Forum OpenACS Q&A: web hosting services supporting postgresql?
suitable for hosting an ACS/pg site?
I'm leaning, Don, I'm leaning! Jan Wieck likes AOLserver so much he helped improve the driver... Constantin Teodorescu (sic?) loves it as well. And I'm leaning on Jeff to look into it for a client.
so, maybe we'll make some headway!
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We (furfly.net) have been getting a steady trickle of requests for
developer hosting over the last year. Lately it has gone from a
trickle to a stream. :) It's time to do something about it.
I'd like to describe what we're thinking of doing, and then
solicit comments on the idea and suggestions on how to do it better.
Anyone interested in signing up for the service (if it becomes a
reality) should contact me by e-mail; I don't want this to turn into
a shameless plug for business.
One of the hurdles to offering developer hosting has been the cost of
an Oracle license. The folks looking for this service are generally
private individuals and can't afford to pay anywhere near what we
would need to charge in order to recover the cost of the hardware and
license in a timely manner. It doesn't matter while folks are
developing, of course, but as soon as one person is ready to go live
that license has to be there, and we would be out a serious chunk of
change. The solution to this problem is to offer Postgres instead of
Oracle, now that the ACS has been ported to it.
Here's what we propose to do: give each developer a (chroot'd) Linux
login, a Postgres login, an IP address and a basic AOLserver ini. We
put the acs/pg tarball in their home directory and they take it from
there. We maintain the system and Postgres, and they are responsible
for everything else. Since AOLserver has to be started by root (to
use port 80), it would be kept going by a combination of Keepalive and
The reason for doing it this way is that we just don't have time to be
helping people, settling neighborly squabbles, etc. Requiring people
to install the ACS themselves reduces their expectation that we'll
help support them, and also forces them to acquire some knowledge
about the ACS that will serve them well in developing their
application. We will probably try to set up relationships with a few
people who are willing to do install, hand-holding etc for an hourly
fee so that we can offer that service at a more reasonable price than
we would have to charge to do it ourselves.
There would be a maximum number of users per system, probably ten.
The exact hardware is TBD, but it would be a serious system, PIII with
plenty of RAM. There would also be a maxiumum number of hits/Mb of
bandwidth allowed per site; if a site exceeded that they would have
to move to their own system (and pay significantly more for that
service). This would be set generously; the point is not to generate
income by pushing people off the shared system, it's to make sure the
system stays responsive for everyone on it.
We would not give e-mail accounts, but we would allow unlimited
aliases. That is, if someone wanted mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, we'd
create that for them as an alias on our mail server, and any mail
coming in to that address would be forwarded to another address,
probably their ISP account. Each site could have as many of these
aliases as they wanted.
That's the basic idea. Comments, suggestions?
One question I have for anyone interested is how much would you pay
for this service? We are considering a two-tiered pricing structure:
one monthly fee while developing, another (higher) when the site
launches. I'd love to have some feedback on what people feel would be
Oh, I should mention for those who are already getting out their
checkbooks :), we've been advised to wait until Postgres 7 is
released, so this service would probably launch around June 1st.
I'm thinking of setting up a dedicated server in the next few months once we've played around with virtual hosting possibilities, but if anyone is doing this already, would reconsider. Tis only out of necessity... i.e. to take care of some of our smaller sites. The idea is to have postgres sit behind 40/50 sites per machine and serve out the content.
Presumably Grant's service would be cheaper, perhaps filling that low-end niche that Furfly's not interested in.
I just successfully installed AOLserver with ACS/pg!! =) I started with Oracle, but couldn't figure out how to configure it properly. Then I found OpenACS and decided to try it before I gave up on ACS. I've been playing around with it for the past hour or so and ACS is pretty good. I'm going to install this on our main server once I figure out how to customize the look of ACS.
Anyway, to get to Fred's question, we can open up our servers for developers who want to create sites based off of ACS/pg. I highly doubt that we will support Oracle at the start due to the high cost. We're planning a move to above.net or exodus in the next few months. With this move, we'll probably get some more servers (most likely some Sun boxes). Right now were are running some dual celeron boxes for our tiny site. It does the job but if people are interested in this service, we will upgrade our machines.
So if you are a developer interested in sharing a server at exodus or above drop me a line. If there is enough interest, we will open up our servers for a small monthly fee. My guess is that the fee will cover the expense of the co-location and the servers. We will maintain the machines and deal with exodus or above.
Webmaster - Orchard Labs, Inc.
(we're not db backed yet ;P)
If I could get away with spending $75 / mo. and purchase additional IPs for say $20 ea. I'd bite. Once the site actually functions for a client I'd be happy to pay more--especially since the site will then have traffic and I'll have a contract to pay for it.
I suspect the problem is going to be that those with hosting services probably have expensive connections themselves. Both above.net and exodus offer far too much power and price tag for my needs. Somebody with $40 / mo. cable modem connection and the ability to purchase static IPs would meet my present needs just fine. Cable isn't available in my area otherwise I'd just do it myself. . .
Anyone think it likely that someone will jump in to fill the low-end gap? I tend to think it doubtful that anyone would be able to make enough on this to make it worthwhile. . .
Expect significant international usage (and revenue). Bandwidth (and therefore webhosting) is dramatically cheaper in north america than elsewhere (eg Australia about 20 cents to end users, 9 cents to ISPs, that's per MB, not per GB/month). Particular problem is need to do more complex sites with databases locally anyway because of difficulty finding web hosting companies that supply this at rates not tailored for large corporations, so if the database has to be local with only modest increment over US (corporate oriented) rates, then the whole system ends up staying with it. Anybody willing to take care of keeping postgres alive and well and talking to a nearby webserver (while the customer takes care of the actual sql and web stuff) should get lots of international customers. Many would be willing to pay for separate boxes - they just need somewhere to park them and keep them running (box costs are negligible compared with bandwidth costs for international users).
Of course, one only needs to look at the relative costs of international calls placed from the US vs. made to the US to understand that the price advantage may last forever...
These are of course just guesses.
I spent the past week bitching to Concentric about the poor network connectivity and they finally did something about it. I don't want to jinx it, but it seems like they fixed the issues that were causing our network latency. I'm crossing my fingers. Their network wasn't all that bad. The downtime was about 15 min to 1/2 hour once a week. Since we don't depend on the connection for income, the downtimes were just an annoyance.
Okay, so why am I tell you this? Well, previously, I suggested that we would be willing to open our boxes and rack space to anyone who wanted to use ACS/pg. I was a little reluctant at first due to the network issues at Conecentric. I even turned away some people because of this problem. Moving to Above or Exodus would be too expensive for most of the users of ACS/pg, seeing that the user didn't choose ACS/Oracle =P.
So I'd like to re-open our offer to host ACS/pg sites. We will have several choices:
1. Share a server with other users
2. Use one of our dedicated server in our rack space
3. Put your own server in our rack space
Option 1 will be cheap. My guess is that we could provide an IP address, DNS entry at nameserver.concentric.com, email addresses, and bandwidth for $70-90/month. I haven't worked out the numbers yet but it should be around that area.
Option 2 and 3 will obviously by more expensive. Our current rackspace cost is $150 for each server. Bandwidth is included in that cost. If there is enough interest, we will have to move to a cage or a vault and get more bandwidth. The total cost will probably be around $250/month for Option 2 and $200/month for Option 3.
Option 2 would be one of our custom built PCs. We can build it to your specification using your favorite OS (we like Linux and Solaris 8/Intel). We will own this server, but you will be free to use it as if it was your. The benefit of Option 2 is that you don't have to pay for the hardware.
Option 3 would be one of your servers. This is geared toward people who want to use other hardware such as a Sparc box or who want to own their own boxes. In both of these options, we will take care of the hardware and do upgrades or repairs for you.
In all options we will deal with the co-location facility whichever we end up using.
Feel free to contact me if you are interested. Thanks.
Our shared server will be a Dell 2450s Poweredge; if you need a dedicated server we can get just about anything you want but we're really impressed with Dell so far.
E-mail me for details, if you're interested.
On that note I have a general question for potential hosting service providers. . .
I have been working on a couple of small sites for dirt poor non-profits. Since the server space does not cost me too much I have been footing the bill myself. As I prepare to switch these over to OpenACS I need to keep the cost of each IP down so that I can continue to benefit the NGO community. I am now hosting three or four small, low traffic sites, each with its own domain name. I'd prefer to keep seperate IPs (it now costs me about eight dollars per IP to do so) but if IPs are expensive would I be allowed to put them all on the same one and write a script to handle redirection?
AOLserver 2.3.3 supports virtual hosting, which lets you host multiple virtual servers on one IP. Direct support for this was removed from AOLserver 3.0, but there are a couple of user-generated solutions for this. The best places to look for more information are in the "virtual hosting" AOLserver forum (http://aolserver.com), and at web/db, now at http://arsdigita.com/asj.
How is it working?
You can e-mail Janine directly at mailto:email@example.com for more information regarding the service, questions like "when will it be available?"
Marc Fournier, (the guy co-ordinating PostgreSQL and running some other PostgreSQL related things) is asking me to look into it, as I want to make the techdocs.postgresql.org website a community built-and-driven one.
Just installed Mandrake Linux 8.0 at home, to allow me to test OpenACS/pg out and see if it'll be workable. Hope so.
Regards and best wishes,
If nothing else we can help with questions, ideas, etc.