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.