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« Back Post Date: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 10:00 AM
Clubessential Opens Cloud Hosting Center
Clubessential has opened a new state-of-the-art cloud hosting center in Austin, Texas, to better scale with a growing base of clients.
Scaling up for continuing growth

In the Summer of 2010, it was becoming obvious that Clubessential’s Cincinnati based hosting center would not be able to cope with the continuing growth of clients’ web traffic. Our response times were beginning to slow down and we were approaching a volume of traffic that could strain the existing systems to the point of causing outages and inadequate service levels. Our clients were depending on us to provide consistently high service levels, so we needed to take a giant step forward. We needed more bandwidth, more servers and greater redundancy. We wanted to re-engineer our server farm configuration, creating a new generation “Cloud Hosting Center” that could scale upwards and meet our needs for many years.

Move to Austin
As we began to design the new center we decided that we wanted to relocate it to a city with excellent Internet connectivity, with a wide range of technical service providers and with a large population of technically educated potential staff members. Austin met our needs (including over 250,000 students in the area!) and within three months we had opened a new office and moved 14 of Clubessential’s 51 staff members in September, 2010.

Reasons for Concern
Relocating a sizable part of our staff to a new city on such short notice might seem like an overreaction, but consider some of the following statistics:

We added 164 new websites in the year ending Sept 2011.
Each new website is more sophisticated than those created in earlier years, with more pages, more photos, more interactivity and more processing to support.
In June of 2011 we introduced our Mobile Services Application. In just five months we had 114 orders. Usage at clubs where Mobile Services were installed showed an immediate 30% to 50% increase in traffic.
The largest increase in resource requirements we are experiencing results from installations of our reservations modules. Typically these modules, when installed, multiply traffic on the website by a factor of ten. Our rate of installation of reservations modules continues to grow, with 405 separate instances already installed by September, 2011. The types of reservations vary, as shown in the diagram below, but they all share the tendency to create an amazing amount of additional traffic. 
 Pie chart showing types of online reservations.
All of this growth resulted in a doubling of traffic for CE’s clients just in the first half of 2011, and required not just an upgrade, but a completely new generation of hosting center. Fortunately, our plans for an upgrade were already well underway, including the move to Austin.

New Cloud Hosting Architecture
Clubessential designed the new hosting architecture to achieve the following objectives:

Move to the latest versions of all operating systems, database systems and other software tools. Often when there is a mix of old and new equipment it is very difficult to migrate everything to the best new technology. Installing all new servers, routers, firewalls, load balancers and software ($480,000) simultaneously gave us a chance to start with a clean slate.
 • Introduce multiple levels of redundancy. For example, where we had five webservers previously, we now have ten, each twice as powerful. We can take several webservers offline without affecting client processing.
 • Enable database distribution across multiple servers while preserving redundancy and backup.
 • Triple the computing power and install much higher-speed pathways between devices. 
 • Reinforce security with the latest firewalls and a revised architectural design.
 • Increase bandwidth five-fold with the ability to scale much higher through a tier-one carrier.
 • Achieve the migration without any service outage.

October 2011 Cutover
After many months of planning, wiring, installing and testing, the new Cloud Hosting Center was turned on during a one hour maintenance window early in the morning October 19, 2011. Not one client experienced an outage even though we had installed all new equipment and all new software releases, not to mention moving over 1,000 miles. The full power of the new center will gradually come online in the next few months as the Clubessential development team takes advantage of the new equipment, software and capabilities. Clubessential now has a cloud hosting center that can scale up to service thousands of additional clients, so every Clubessential client will now see very rapid response times.

Our technology team has already begun leveraging the new systems and software. They plan to deliver a record number of new products and enhancements in 2012.