punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,
punkwalrus
punkwalrus

Time to retire an old workhorse...

In 1995, AOL realized that they were becoming so popular, that when someone linked to a site and published it on AOL, there was a good chance too many AOL'ers would crash the web server it was on. This is now known as "the Slashdot effect," but this was before Slashdot. Angry users would call.

I WNT 2 DA SITE AND CLIKD IT AND IT CRASH-ED, WTF??!1?

Yes, they blamed us. So some brilliant minds said, "Why don't we cache web sites for users? We'll store the pages in AOL data centers, so it won't crash the server they are originally on." Later, this went overseas to solve the problem of, say, AOL France in Lens trying to reach nearby Paris via the Trans-Atlantic cable... twice! Even web sites in New Zealand loaded faster until we installed web caching in Europe.

Old AOL Web CacheFirst, they got these top-of-the-line, high end systems, and bought them by the pallet. They were mid-towers, with a Tyan dual proc/SCSI motherboard in them. Two "screaming" Pentium II bricks pumping out 233mhz each. The 128mb of RAM was insane! 100mb NICS! 4 of these new "DIMMS" at PC66 speed! Over 5gb of SCSI drive goodness in RAID0 assure that web sites were loaded, and delivered with top speed. In 1996, this is like having a quad Xeon 4.0ghz box with 16gb RAM and 15k SCSI in RAID0 now (I will laugh when I read this in 2018, I assure me, when my cell phone has more power). The only way we could afford these on such short notice meant that we had some kind of dodgy companies who slapped these together in tents set up in some flea market, probably. Brand names like "Socrates," "Trademark," and "GlobalWinds" that no one had ever heard of. I heard the first batch had a 30% failure rate in the first week. But we kept buying them. Soon, they weren't enough. Someone sold us rack mounted systems, outsourced them, and...

... we suddenly had a HUGE surplus of these systems. When they worked, they worked really well. When they didn't... you used parts from another non-working one, maybe several, until you got one to work. Due to various bureaucratic silliness, many just ended up stacked like cordwood in dusty corners around Reston. Some... migrated to people's offices... sometimes their homes.

I upgraded it to 512mb RAM, and replaced the procs with two PII/400s. Replaced SCSI with IDE. It was the max the motherboard could take. I named it Cerberus, after the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hell. It was COMPLETE overkill; never ran a load over 0.02, and that was at bootup. It ran my home Internet gateway, via Linux and IPCop, faithfully for almost six years. It lived through COX, FIOS, repeated hack attempts, and even a DDoS or two. But when I upgraded my network to GB to accommodate VoIP and two VPNs, I realized if this old box (which STILL had the original power supply in it) died... I'd have no Internet. So I built a replacement out of much newer parts.

I hate tossing this old soldier. I am keeping it around for a while until I can junk it without much guilt. Man, what a great little thing this box was.
Tags: aol, computer, work
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