RootsTech 2011: Day 2

Day 2 of Root­sTech started with a spir­ited keynote address by Curt Witcher of the Allen County Pub­lic Library on “The Chang­ing Face of Geneal­ogy.” His point was: The world is going dig­i­tal and going there quickly. Get on board, or be left behind.

Brian Pugh of Fam­il­y­Search pre­sented a pow­er­ful talk on how the new Fam­il­y­Search web­site has uti­lized cloud ser­vices (pri­mar­ily from Ama­zon Web Ser­vices: http://aws.amazon.com) to pro­vide world class web­site in a cost-efficient man­ner. The strat­egy has allowed them to auto-scale up and down their ser­vices as needed. Addi­tion­ally, they are able to cre­ate data snap­shots to quickly build new pro­to­types of their site for devel­op­ment and test­ing. They use Ama­zon S3 as a shared filesys­tem for dynamic con­tent, though the per­for­mance of S3 is not designed for serv­ing up images, and so on, so they cache the data stored on S3 for actual deliv­ery to web browsers.

One thing they are doing on the Fam­il­y­Search web­site is uti­liz­ing Ama­zon Elas­tic IPs to allow for “hot” deploy­ment of new ver­sions of the site. They can build the new ver­sion of the site, test it, and then in a mat­ter of sec­onds, have Ama­zon redi­rect the IP address of the web­site to the new site, while keep­ing the old site in reserve. If they need to fall back to the old site, it’s again only a mat­ter of seconds.

They also use Ama­zon MapRe­duce to per­form com­plex computations.

Fam­il­y­Search engi­neers have made avail­able pro­gram­ming lan­guage for cre­at­ing cloud based sys­tems, avail­able at: code.google.com/p/lasic. This allows man­agers of cloud envi­ron­ments to quickly issue “verbs” such as

  • Deploy
  • Con­fig­ure
  • Shut­down
  • Snap­shot

One key thing that Mr. Pugh said about Amazon’s offer­ing in this space, is that it is being widely used. Among oth­ers, he men­tioned that the New York Times, Major League Base­ball, Net­flix, 3M, Activi­sion, ESPN, NASDAQ, The Guardian, and Razor­fish (and I can add the New Eng­land His­toric Geneal­ogy Soci­ety, based on the Fri­day luncheon.)

Later in the day, I was able to attend a view­ing of “Who Do You Think You Are?” at the Fam­ily His­tory Library. They gave out raf­fle items, and I won a copy of Ances­try for the Mac. I then took advan­tage of the Library being open until mid­night, research­ing my Hills, John­sons, and Crows in Howard County and Nance County, Nebraska.

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