Forum OpenACS Q&A: web hosting services supporting postgresql?

Can anyone recommend a web-hosting service that provides postgresql,
suitable for hosting an ACS/pg site?
Posted by Ben Adida on
A quick note saying that the ACS/pg team is very interested in hearing about anyone who wants to start hosting ACS/pg sites :) Furfly? Anyone?
I don't know of any yet, but have thought about starting one, once I know a little more about setting it up and how best to configure things.  Might be a trial by fire, but it could be interesting, I think.  Anyone have any thoughts about where potential trouble spots might be?
There was a longish discussion last year on about the possibility of doing something like this (see for the details). Janine from Furfly indicated that they looked into the idea, using Oracle at Exodus, and found that it would be too expensive, and it could be hard to prevent one poorly-written app from affecting others on the same box. I am not inclined to dispute her far superior experience, but am still entertaining the idea, given that postgres costs so much less than Oracle, and hoping to find a way around the interference problem. (not sure what that way is, just yet, though.)
Posted by Don Baccus on
Start leaning on, the people who host the Postgresql site.  They offer Postgres hosting, but currently not AOLserver.  They need to become aquainted with the ACS anyway, because after all eventually the Postgres site should be based on the ACS, right? :)
Posted by Lamar Owen on
RE: and ACS/pg and AOLserver...

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!

Posted by Li-fan Chen on
ACS/pg (+NS +Pg) will come standard on billions of linux-based set-top boxes.
Posted by Ben Adida on
I certainly don't mind that vision of the future :)
I saw this on

Beginning Wednesday, January 12 2000, we are offering complete database hostings solutions, as well as search engine hosting for your personal or corporate webpage. For more information, please check this link. (which links to:

Interesting, no?

10: (response to 1)
Posted by Roberto Mello on
I don't know if I'd recommend them though... their site appears to be down.
Posted by Janine Ohmer on
I just posted this at web/db, thought it belonged here also :)

We ( 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, 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
reasonable pricing.

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.

Posted by Janine Ohmer on
To touch on Gregory's point - our decision on how to avoid contention between users is basically to ignore it. :)  We'll have to let them work it out among themselves, except in the most extreme cases.  I don't know what else to do;  we don't have time to be babysitters for this, but the need for it is great enough that we felt we had to do something.  I'm tired of writing back to people telling them we can't help them!
Has there been any movement on this topic? Does anyone know of any hosting services out there that will support OpenACS & postgres/tcl?I've come across a few apart from that offer some competitive packages using postgres with php3/4 functionality...

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.

Posted by Roberto Mello on is studying the possibility. Read Janine's posting on this thread.
Posted by Don Baccus on
Furfly's looking at something a bit more towards the higher end, I think.  Grant's talking about 40-50 sites on a server.  Janine's talking about putting 10-12 developers on a server, each presumably spending much of each workday (and night?) actively putting together a site.

  Presumably Grant's service would be cheaper, perhaps filling that low-end niche that Furfly's not interested in.
Posted by Gilbert Wong on
  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 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.

Gilbert Wong
Webmaster - Orchard Labs, Inc.
(we're not db backed yet ;P)

A few people have asked what we'd like to spend for OpenACS hosting... I am looking for an inexpensive no-frills solution that will provide just enough for learning the system. From my current hosting service NovaHosting (five stars!)I get 300 MB and all the e-mail addresses I can eat for $35/mo. and $8 per IP. While they host MySQL & php3 on Apache, they do not offer AOLserver or mod_aolserver. To co-locate a box at my local ISP $150 - $250 / mo.

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 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. . .

Posted by Albert Langer on
Just to encourage those thinking of launching...
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).
Posted by Don Baccus on
This last point is a really good one.  Any idea how long this price advantage will last?  It seems largely due to foot-dragging by government-owned utilities overseas.

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...

Posted by Albert Langer on
My guess is that a significant cost difference will last for a long time but will become much less dramatic than at present in the medium term. In the short term (and within the planning horizon of anyone thinking about introducing postgresql hosting) I would guess there could even be a relative widening of the gap as regards database oriented web hosting. This is because a lot of small ISPs will be driven out of the dialup access market by large ISPs/telecos and turn to content provision/hosting. They won't have the one way dialup traffic balancing their other way web hosting traffic and won't be able to get bandwidth for web hosting at rates competitive with north america from the remaining ISPs/telecos who will be few enough to be able to price discriminate. eg Telstra (Australia's near monopoly teleco) has just removed their per MB charge for cable modem access and introduced a flat rate for residential users. This is priced well above the mass market but is sufficient to enable significant numbers of people to experience entirely different internet access than from a dialup modem. They still charge a rate per MB for "business" use and design the system to make it more difficult for people to run their own web services over it (no permanent IP address, random disconnects etc). This enables them to sell web space to businesses at extortionate rates. Medium term this could accelerate the mass penetration of the internet in Australia and thus the general collapse of national barriers, including cost differences for services that can run from anywhere. Short term this could result in a lot of people realizing they need cheap web hosting and that they can't get it in Australia.

These are of course just guesses.

Posted by Gilbert Wong on
After playing around with aD's problem sets, I've grown to love ACS and AOLServer =)  My previous post suggested that we might be moving our servers out of our current ISP (Concentric) and into Above or Exodus.  But after doing some more research I found that Above and Exodus provide a marginally better service.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard that there are still the weekly network hiccups at these two providers.

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, 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.

Posted by Janine Ohmer on
I don't want this to turn into the Classifieds section :), but furfly is getting ready to offer this service (OpenACS hosting) as well.  We install new servers at Exodus next week (if the planets align correctly, that is) and it looks like we'll be ready for people to get started in the second half of June.  We will be converting some of our smaller sites over to OpenACS, time permitting, so we can decommission our shared Oracle server.  There's no need for it anymore!

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.

I am excited that several people are preparing to jump into the OpenACS hosting business. The more readily available OpenACS hosting the more open source development we're likely to see on the ACS.

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?

Posted by Don Baccus on
Glad to see someone using OpenACS for underfinanced NGO work, this is exactly the target space I had in mind when I got involved in the project, having spent about twelve years on the board of one of the largest conservation organizations in Oregon.

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 (, and at web/db, now at

Posted by Douglas Rosser on
I just HATE posting a simple question when I know that auto-notify is going to forward this to LOTS of people, but I'm really interested in how Furfly's hosting service is working.

How is it working?

Posted by Don Baccus on
It's not up, yet.  Janine and Mike recently moved from southern California to New England, and there were (to put it politely) bureaucratic delays in getting their service moved from their old Exodus data center to one in the Boston area.

You can e-mail Janine directly at for more information regarding the service, questions like "when will it be available?"

Posted by David Cohen on
The latest email from Janine to people interested in ACS/pg hosting suggests that, barring complications, they are looking to start things up in mid-July.
Posted by Justin Clift on now provides OpenACS/pg hosting.

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 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,

Justin Clift

Posted by Don Baccus on
I'm sure you can find people in the community willing to help out with  that project, Justin.  We're swamped right now with porting OpenACS 4  while working to crank out good OpenACS 3.2.* updates, but there's a lot of interest and a *lot* more people available here as resources than was true a year or so ago.

If nothing else we can help with questions, ideas, etc.