30 Apr 2009

Growing Pains

You guys have helped IntenseDebate grow a huge amount over the past few months. Overall this is great! We love helping people take the conversation on their blog / website to the next level, and of course once you get IntenseDebate going you know you grow even faster.  It has put quite a strain on our systems though.  I’m sure you’re all aware of our outages over the last few weeks.

We’ve been working non-stop to address these issues. Our highest priority is improving the performance and long term scalability of IntenseDebate for you.

Now we could leave it at that, be completely opaque about what changes we’re doing and just hope that you’ll trust that we’re working hard on the problem, but you all deserve more and need to trust that our service can perform for you.  So here’s a behind-the-scenes peek for those of you interested in how we’re tackling this problem.

The first major change we’ve been working on is sharding some of our larger and most frequently used tables into a more efficient and scalable database schema.  For those of you not familiar with sharding it means storing all your data in several smaller tables instead of one large monolithic table.  This allows us to get your data much more quickly and makes for a much more horizontally scalable system. (We can continue to add more tables to keep them small as our total data storage increases.)  This is complete for our most heavily used data, comments, and will continue where appropriate.

The second change is creating more summary tables to simplify the retrieval of common data.  Even after sharding some of the data is still too slow to compute on-the-fly.  Summary tables cache frequently used computations which will allow us to get this information almost instantly.

Last, but not least, we’re optimizing our logging and background processing.  We do quite a bit of logging to ensure things are running  smoothly and to help debug quickly when things don’t.  In particular the syncing process to and from WordPress blogs has a lot of activity we store for troubleshooting.  We’ve done some work to make this logging faster and less system heavy, as well as some fine tuning of what and when we log in order to help ensure that these troubleshooting tools don’t have a negative impact on the performance of the core service.

I want to reiterate we’re acutely aware of performance over the last few weeks and there is no excuse for poor service or performance.  We’ve fixed the most pressing issues, but we’re taking a number of proactive steps to ensure that we can maintain the level of service that you deserve from us.  Thank you all for your patience and understanding.

Posted by Jon Fox in News


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15 Comments »

  1. here's the simple answer to the problem – let users host the files themselves on our own servers. I'd like to know why this can't be done and is not even being considered as an option.

    Comment by Mr. 5 Star — April 30, 2009 @ 5:45 am
  2. I was going to suggest the same thing. Why not allow IDC to store a cache on the user's own site (if possible) and first use that before trying the IDC server? Of course this wouldn't be possible in blogger but on self-hosted wp-blogs it shouldn't be an issue.

    You can even simply use the WP comments (since those now support threading) and simply parse them into the Javascript display.

    Comment by db0 — April 30, 2009 @ 7:47 am
  3. We've actually experimented with this a bit and are definitely looking at it as an option for the future. Some of the stuff gets a little bit harry with accepting new comments (since we can't run them through our filters if it's all done via your local WP install), but we're looking at possible work arounds including queuing or filtering them after the fact.

    We're certainly open-minded to this type of approach though – specifically local caching – as this would (theoretically) not only improve the speed of loading, but also help reduce our bandwidth / load as well.

    Comment by Jon — May 1, 2009 @ 3:37 pm
  4. I still believe in you, and yes, you have a lot of work to do because sometimes IntenseDebate stops.

    Good luck and good work!

    Comment by Amílcar Tavares — April 30, 2009 @ 6:51 am
  5. Hey! Could someone indicate me how two find a list of websites powered by Intense debate?

    Comment by hadri — April 30, 2009 @ 6:56 am
  6. I did a very simple thing: I Googled it! And surprisingly I found some.

    Comment by Amílcar Tavares — April 30, 2009 @ 7:20 am
  7. "As Simple As Silly" my economics teacher would say – Thanks
    (That was Intense :D)

    Comment by hadri — April 30, 2009 @ 7:24 am
  8. Thanks, that was "Intense"😀

    Comment by hadri — April 30, 2009 @ 7:27 am
  9. So, having checked this out, you will note I am of the younger mind, try new things, and somewhat giddy tech generation, it has been a whirlwind since the first Radio Shack Tandy Computer back in 1982! So I have survived pretty much by ability to read manuals in complete English language. A possible thumbs up for me would be have some posting, somewhere with a little more "detail" for the old girl, hey? Not a lot, a few succinct sentences with a graphic or two? So far I personally know only a few feathered friends that twitter-but understand the tech concept, etc.

    Comment by Nanticokesun — May 1, 2009 @ 7:37 pm
  10. On the contrary Fox man, i have actually noticed that performance has improved over the past month to the quantum effect. Or perhaps that's just my superman web optimization skills at play. Yes, doubtless the latter. Indeed Foxy, there have been times when Intense debate really slows down the turtle of my site to a hare of pubis but nonetheless it's a stellar little system that could. I'm loving the enhanced optimization and double helix cross hybridized horizontally scaling that will be occurring in the near future. Speed is good but blow is better. Yet you are yet to resolve the biggest quandary of all; that which I have been waiting for although I am pondering whether I need Big Brother any more…where are my technicolor astronaut diapers and where is Facebook Connect??? 'I've been waiting all my life' as the cheesy romantic love song goes. But I love you guys. Keep rolling out the plugins.😉

    Comment by Alex Cocaine — May 3, 2009 @ 6:52 am
  11. I wrote some other "growing pains" that you have already probably noticed… with the piont system:

    http://churchcrunch.com/2009/05/18/what-happens-w

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