly manner) way in the end. A poorly secured box with multiple cores, 10+ GB of RAM and a 100 Mbit unrestricted port is any hacker’s wet dream. And there are just way too many of them out there.
In the case of a CDN, it is not a panacea for site delivery. The effectiveness of a CDN depends on a variety of factors. For one, other than Akamai and Bitgravity, the other CDNs don’t have POPs in India. Which means that your Indian traffic will be served by routing it out of the country. Secondly, they are quite expensive and don’t make sense till you push incredible amounts of traffic, which not many sites actually do. One of the reasons why we chose E2E was that they had decent peering (via Netmagic) to all the major networks in India, which made it a faster option compared to most CDNs.
Edit: As pointed out by Manu J on Twitter both Cachefly and Cloudfront now have POPs in India.
The Ideal Infrastructure: Seamless Develop, Test & Depoly
In today’s world, most parts of developing, testing and deploying a website can be automated in a cost-effective manner. While the initial process to get this in place can be complicated and time-consuming, the long-term benefits of having this in place will save any organization time and money in the long run. Done right, this can also be aligned well with an organization’s business objectives. While it used to be really costly and difficult to accomplish this seamless process even five years ago, it is no longer that hard or expensive anymore.
If you want to explore rolling this out in your organization, do get in touch and I’d be more than happy to help you out.