It's Not Always Sunny In the Clouds: Lessons Learned

Location: Ballroom B Level:
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In theory, Rails’ shared-nothing architecture is ideal for cloud computing, because increasing capacity is simply a matter of adding more servers to your deployment, and server power becomes an instantly available commodity. In practice, building on a cloud platform introduces many new points of complexity as well as new opportunities and new ways of doing business, and any company thinking of cloud computing as just-another-VPS will be sure to make mistakes.

These issues will be illuminated via a case study of OtherInbox, a Rails startup that launched at in September 2008 at Techcrunch50 and experienced a 2700% increase in usage over a seven week period. The challenges will be presented in a lesson-learned format and will include:

  • Ephemeral servers and unreliable data stores (making backups a central part of the app)
  • Automatic scaling using RightScale, Scalr, or PoolParty
  • Automatic server provisioning and deployment
  • Use of dynamic DNS
  • Centralized logging
  • Handling exception notification
  • Useful gems and 3rd party libraries
  • Asynchronous processing
  • Making schema changes
  • New deployment and rollback techniques
  • System administration challenges
  • Security concerns including firewall configuration
  • Setting up staging environments
  • Real financial costs
  • Adapting MySQL (including MySQL master-slave relationships)
  • Performance measurement

Although OtherInbox is built on Amazon Web Services, the discussion will be vendor-neutral and applicable to all cloud computing platforms. Audience members will leave this conference session with the answers to these questsions:

- Does cloud computing hype match reality?
- Should I build my next business in the clouds?
- How well does Rails really perform in a cloud environment?
- What’s different about designing a Rails app for the cloud?

Speaker interview with Mike Subelsky

Photo of Mike Subelsky

Mike Subelsky


Co-founder and lead hacker of OtherInbox. I’m a hacker, Ruby on Rails developer, SproutCore enthusiast, and improv theater director based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Mike Subelsky
Mike Subelsky
06/03/2009 12:34am PDT

thanks to everyone who came to the talk and also thanks for leaving such nice comments! I feel really encouraged!

David Vanderson
05/09/2009 8:15am PDT

One of the best sessions at railsconf. It’s so nice to hear from people blazing the trail. Thanks!

Gregory Gard
05/08/2009 11:29am PDT

mike, i really appreciated your anti-hype. we have been considering clouds as it would (maybe) cut down on our deployment woes. as the resident sysadmin/developer, i have been worried about what would be the downside of migrating for me. and, wow, did you open my eyes. thanks for being brave…gg

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Ryan Schenk
05/07/2009 5:17am PDT

Mike, I enjoyed your energetic and engaging presenting style

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