For the first time since the former Woody's Lounge moved to a Windows Secrets server last month, the Jan. 7 issue of the Windows Secrets Newsletter included several links to the Lounge. Throughout the month of December, we had been notifying all newsletter subscribers in a gradual series of e-mails. But the Jan. 7 e-mail blast was the first time that all 400,000 subscribers received links to the Lounge on the same day.
The exposure from the newsletter created a record peak of activity. The counter at the bottom of the Lounge Lobby page (a tamper-proof utility provided by Invision Power Board) showed that more than 1,750 people were visiting the Lounge on Jan. 8 at 10:54 a.m. New York time. The previous height was 985 users on Dec. 3, just after our first series of notificatiions started going out. In the years prior to December 2009, the greatest number of people ever visiting the Lounge simultaneously was 73.
Many of the users on Jan. 7 and 8 were visiting to add tips to our newsletter articles, using the new Windows Secrets Columns forum. That's great, but it surfaced an odd problem.
For 15 to 20 minutes, some Loungers saw a page saying "error 503" when visiting. This eventually went away, and our members could sign in as usual. Some details about this are reported in Post 770876.
Our developers have engineered a "scalable virtual server cluster" using technology provided by Amazon Web Services and RightScale.com. This computing resource should scale up to meet any foreseeable level of traffic. The architecture of the cluster is explained in Post 770054.
The RightScale chart below shows the level of bandwidth the Lounge put out to visitors on Jan. 7 (top graph) and the percentage of the cluster's CPU capacity that was utilized (bottom graph). The bandwidth hit a maximum of 19 megabits per second at one point, but the CPUs never topped 40% utilization. Both numbers are well within normal operating ranges.
Perhaps 1,750 visitors is some kind of limitation that doesn't involve CPU capacity. Whatever the cause, we've taken steps to ramp up the cluster even more, so Loungers shouldn't be affected when the Jan. 14 newsletter peaks.
If you visit the Lounge after Jan. 14 and see an "error 503" page, please send an e-mail to the Lounge Admins using our contact page. This is the same link that appears at the bottom of the Lounge Lobby and most other pages (labeled "contact an administrator"). The Admins don't monitor threads constantly, but do read e-mails several times a day. Enter "error 503" as the subject line of your message.
Hopefully, the steps we've taken will make our server cluster scale up to a larger number of CPUs even faster than before. We can't guarantee that any server will be operational 24 hours a day. Outages happen. But we've invested in virtual server technology to make the Lounge more stable than ever before, despite supporting 20 times the number of users at peaks.
Please don't reply to this post, which is merely an announcement. If you have more info on 503-type errors, do contact us using the link, however. If we're lucky, the error won't show up again, even for a minute. Thanks for your support.