We have recently switched to a new hardware architecture for our JotForm form builder service. I am pretty pleased with it because we were able to do it without any downtime or any problems for our users. As a result of this switch, JotForm now has much better high availability, speed and security. It was also a lot of fun to do it.
- We added a hardware load balancer in front of our web servers,
- Increased memory of each server to 4GBs,
- Added new hard drives with higher speeds and fault tolerance, (RAID1)
- Added a database hot spare that keeps a ready to go copy of the database using MySQL replication.
The biggest improvement is in the high availability. Before, we kept a hot backup of our server, but we still needed to manually switch servers when there was a hard disk failure. Luckily, we haven’t had that for more than a year since the last failure. It is not a question of “if”, but “when” the next hard disk failure would happen. Now, I can sleep better since failure on one box will not cause any downtime on our service. Load balancer instantly discovers the problem and stops sending the traffic to that box. Everything keeps working as if nothing has happened and we can simply replace the failed disk next day. Since we have MySQL replication and RAID1 hard disks, a server failure should also not cause any data loss. We have tested various failure possibilities and our new system kept working in each case as if nothing has happened. Of course, you can never be sure about these things, but we certainly have a much robust and strong system right now in place.
There are also improvements on our speed and responsiveness. Since the load is split in half and handled by two separate dedicated web servers, our form builder and forms function much faster. Our web servers now has 8GB of memory and double the processor power, especially the speed during the high load times has improved visibly.
Other important improvements are on the security. We have new security policies for our servers which I cannot really talk about on a public blog, but I think the biggest improvement is the additional layer of load balancers in front of everything else. In practice, hardware load balancers also serve as a kind of firewall. Keeping our backend server IPs hidden and only keeping web and ssl ports available to public. Extra security is always nice to have.
JotForm with its 130,000 form builder users receiving half a million submissions per month is now more ready for further growth. This makes us very happy as the development team. I am also happy to announce that we have started on the development of JotForm 3.0. The new version will have great new features and will make JotForm easier to use. We are planning to release the new version within 2009.