Disclaimer: the information in this post is the author’s personal opinion and is not the opinion or policy of his employer.
It was spring 2010 when we decided that even though Softlayer‘s server provisioning system is really great and it takes only a few hours to get a new server when we need it, it is still too long sometimes. We wanted to be able to scale up when needed and do it faster. It was especially critical because we were working hard on bringing up Facebook integration to our site and that project could have dramatically changed our application servers cloud capacity requirements.
What buzzword comes to your mind when we talk about scaling up really fast, sometimes within minutes, not hours or days? Exactly – cloud computing! So, after some initial testing and playing around with Softlayer’s (really young back then) cloud solution called CloudLayer and talking to our account manager we’ve decided to switch our application from a bunch of huge and at the time pretty expensive 24-core monster servers to a cluster of 8-core cloud instances. To give you some perspective: we had ~250 cores at the start of the project and at the end of 2010 we’d have more then 100 instances – we weren’t a small client with a few instances).
For those who are not familiar with Softlayer cloud: they sell you “dedicated” cores and memory, which is supposed to give you an awesome performance characteristics comparing to shared clouds like EC2.
Long story short, after a month of work on the project we had our application running on the cloud and were able to scale it up and down pretty fast if needed. And since the cloud was based on faster cpu and faster memory machines, we even saw improved performance of single-threaded requests processing (avg. response time dropped by ~30% as far as I remember). We were one happy operations team…