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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: 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: 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.

OPENGEN - Genealogy Standards Alliance OPENGEN.ORG - Genealogy Standards Alliance