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Veterancraft Upgrades
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Topic Rating: +4 (4 votes) 
March 22, 2015
6:43 pm
frelling
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It is about time that I mention some of the technical changes that will happen over the next two months. I say this with some trepidation, as it seems that every time I see a clear path to our goals, there is some unknown lurking around the corner that is looking to thwart my plans Frown

First and foremost, I will be moving our services over to OVH's data center in Beauharnois, Quebec. While our existing HiVelocity datacenter has served us well and continues to be a far better solution than Veterancraft's early days at FragNet, it cannot deliver the services and features that have become important to us; both from a technical and operational perspective.

Veterancraft will benefit from this move in several ways. OVH has 15 data centers all over the globe, all of which are linked with super-high speed connections. That alone give us a tremendous advantage in that network latency and lag (not game lag) should be far, far less. All our members, regardless of where they are in the world, will benefit from much closer Internet exchange points (IXPs) making for a snappier connection.

One of the key selling points for OVH is it's built in DDoS mitigation system. For the curious, Anti-DDoS Protection by OVH offers a detailed explanation of how this service works. In short, their service "vacuums" up bad traffic while allowing legitimate traffic through as the system mitigates attacks. However, this does not mean that we will be invulnerable. Attacks can still affect our services for a while, but not to the degree they have affected us in the past.

Our current data center's solution is to null-route our server during larger attacks, meaning that bad AND legitimate data cannot get to where it needs to go. This effectively shuts down Veterancraft until attacks cease. With OVH's system, we may experience some initial effects at the onset of an attack but continue operations with some lower server responsiveness during the attack, which is a far better solution than "cutting" the network connection.

OVH offers very capable and well-designed dedicated hardware at cost-effective prices. Our new servers will be Xeon E5/E7 systems with far more horsepower, memory, and cores than what we currently have. Although HiVelocity offers similar hardware options the total cost of ownership starts climbing rapidly. We are getting a much bigger bang for our buck with OVH.

Yes, I did say servers - as in plural. We have already deployed two servers for testing purposes and in preparation for this move. Unlike our current single server, one new server will be fully dedicated to the management of Veterancraft backend services (e.g. database, security, monitoring, etc.), while the other will be solely used for Minecraft servers and related front-end services (e.g. forums, wiki, maps, etc.). No longer will huge database queries suck away valuable CPU cycles from the game or the game sucking away the same from the database. Furthermore, most backup and maintenance activities should no longer affect gameplay.

Speaking of backups, OVH also provides free backup storage on separately maintained data farm systems accessible via the same high-speed network. This will help us in many ways. First, we can mitigate the impact of backup operations on gameplay. Since the backup system is "next door" we are no longer subject to the "weakest link" between our existing data center and our offsite backup system. Second, it will allow us to perform smaller, more frequent incremental backups with no impact on gameplay. Thus, if we ever were in a position that required restoration, it would be a rollback of a couple of hours, not days.

This segregation of services across multiple servers gives us the ability to scale quite rapidly. We can add new servers - permanently or temporarily - within a matter of hours, sometimes even less, that quickly integrate with the rest of the systems. This is particular important when it comes to disaster recovery planning. Should one of our servers kick the bucket, we can have a new server deployed rapidly and restored from backup within a couple of hours or less. If we are lucky enough to detect an ailing system before it croaks, we can deploy a new server in parallel, instantly mirroring the ailing system's contents, and have it swapped in with members barely noticing a change. Obviously, that type of activity requires some coordination, thus I suspect the first-time around it might not be as smooth as indicated. Let's just hope that we never have to crack open our Disaster Recovery Plan - yes, we do have one Cool

On to the burning question. What about an upgrade to 1.8? I will be bluntly honest. With the passing of my mother last November, work on the 1.8 update and tests came to a grinding halt for a while. In hindsight, I'm glad that it did. It gave me time to reflect on a lot of things including Veterancraft. This migration to a better datacenter and more powerful hardware is one of the results; along with a renewed drive to pursue the 1.8 update and bigger and better things to come.

But before anything else can happen, we have to be running on our new hardware. This June will be our 4-year anniversary. In reflection, we have done a lot of great things and some that weren't that great. We've paid a bit of tuition to the School of Hard Knocks and hope to leverage the lessons learned as we move forward. We are not only going to roll out a 1.8 update, but also commence update plans for many of our support services. We need more integrated means of communicating with our members. We need better information repositories than we currently have. We need better tools for moderators to police and support membership. Not that this all has to happen at the same time. I'm simply mentioning them to make you aware that there are many other things than just a Minecraft update that require our attention. Obviously, a 1.8 update ranks very high over most other needs.

One of the expansion plans on the drawing board for Veterancraft is to also offer a creative server. Often times, members use single player to test out new features and functions or build a mockup of a structure. A creative server would allow them to do the same with the benefit that they can share their ideas with others directly, rather than snapping a few pics to post in forums. As it stands right now, the creative server would be accessible to all registered Veterancraft members. In other words, it will not be directly open to everyone unless they have successfully finished the trials and registered in the forums. Building in the creative server will be a sponsorship perk, non-sponsors will still be able to visit and interact with builds. Even more, we are planning on having integrated chatting between servers. Like I said, its on the drawing board. The final outcome may be different from what is described here.

So, back to the 1.8 update. First we have to move everything to the new data center. A lot of planning has and continues to go into preparing the new hardware and support systems. We want to be able to compare the performance and characteristics of our 1.7 server first before considering an upgrade. Otherwise, if something is working differently, better, or worse, we wouldn't know for certain whether it is the new hardware or the 1.8 update itself. Once we are comfortable with the operation of our server, we will being upgrade plans to 1.8.3.

As many of you may already know, we will be using Spigot in lieu of CraftBukkit. md5 and others have done a bang up job in providing a platform that has the same flexibility as CraftBukkit and more. One feature I am extremely excited about is BungeCoord, which allows players to switch between Spigot servers as simple as stepping through a portal. No logging off and back on to a different server. This gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility in offering other types of servers such as a creative option and a separate event server.

Alright, I could probably go one for a few more paragraphs, but I will cut it short. There are some other changes coming down the pike, but it is too early to talk about them. All of them are good and will not affect our current system. More to come, when things are nailed down.

Best regards,

Frelling

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their disinclination to do so. - D. Adams
March 23, 2015
10:35 am
Rangasp
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Thanks for the update frelling! :->

March 25, 2015
4:31 am
frelling
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I received a couple of PMs worrying that we were not going to update to 1.8 until our anniversary in June. Having re-read the above, if I squinted, I can see how someone could walk away with that impression.

Rest assured, that is not the case. We have four priorities:

  • Build up our new servers to make them ready to receive our server.
  • Transfer current server to new data center.
  • Run for a while as we shake out any bugs/mis-configurations.
  • Update to 1.8.3

I can't give you an exact time frame for all of these tasks. We expect to be ready with the new data center in 1-2 weeks. We'll probably run the current server for another 1-2 weeks in the new data center, while working in parallel on the update - assuming that nothing detracts us from it. A warm and fuzzy guess would be that we will be updating to 1.8.3 within 4-6 weeks. Could be sooner, but that all depends on how smooth things go.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their disinclination to do so. - D. Adams
March 28, 2015
9:34 am
frelling
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It is interesting that I have received more PMs and emails about this thread than actual posts therein. Most of them center around "will we still have this and will we still have that?" I'm not exactly sure what part of the posts above lead anyone to believe that features and capabilities will change. While I cannot give a 100% guarantee, we will use the same due diligence as we always have to migrate features and capabilities forward.

For the rest of the questions, I created this sign to sum it up Laugh

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Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their disinclination to do so. - D. Adams
March 30, 2015
4:38 am
Okarim
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So you're proceeding recklessly then? :) I oughta finish my emerald farming I guess. ^_^

April 5, 2015
9:05 pm
frelling
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The server will be down for about 60-90 minutes tomorrow in order to create a snapshot that will be tested on our brand-spanking new servers at our new data center. Unfortunately, my schedule is extremely hectic, thus I don't have an exact time. It will either be sometime between 8-10 AM EDT in the morning or 8-10 PM EDT at night. Normally, this would be done  in the wee hours of the morning, but we have a tight schedule for testing and development and I have tight work schedule.

I will try to at least have a 30-minute or 1-hour warning before the server is shut down. My apologies in advance for anyone inconvenienced by this, but I am certain that we are all anxious to get to a 1.8.3 version.

 

Best regards,

Frelling

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their disinclination to do so. - D. Adams
April 6, 2015
12:08 pm
LightWarriorK
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Good luck!

"Awake, oh man, and be wise." -Thoth
April 7, 2015
10:53 pm
frelling
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As expected, something got in the way. I will be shutting the server down at 1:30 AM. Down time will be between 60 and 90 minutes.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their disinclination to do so. - D. Adams
April 8, 2015
12:16 am
frelling
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frelling said
As expected, something got in the way. I will be shutting the server down at 1:30 AM. Down time will be between 60 and 90 minutes.

It took a little less than an hour. We're back up.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their disinclination to do so. - D. Adams
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