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The company I work for runs a large, high-profile web site with users all across the world and delivers them large amounts of streaming media content plus textual stories. You might guess therefore that this is a news website, frequently updated throughout the day, and delivering content 24x365. No names, or course, for obvious reasons. We have a big, custom, Java content management system (based on a framework from a proprietary vendor as it happens, but could just as well be EJB/J2EE for all that it matters in the context of this argument) and for deployment we run our website using Java app servers on Solaris behind Apache." If you were going to take such a site from 1000 users, to 10,000 users, would you be able to do it using this kind of setup?
"It is all hugely expensive to license and to run, and it's not very scalable. We'd like to up our userbase from several tens of thousands to ten times that number - but the cost of scaling the Java/Solaris infrastructure is not trivial, because the Java servlet architecture costs too much in memory and execution time (creating several 100Ks of in memory objects for each logon is expensive stuff!). On current hardware we can support only 1200-1500 concurrent logins and scaling up requires a new app server (eg 1 processor + 1GB RAM) and a $20K software license for each additional 600-750 concurrent logged in users. And in today's 'cost per active subscriber' economics it doesn't add up - we cannot justify the present cost structure, by any rational measure, even before we try to scale it up.
So we're thinking of chucking it out and replacing it with a largely static site that is generated (written out to cache) from a new, simpler content management system. The few dynamic elements would be assembled using simple PHP scripts, frontending our existing Oracle DB server. We reckon we could serve vastly higher numbers, ten to a hundred times as many, of users on the same (or cheaper!) hardware: and it would be simpler by far to build and maintain and support.
I, personally, believe that the benefits of the Java system (rapid prototyping, development) are not important when large scale deployment is the issue. I am (as a user) fed up with large, poorly performing Java-based websites. My beef is not about Java the language though - it's a question of appropriateness. Fifteen years ago we'd prototype in Smalltalk and then code for deployment in C, and I feel the same applies here. The economics of the noughties do NOT support spending massive amounts of money on web infrastructure, unless the transactional revenue justifies it. Of course, most businesses generally don't justify it, in my opinion.
Our outsourcing partner who supports and maintains the architecture thinks we are crazy. Putting their potential loss of revenue aside they are hugely concerned that we'll not be able to support what we create. They are seriously against this idea.
I remember, prior to Java & the like, supporting simple CGI websites with tens & hundreds of thousands of users off of cheap FreeBSD systems, and we didn't have to pay an outsourced partner to do it.
I'm asking them to do a heck of a lot of work within the next few weeks. I hope they can see that project 2 and project 3 are related, and the same concepts they use in project 2 will be used again in project 3.
The end of the sem is drawing near.