Jay has been RAB’s SysAdmin, you can find him on Twitter at @jaydestro.
Keeping RiverAveBlues online has been “a thing” for me over the years. Whether it’s when I worked at a web hosting provider and was just a fan of Mike’s writing… all the way until today, where I am getting ready to start archiving the site I’ve done my best to keep available. Back in 2009, I did a ton of technical work for free for the guys to make sure the website stayed online and ran smoothly. To repay me, they made me a partner in the company — pretty cool, huh?
RAB has run on the WordPress blogging platform since its inception. Originally on a shared hosting provider, the site was eventually moved to a single VM with Rackspace. I eventually migrated everything to two dedicated servers: one was a HP DL360 G3 front end server we used for all the web traffic with Apache and the other a SuperMicro generic white box we used for the MySQL database server and memcached.
The hard part was always keeping up with the excitement of the Yankees as the accessibility of the internet exploded on mobile. Every day we saw the need for more capacity increase as the need for Yankees news at any moment continued to explode. Mike’s profile began to grow as he took on jobs with MLBTradeRumors and eventually CBS. People really came to rely on the work Mike did and I took personal responsibility to keep that work online, and for it to reach as wide of an audience as possible.
One moment I always recall as pivotal in making a major overhaul to the RAB infrastructure was the day the Yankees traded for Ichiro. I was in Oxford, England at a job I had just started. I had recently moved the website in a “lift-and-shift” manner to AWS and really had not had a chance to do a ton of optimization. I woke up to a slew of text messages from Mike and Joe telling me they couldn’t get to the site. I found a free moment to fix the problem I found on total MySQL connections and got the site back online.
I later would learn a ton more about AWS from my friends Lenny Herold, Jeff Kaplan and Tony Tonns (RIP). I would take this knowledge to eventually fully automate the RAB services to no longer rely on static VMs and moved to an autoscaling platform. Tony taught me a ton about memcached, tuning MySQL and ensuring reliability through resilient services. I later configured a number of cache layers and made the W3 Total Cache plug-in an absolute MUST. I found a lot of success in using the plugin in combination with a memcached service for each cache layer. This was for object, page and MySQL database cache that ran on RDS. Auto-scaling the front end also became an easy task so that when our traffic increased, we could easily add capacity automatically.
As time moved on, we removed the native WordPress commenting system for Disqus. This was an absolute godsend, as server load during “thundering herd” moments of large traffic greatly decreased. Users were storing comments in a separate database which really meant we were prepared for GDPR protections years before it was implemented. I never really wanted RAB to be in the business of storing anyone’s data. Because of that, the old users were eventually purged from the RAB database, including any user information you may have provided us. This makes me happy that we have never compromised/hacked thanks to good security defaults and reducing our total data exposure by simply not storing that data.
Later on, we found new ways to further reduce server load with the implementation of a CDN and better communication amongst the writers about how we needed to store static images. That meant faster load times and better access to the site when big moments happened.
Things haven’t always been perfect, but the bigger incidents have done a ton to teach me more about what I do for a living, I have always appreciated including communities in the work I have done or the hobbies I enjoy. Baseball and technologies are my passions and RAB was the ultimate culmination of both for me.
Now, I work at Microsoft and teach people how to use the Azure cloud. I also spend my time helping organize the DevOpsDays NYC conference and do the On-Call Nightmares Podcast. I love chatting technology and baseball – feel free to reach out if you ever need help or just want to talk about these topics, or metal music, or anything pug-related Thanks for reading RAB all these years; it’s been a big part of my life. None of this stuff happens without Mike, Joe and Ben.. to them I am eternally grateful. Thank you always to my wife, Betsy, who was woken up as many times as I was to fix things (and occasionally woke me up for breaking news, like the Andrew Miller trade in 2016). Eternal gratitude to everyone who came to the site and returned an HTTP call successfully. That means I did my job.
RAB Tech Stack 2007 – 2019:
Linux, WordPress, Apache, PHP, Memcached, MySQL