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Social Shopping

Bing has recently enabled social sharing on the Bing Shopping section of the website to allow shoppers to share items in the search results easily with their friends of Facebook and Twitter according to an article on SearchEngineLand.com. With just the click of a button users can tweet or post the item, description and link to products for their friends to see.

This move is following along with their changes to other categories of search results on Bing. While it is a small change on the face, it could mean big changes in the future.

Real-Time Social Shopping

There are sites already online that combine social networking with shopping such as Kaboodle, ThisNext/Stylehive and Polyvore. However, these platforms certainly do not have the following that exists on the Twitter and Facebook social networks. This move could mean advancement toward real-time social shopping.

In stores people are taking pictures of potential purchases and sending them to friends to see what they think. They are texting friends for advice on which electronics to buy. With mobile access to Facebook and Twitter, it just makes business sense for Bing to add this feature as it tries to gain more traction in a market controlled by the global search giant, Google.

Clouded Computing

STREPSIADES: … I thought the Clouds were only fog, dew and vapour.

SOCRATES: But what you certainly do not know is that they are the support of a crowd of quacks, the diviners, who were sent to Thurium, the notorious physicians, the well-combed fops, who load their fingers with rings down to the nails, and the braggarts, who write dithyrambic verses, all these are idlers whom the Clouds provide a living for, because they sing them in their verses.

- The Clouds by Aristophanes

When the playwright Aristophanes wrote of thinkers with their heads “in the clouds” and the clouds themselves as a chorus of gods which rewarded those who sang their praises he likely did not imagine that his work would be relevant for eons – but, as the passing of 2,433 years can attest, everything old is new again.

What is cloud computing?

If you’re baffled by the term “cloud computing” and its emergence in technology magazines, hosting providers’ marketing materials, and even mainstream newspapers, you’re in good company. Larry Ellison, a leading entrepreneur the information technology industry (he co-founded Oracle Corporation in 1977) has this to say about the cloud computing revolution:

The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements.

The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?

- Oracle’s Ellison nails cloud computing

Though it’s all well and good to call technologists on their neologisms from time to time, we’ll stick to what “cloud computing” means to you. Surely there’s more than water vapor behind the buzz, right?

The Open Cloud Manifesto, a document which was simultaneously leaked and debunked on March 27th, 2009 by Geva Perry, states that cloud computing is identified by a handful of value propositions, (it also states that “cloud computing is really a culmination of many technologies such as grid computing, utility computing, SOA, Web 2.0, and other technologies”) however, it appears as though no specific technologies are considered integral to cloud computing.

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll limit our definition of cloud computing to include the technologies which tend to appear wherever a business claims to offer cloud computing services:

Virtualization – Our core hosting service since we started Spry.com in 2002.

Clustering – This is where providers differ dramatically and the terms being used start to make a real difference in the service you receive. There are two types of clusters to consider: load-balanced/fail-over clusters (each machine is capable of serving requests by itself) and Beowulf/grid computing clusters (each machine participates in computation). Multiple dedicated or virtual servers can be used to create either type of cluster.

Does VPSLink offer cloud computing?

You can always install a load balancing daemon like HAProxy to spread load between servers or make use of a failover. We offered a hosted load balancing service for several months but we did not see sufficient demand to continue offering it – the performance advantages and cost savings that come with a plan upgrade appear to be more attractive than a load-balanced or failover cluster.

Virtual private servers at VPSLink are provisioned to actual hardware, rather than the pooled resources of a grid computing cluster: the clustered approach would allow for greater scalability, however, we’ve found that we can get better performance (and offer better prices) with our present OpenVZ and Xen platforms. We offer virtual servers with memory allocations up to 4 GB on the Link-7 and 8 GB on the 8192 plan at Spry and we haven’t seen many requests to scale beyond.

There is no technical limitation which would prevent you from setting up your own load-balancing, failover, Beowulf, or grid computing cluster at VPSLink – but, with the exception of load-balancing and failover for web applications which demand high availability, there are no compelling reasons use clustering technology when upgrading to an increased plan allocation offers efficient performance without the overhead of a clustered setup.

We’re ready and waiting to jump on board the next breakthrough technology – in the case of cloud computing, it seems as though we’ve already been on board for quite a while: it may be a good idea to take the “new technologies and paradigms” associated with cloud computing with a grain of salt – most of the experts espousing them have only been experts for as long as “Infrastructure as a Service” has been an acronym, after all… and that was about the same time our parent company Spry celebrated its fourth year of hosting.

Outage Report: November 23rd, 2009 18:40 PDT

On November 23rd, 2009 at approximately 18:40 Pacific Daylight Savings Time our Seattle datacenter experienced a failure in our upstream power supply. Another customer in the same facility as ours plugged in a defective 208v 3phase 60amp PDU – this caused a short in their circuit which tripped the breaker and created a voltage surge which reached our UPS.

Power was lost for approximately 55 milliseconds, however, all of our gear was powered down. We have redundant UPS systems, however, we are now aware that they are wired in parallel and therefore vulnerable to power surges originating within our datacenter (we must concede that we had not anticipated this type of failure).

The majority of our systems were up within minutes of the power failure, though others took significantly longer to complete file system integrity checks.

New circuits are being deployed to our racks to ensure that we are on fully independent UPS systems wherever possible. Our provider will be adding additional independent UPS systems to connect to the racks shortly.

We may require some maintenance windows over the coming weeks to a very small subset of our customer base – all maintenance notifications will be sent with 48 hours’ notice per our policy.

Often when an outage of this magnitude occurs we find flaws in other systems and procedures: our primary sites were unavailable over the course of the outage as our failover sites had not been implemented, however, our Twitter stream remained active and in use to supply status updates.

We strive to learn from our mistakes and improve our platform – we will take this incident’s lessons and ensure that our Seattle power infrastructure is no longer vulnerable to neighboring networks’ activities.

We are approaching a holiday weekend with reduced staffing, however, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this incident (or if you would like to claim a Service Level Agreement credit) please let us know – we look forward to hearing from you and we will make every effort to address your concerns in a timely fashion.

We welcome discussion on the VPSLink Forums and, if you are not already subscribed, please take this opportunity to subscribe to the VPSLink Twitter Feed.

VPSLink Load Balancing Beta Discontinued

We had high hopes for a useful addition to our services when we announced the VPSLink Load Balancing Beta in August, however, it appears as though load balancing was not the best fit for the services we offer at VPSLink.

Due to low demand for the service, we will discontinue load balancing on November 15th.

It does not appear as though many of our load balancing beta participants were making use of the service, however, we’ve sent a notification with a coupon code (should anyone decide to run HAProxy on an extra virtual private server). If you were using the load balancing service and you missed our notification, log in at My.VPSLink.com, go to Services > Add Services, and sign up for a new VPS on a monthly billing cycle with the coupon code UNLOADED2009 to save 50% on your first month of service with any VPSLink plan.

AJAXTerm Console Beta: Now Available at VPSLink

AJAXTerm

The AJAXTerm application provides a web-based interface to SSH and, all in all, we believe it will be a welcome alternative to the Java applet at the My.VPSLink.com Control Center.

You are welcome to continue using the legacy Java applet if you prefer it, however, we will be transitioning web-based console support to the new interface once AJAXTerm moves from its beta status.

AJAXTerm Console at VPSLink

 

Now Available: Xen VPS Hosting in NYC

The long-awaited release of Xen at our New York facility has arrived and, if you’re of the opinion that your virtual private server would be happier in the Big Apple, now is the time to get things started. Log in at My.VPSLink.com, go to Services » Add Services and plug in coupon code NYC50 to claim your two weeks of free VPS hosting in NYC.

State of the Network Address: September 11th, 2009

Xen Virtual Private Servers at New York City Datacenter

Our development team has reached the testing phase for Xen VPS hosting at our New York City datacenter, however, we do not have a set date for availability at this time – you can still consider this good news, though, as we have extended the expiration date for our two week free hosting coupon (NYC50) to September 30th.

If you’ve been waiting to migrate your Xen VPS over to NYC you can rest assured that it will be worth the wait.

Link-1 VPS Exclusive to Xen

The Link-1 plan is one of our most popular entry-level virtual private servers – the price is just right for many, however, we’ve found that the memory allocation (in combination with our OpenVZ platform’s hard-limit swap space configuration) isn’t the best choice for those who are unfamiliar with the real limitations that 64MB of memory creates.

Regular inquiries about “bugs” within the Link-1 environment (hey, technically those memory errors are a feature when you’re running on 64MB) have presented us with a dilemma: how should we continue to offer an inexpensive low-memory plan which meets the needs and expectations of seasoned memory-tweaking Linux ninjas but works “out of the box” for subscribers who have yet to learn the art of compiling everything from source via distcc?

(Should you happen to be one of the aforementioned memory-tweaking ninjas, please keep in mind that even ninja masters begin their training with a little bit of swap space to cushion the impact of a flying kick delivered by memory alloc returned NULL)

We decided that we would encourage (strongly encourage) those who have selected the Link-1 plan to go with our Xen platform and get the swap space they need to use native package management utilities, compile things in-place, and dodge the most devastating of memory alloc’s attacks.

What if you already have (and love and might even want another) Link-1 on OpenVZ? We’ve got you covered – existing VPSLink accounts will always have the option to sign up for the Link-1 on OpenVZ or Xen from the My.VPSLink.com > Services > Add Services order form.

… and, if you’re new to VPSLink and think you can handle the fury of memory alloc, nemesis to all and bane of many, we ultimately cannot stop you. Add &override_l1=1 to the address bar at our order form or follow this Link-1 OpenVZ order link to confront your destiny in a low memory environment.

State of the Network Address: August 24th, 2009

Load Balancing Act

Does your web application require high availability and failover capabilities?

Get a comprehensive solution to the problem of constant availability with our new load balancing service: free to all VPSLink accounts which activate during our Load Balancing Beta.

(Yes, that means free load balancing for the life of your VPSLink account when you participate in beta testing)

What can VPSLink load balancing do?

Where do I sign up?

Start by adding as many virtual private servers as your configuration calls for at My.VPSLink.com » Services » Add Services with coupon code LOADED2009 – you’ll save 50% on your first month of service for new subscriptions when you use this code before 9/15/2009.

Once you are ready to put your server cluster to use, navigate to My.VPSLink.com » Services » Load Balancing for a brief introduction and access to the management interface.

We’re very excited to make this feature available – and even more so to see the solutions you come up with for deploying applications. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions please let us know with a reply here on the blog or a post to the forums.

Seattle => New York City Configurations: Yes, it is possible to configure VPS subscriptions in NYC with the load balancing application… but we wouldn’t recommend it (unless perhaps you’re setting up an NYC server as a backup) because the round trip circuit between your VPS in the NYC datacenter will significantly increase the time it takes to serve requests.

State Of The Network Address: August 4th, 2009

This week has some big news in store for VPSLink subscribers – we’re changing what it means to have service at VPSLink with our new New York City datacenter and an exciting new feature which will give you the ability to host your high-availability, high-traffic sites with minimal stress.

New York Datacenter Online

VPSLink New York Datacenter Online

Checklist:

  1. Find a datacenter
  2. Rack the servers
  3. Test provisioning
  4. Implement backup system
  5. Open for business

The VPSLink New York City datacenter is online and accepting new signups on our OpenVZ VPS Hosting platform at this time.

Run traceroute 67.223.251.136 to get a fix on the latency between your home machine and the new facility and see whether it’s time to make a cross-country move with your data.

We are still working to implement a system for seamless migrations between Seattle and New York. In the meantime, existing VPSLink customers who have had service with us for at least several days will have the option to migrate their own service for free. Here’s how it works:

  1. 1. Log in to the My.VPSLink.com Control Center
  2. 2. Select the Add Services option under the Services menu
  3. 3. When prompted for a coupon code, enter NYC50 to receive two weeks of free service at the NYC datacenter (plenty of time to migrate your services from Seattle)
  4. 4. Once you have completed the migration of your data and have your NYC server up and running, contact VPSLink billing to close down your VPS in Seattle and get a prorated credit applied to your account

Our NYC facility includes the same commercial-grade hardware and 24/7 hardware and network support you have come to expect from us, however, we would be happy to answer any questions you may have if you are thinking about moving – just let us know.

Load Balancing Almost Ready

Checklist:

  1. Configure load balancing servers
  2. Build and test prototype
  3. Build load balancing management console
  4. Complete testing
  5. Open beta and special discount for VPSLink subscribers

We’re in the final stages of development for the web application which will serve as your VPSLink load balancing console and things are moving along a little slower than initially expected – further research into the HAProxy load balancing application revealed a wealth of configuration directives for fine-tuning HTTP cluster performance: we plan to expose as much of the underlying feature set as possible.

Good news for VPSLink subscribers who are interested in giving load balancing a try (and everyone who already has a need) – we will be offering a coupon for 50% off your first three months of service when you sign up for an additional VPS with us to make use of load balancing.

State of the Network Address: July 17th, 2009

As it turns out, the amount of blogging we do is inversely proportional to the amount of work that is done to deliver new features and services… hopefully you don’t mind and we’re fairly certain that you’ll be pleased to see what will be available soon.

New York Datacenter Progress:

VPSLink New York Datacenter Progress (60 Percent)

Checklist:

  1. Find a datacenter
  2. Rack the servers
  3. Test provisioning
  4. Implement backup system
  5. Open for business

Our system administration and development teams have been working overtime to get our New York City datacenter ready for VPSLink – here’s what the NYC DC may mean for you: lower latency for the East Coast (much, much lower) and throughout Europe (noticeably lower), opportunities for creative edge-caching and failover applications, and more.

So when will it be ready? If everything goes perfectly-according-to-plan our most optimistic estimate is next week, though a more realistic estimate would put the availability of provisioning new virtual private servers in New York at up to three weeks out.

Also coming soon: Load balancing (we’ll be offering a free beta period for this service to any VPSLink subscribers who are interested) and a new VPSLink Scavenger Hunt contest (which will award the winners a free year of hosting on our Link-3, Link-2, or Link-1 plan).

In the meantime, we’ve decided to end the VPSLink sale which has been running since February – it’s not headline material because we’ve decided to keep the sale prices. That’s right: almost all VPSLink plans have been re-priced. If you have an existing plan on the old pricing schedule, now would be a good time to consider upgrading your plan or billing cycle to take advantage.


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