No More Outages: How to Stabilise Your Ecommerce IT Environment

May 11, 2014
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Implementing a standard operating environment is the key to avoiding outages in most ecommerce systems.

No More Outages: How to Stabilise Your Ecommerce IT Environment

Implementing a standard operating environment is the key to avoiding outages in most ecommerce systems.

No More Outages: How to Stabilise Your Ecommerce IT Environment

No shopkeeper would dream of slamming the doors shut at peak times, but that’s precisely what happens when an eCommerce system can’t handle the capacity. Customers get frustrated and buy elsewhere; they may never come back. Performance and capacity is crucial, and it is vitally important that the system remains stable when demand is high.

Architectures built against best practice is the key to stability. However, eCommerce systems that have evolved over time to serve changing requirements within the enterprise may well have been cobbled together and work quite well most of the time, but when the weakest link fails under pressure the whole thing can come crashing down.

Towards SOE

A Standard Operating Environment (SOE) is a vital part of building a stable system, and one that can be scaled easily to meet demand. Pushing the architecture simile a little further, your servers are like bricks – if they are all standard it’s easy to replace one with another or add a whole new row to your wall, but if every brick is a different size it’s a lot more complicated.

  • So first, check your bricks. Audit your current Linux environment, checking distributions, versions and configurations. Audit the physical or virtual infrastructure they run on and the applications they support.

  • Check your skills, those of your staff and the specialisms of your service provider. There is no point standardising on a system no-one knows anything about.

  • Evaluate Linux distros and service providers according to your audit and their competencies and roadmap. Select one – or maybe more than one if your needs are complex or your hardware diverse, but as few as possible.

Implementing SOE

Design an SOE with core builds that support defined sets of target hardware, pre-configured services and applications. This will allow you to install the system with the required configuration automatically performed. Core builds allow systems to be deployed rapidly and in a standardised manner.

Create a change management process to ensure consistent and ongoing changes to the core builds are applied. Once people start applying one-off fixes here and there, you lose all the benefits of SOE.

Implement an SOE Management Platform (SOEMP) such as Red Hat Satellite Server and Puppet to provide centralised management. An SOEMP system facilitates deploying configuration changes to core build installations and provides integration with asset management systems ensuring the core build’s quality assurance, deployment and maintenance cycle.

Monitoring and Alerting

Despite all the above, things can still go wrong so you need to implement monitoring of your Linux ecommerce environment to ensure they are functioning optimally, and alerting so that in the event of a failure you can begin remediation processes before outages affect business processes, end-users, or customers. Nagios is a great Free Open Source Software (FOSS) option.

Documenting

People move on and take knowledge with them, so document everything and share it with managers and peers. Make sure everyone knows you have adopted industry best practice to discourage freelance tweaking – they are unlikely to make things better. If you have undertaken this systems management process in-house, the right open source consultancy will offer a best practice Linux assessment service to independently endorse your technologies and processes for complete peace of mind and assurance for you and your organisation.