Jun 302001

The Diary gets ready for colocation

The FreeBSD Diary is about to move to a colocated box (or is that co-located?). What’s a colocated box? According to FOLDOC, colocation is a networking service in which an organisation, usually commercial, provides network communications to several servers in a server room. Basically, you give your box to them and they hook it up to the Internet for you. For a fee. Of course…

What’s in it for you?

What does this mean to you? It means the Diary is transforming from one website on a shared box in a huge webfarm to a box over which I have complete control. I have been very happy with the service provided by Webfarm over the years. They have always provided me with good service from their servers located in Chicago, which is the Diary resides now. But I’m reaching some limitations which I wish to avoid. And moving to a colocated box seems to be the best answer. The new box is a dual P220 (although dmesg reports it as a P180, the boot messages show P220) which was previously in the hands of Jake Burkholder. Jake obtained this box from the box by David O’Brien. I don’t know where David got the box. But it’s a dual P220. It’s running 4.3-STABLE, and it’s almost ready to go.

The box did require a few new parts. Jake needed the disk and the power supply. He’s a student, I’m not. So I bought replacements from OEM Express here in Ottawa. This is an interesting shop. It’s on a very busy one-way street just a block or two from the main bus station. You tell them what you want, and they go digging around the huge piles of stock they have in the back rooms. I’ve been happy with what I’ve bought there. Of special note is the Enermax power supply. It’s very quiet, lots of good connectors, and reasonably priced for what you get. If I buy another ATX PSU, it’s going to be an Enermax. One of the immediate improvments you’ll see with the new box is a new search engine for the site. I’ll keep the link to Google but I’ll also be using ht://Dig. I’ve been using htDig for quite some time for the New Zealand ADSL mailing list. It handles that easily, so I’m sure it’ll do a fine job here.

What’s in it for me?

Moving to a colo box is going to mean more work for me. Previously, if there was a problem with the website which was system releated, I contacted someone else and they fixed. Now I’m that someone else. If something goes wrong, I fix it. If the box dies, I have to get another one. I do plan to keep a spare box sitting, ready to go. But that’s a bit down the track.

What’s it all going to cost?

Colocation is not free. I tried, but failed, to find free colocation close to me. My priority was to have the box in Ottawa so that I could get free and easy access to it. I had several offers of free hosting but they were in locations which were quite far from me. I thank you, but I really wanted to have the box here. The new server is being hosted by istop, which is run by a couple of guys from Nortel [which is what Northern Telecom is now called]. I used to work for Bell-Northern Research one summer back when I was a student at Carleton. I worked on a checkpointing program which was part of a switch. For those that don’t know, Ottawa was the place where the SL-1 switch was designed and created.

The colocation server is going to cost me about CAD$70 a month. With the existing ad pattern and once I remove the site from the webfarm, my costs will go up about US$100 per year. But there is also the cost of the hardware and replacements. Recently, a user suggested that I look into PayPal and Amazon for accepting donations. I have looked into those systems. They look like an easy way for people who already use those systems to donate cash to the cause. I will eventually have a link which will look something like: “Click here to donate $1”. All donations will be used for the website, hardware, and associated costs. Yes, I won’t be able to live off the donations. That would be nice, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen. The donation scheme is on hold while the US checking account is opened, which should be sometime in July. Watch this space.

Current status

The box is at the colocation site. The diary is loaded onto it. The next task is to get the search engine working. Then some secret administration tasks. And lastly, change the DNS settings to point to the new server. My guess is the first week in July.