AOL.com, powered by micro data center

I’m happy to share that we launched production traffic on one of our micro data centers (μDC) last week during my Technology Operations all-hands.

AOL's Outdoor MDC
AOL’s Outdoor MDC

My colleague Michael Manos has shared details about our micro data center work in past posts: AOL’s Data Center Independence Day and AOL Micro-DC adds new capability. At the time of those posts we were concentrating on building new infrastructure capabilities and extending the great work we’ve done with AOL’s cloud environment. The micro data center approach provided us new options for solving our hosting challenges. As we brainstormed about the multitude of ways we could take advantage of these new enclosures, I challenged the team to move a portion of our production traffic to a μDC. To make this meaningful I wanted to pick a significant web property to move, giving credence to the technology we’ve enclosed in the μDC cabinets. What better property to target than our flagship portal www.aol.com?

AOL's Outdoor MDC
AOL’s Outdoor MDC – side and back (cooling) view

Now up to 25% of all consumer requests to http://www.aol.com are served from an outdoor μDC located on a concrete pad at our Virginia campus. While this helps to prove the technology we’ve bundled into the enclosure, it also proved a great test of the weatherproofing of the enclosure itself. Throughout Hurricane Sandy the micro data center was pounded with rain and heavy winds, it performed admirably and we experienced no issues with the external enclosure. The graph below shows the % of traffic over time served from the μDC. The fluctuations are due to shifting traffic patterns throughout the day based on geo-location.

% of aol.com traffic served from MDC
% of aol.com traffic served from MDC

There were only minor configuration changes required for the application to be installed on 131 virtual machines, which is a credit to the flexible design built by our development team. The only significant difference between aol.com running in our traditional data centers versus our micro data center is the use of virtualized instances of MySQL. Serving aol.com proves that we can take any web product that has been built to run in multiple data centers and easily extend horizontally to our μDC.

We have other uses for micro data centers in the works, and demonstrating the milestone of serving consumer’s web requests and having this as part of our http://www.aol.com ecosystem means we’re well on our way to seeing them come to fruition.

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