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The latest updates from the Anchor Cloud Hosting » blog

Anchor is a managed cloud hosting provider for websites and web apps – specialising in online retail.

OpenCloud: Thoughts on Pricing Models

The Engineering group has spent much of the last six months developing Anchor OpenCloud, an infrastructure-as-a-service platform built on OpenStack to offer our customers access to public cloud services in addition to our traditional managed VPS hosting. Instant, on-demand API access to instance provisioning, storage allocation and network management deserves an equally flexible and high-resolution pricing model, and a metering system to support it. Something we’ve been thinking extensively about is how we can best help users assess their infrastructure costs. We think that an invoice detailing (and demanding payment for) your usage over the last month as 256 hours of instance type x and 100 hours of instance type y, while technically accurate, often isn’t the best way of helping users understand where their cost-centres are and how they...

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Making Magento Shine with Varnish – Part 1

Developing for the web can be overwhelming – the stack of technologies involved has only grown over the years, whilst customers demand faster and more responsive websites. Performance is often an afterthought, partly because it can be tricky to define. New features are tangible and easily demonstrated, but it can be difficult to make a business case for performance during the development stage. Yet as studies by Akamai, Google and Amazon have shown, the success of e-commerce sites in particular is closely linked to how they perform. Magento is a popular e-commerce framework that offers a wealth of customisation through an extensible design, though this flexibility can easily result in slow, sluggish websites if you aren’t careful. But what does it even mean for a website to be slow or...

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HTTP Basic Authentication in Snap Framework

Hi, I’m Geoffrey Roberts, one of the web developers at Anchor. I’d like to discuss something I’ve built in Haskell, and hopefully give you some ideas for other things you can do in terms of web development with the language. I’ve been working on some web frontends in Snap Framework lately, and came to a point where I needed to know who was accessing the frontend, and whether they were allowed to use it. Seeing as the application needed to support both human-visible and RESTful interfaces, I realised that I couldn’t really use any off the shelf authentication methods. While Snap does provide you with something out of the box to do authentication, it’s intended for human-usable interfaces only, since it’s reliant on cookie-identified sessions. Also, most of our other...

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If your server is a function, is your company a library?

Our Anchorite, Head of Engineering Andrew Cowie will be giving a talk next week at the Commerial Users of Functional Programming conference in Gothenburg, Sweden. The abstract for the talk, titled “If your server is a function, is your company a library?” This article gives an interesting perspective on some of the cool stuff our Engineering department is up to. ==== Haskell is lauded for being a good foundation for building high quality software. The strong type system eliminates huge classes of runtime errors, laziness-forced-purity aides in separating messy IO from pure computational work, and the wealth of tools like quickcheck mean that individual codebases can be robustly unit tested. That’s fine when your service runs from a single program. Building anything larger requires integration testing of components and that...

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2014 Australian Web Awards

Every year, the Web Awards recognise the best of the Australian web. The awards seek to recognise the highest standard in website design, content, UX and accessibility and each year attract a wide variety of entries from both agencies and company in-house web teams. With the 2014 Web Awards looming, the call is out for entries as well as judges. If you’ve worked on a web project you’re particularly proud of in this last year, or know someone whose high standard of work deserves recognition, get your entries in as soon as possible. Also, if you know someone who would make a great judge, email their name to info@webawards.com.au. We’re looking for accomplished people in each judging criteria; design, content, UX, development and accessibility. Being a judge doesn’t prevent him...

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Startmate 2015: Accelerating Australian Tech Start-ups

The 2015 Startmate accelerator program is now open for applications from budding start-up entrepreneurs looking for a leg-up. Globally recognised, the Australian Startmate program has helped many tech start-ups become established and build that necessary momentum. One side effect of the rapid evolution in digital technology is the vibrant tech start-up industry. Newspapers love to report on new start-ups that are suddenly acquired for astronomical sums because of the freshness of the idea and the elegance of the solution. Of course, the main aim of most tech start-ups is to achieve a stable and growing business model, instead of chasing the unrealistic hope of mega deals and digital stardom. Yet, for every Instagram or Dropbox, there are hundreds of otherwise stunning ideas that never even make it to launch. Turning...

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OpenStack – the open cloud

No one likes vendor lock-in. It’s an artificial limitation on technology, designed to benefit the vendor, not the customer. The restrictions may seem insignificant on day one, when the technology may appear to be the best option currently available. But the world keeps spinning and technology keeps evolving, until you’re stuck with a platform that cannot appropriately adapt to suit your new situation without considerable expense. The big, proprietary public cloud vendors of today didn’t invent vendor lock-in, but they certainly know how to work it to their advantage. Cloud Computing isn’t owned by anyone. Companies locked into a proprietary cloud service lose the flexibility  needed to make good business decisions; making vendor lock-in a real threat to your competitive advantage. What might put you ahead one day can hold you back the...

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Why OpenStack matters

I’m excited about OpenStack. “But you’re a cloud computing nerd anyway,” you say. “Why should we care?” I’ve worked in a few cloud businesses over the years in both London and Sydney, watching cloud computing evolve from niche technology to mainstream buzzword. So, yes I can get disproportionally excited about things that may seem boringly technical and nerdy to others. You’re probably not that interested in the capabilities of an Intel 12 core Xeon E5-2697v2 CPU, for example. But I think OpenStack is different, and something all businesses should be aware of, because it’s going to change the way you manage your business data and hosting. This open source cloud platform is on the cusp of disrupting the cosy, established world of the proprietary cloud providers, just as they themselves...

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UMAD: Knowledge, Now

One of the big problems we face here at Anchor is the weight of knowledge that we carry around. We’ve been in business for almost 15 years, and the amount of information that we’ve acquired in that time is immense, largely due to the fact that we’ve dealt with many different technologies for many unique customers. How things work, how to fix things, how stuff gets done – these things tend to get encoded into people’s brains, and Anchor is no different. Even when it’s written down it can be hard to find that information. This is a challenge because it holds you back. Your ace employees with all the knowledge and experience are often the ones least available to teach new staff, which limits your ability to scale up...

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Vaultaire: a Ceph based, immutable TSDB

Anchor has been working on building a massively scalable data vault for metrics data. One of our engineers has written a blog post about what worked – and what didn’t – in the first version, and what we’ve learned from it. Motivation Here at Anchor we are reworking the way we store systems metrics. This has inspired the development of a new immutable and lossless Time Series Database (TSDB), a concept for which we have coined the term “a data vault for metrics”. We currently use Round-Robin Databases (RRD) to store metrics; unfortunately, aside from the simplicity and constrained size of RRDs, they don’t have much going for them. In particular, RRDtool:  by design, cannot import historical data; sacrifices data over time to save space; and requires one file per...

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