Trying Out MediaTemple

At present, I primarily use a Virtual Private Server from They are very affordable, and have a great reputation for support. I’ve been with them for well over a year and have had a brilliant experience with them so far. But, a couple of things sprung up that interested me so I couldn’t resist.

Firstly, MediaTemple announced their GridServer. Now, ignoring the academic definition of what constitutes grid computing or not, it’s a reasonably interesting offering - at least from a Rails point-of-view. Ben Rockwood (of Joyent/TextDrive fame) posted about their setup a while ago. But to paraphrase, it’s essentially lots of nodes fronting onto NFS, load balanced.

And it’s pretty easy to use, with their own commands for creating ‘containers’ which configures a Mongrel cluster and the Apache rewriting rules, as well as then starting/stopping containers etc.

But, going back to what Ben mentioned about it - while multiple nodes backed by NFS is fine for static content and PHP, and even works quite well, for Rails apps its a little less-so. Because these must be up-and-running in memory, these must exist inside a long-running Ruby on Rails container, and so are at least bound to a logical node. How they actually map onto Grid nodes is where I have no idea how it actually works, it would be interesting to see how it is distributed across the ‘Grid’.

Now, take this a step further (specifically with regard to the software I’m using - Mephisto) this kind of configuration is interesting because needing an up-and-running Rails container isn’t essential - since most of the time the content stays mostly static (I know - I’m a bad poster) and Rails’ caching generates HTML that is served directly by Apache (that sits in front of Mongrel, in the case of MT). Consequently, any node on the grid that receives a request will be able to serve the content direct from disk.

Theoretically, therefore, assuming traffic is predominantly skewed towards reading largely static content via. Mephisto, MediaTemple’s Grid is a good offering. Or, have I misunderstood something?

Of course, for different types of usage it’s potentially not so great - depending on how well the containers are spread and can take advantage of available resources. And, without knowing precisely how the grid routes requests to Rails containers I’m wary. Coupled with the fact that MySQL server problems have been rife as well as more serious problems with the whole grid disappearing it’s perhaps a little too early to be sure. But, updates are on the way next week so we’ll see.

Even more interesting is that I also read that TextDrive are updating their Shared Hosting sometime in the future to move along similar lines as their Accelerator product - a little closer to a more isolated system but with some shared resources (like database and email). Sounds very interesting, can’t wait to take a look when it launches and see how deploying Rails apps on it looks!