Adventures in Alpha Land

Episode 13: Clive Swanepoel on Deploying and Scaling Alpha Applications

Clive Swanepoel is the owner of, the largest webhost of Alpha Anywhere applications. We talk with Clive about the typical needs of Alpha developers and how his service simplifies the task of deploying their apps.
Show Notes

00:00 Adam: Intro to episode 13.

00:35 Clive: Overview of

02:18 Clive: Basic deployment model.

03:08 Clive: Types of hardware and OS used.

04:22 Adam: What are the typical configurations and costs?

04:51 Clive: Benefits of virtualization.

05:22 Clive: Entry level plan.

07:27 Clive: Scaling up multiple instances of Alpha Anywhere.

08:23 Clive: Larger applications with dedicated servers.

09:06 Adam: What kind of load can a typical Alpha installation handle?

09:47 Clive: Customer use cases for large scale applications.

10:56 Adam: What are the hosting costs per instance and per user?

11:10 Clive: Virtual vs. dedicated machines and load balancing.

12:57 Adam: What about including costs of the database server?

13:04 Clive: Database server configurations and costs.

14:10 Clive: High performance load balance system.

14:47 Adam: Does the high performance system reduce latency?

14:53 Clive: It also increases availability.

15:01 Adam: In general terms this all makes the app more responsive?

15:06 Clive: It would also be more resilient in cases of hardware failure.

15:21 Adam: What kind of drives do you recommend? I'm partial to solid state drives.

16:25 Clive: We have been using solid state drives for years successfully.

17:40 Adam: I had been warned against solid state drives when I started with them.

18:27 Clive: The controlling software has improved to minimize the negative issues.

19:08 Adam: What do you recommend for database scaling, especially memory?

19:57 Clive: With our current machines we can throw RAM at a performance problem.

20:29 Adam: I would rather buy RAM than recode my queries. What about scaling to multiple database servers?

21:04 Clive: We can support whatever architecture the developer needs.

21:47 Adam: I tend to overbuild my server architecture to make sure I have constant availability.

25:02 Clive: Yes, it can cost a lot more in lost business than you spend on the hardware.

25:46 Adam: What do you recommend users do to plan for scaling?

26:10 Clive: It depends on the experience of the developer. I recommend starting with the best hardware.

27:15 Adam: One way to handle this is to have my clients pay their hosting bills, so they understand the true costs in relation to load.

28:30 Clive: Most of our developers do the same thing.

28:55 Clive: We learn what each application needs, and then we can help developers adjust their hardware needs. We also adjust for seasonal needs.

31:03 Adam: What do feel about the buzz around cloud systems?

32:40 Clive: It depends on your definition of a cloud.

34:23 Adam: I also find clouds take time to spin up new instances.

35:03 Adam: How much time do you spend educating your users about scaling?

36:26 Clive: I believe in custom designing systems, and then growing with the user's needs.

37:16 Adam: I agree. I prefer a smart sysadmin making the decisions.

37:30 Adam: What about pushing content out to the edge, geographically closer to users?

38:18 Clive: Distance does add latency, but we haven't had customers trying to take advantage of geographic distribution of servers.

38:53 Clive: We do try to get users to do stress testing in advance. We work with companies that do load stress testing.

39:44 Adam: What is your experience with the needs of mobile apps?

40:18 Clive: We found Alpha's offline mobile feature helps with distributed servers and connectivity issues.

41:25 Adam: I also tend to adjust the user interface to give time for data loading.

42:30 Adam: Do you give advice on these types of issues?

42:35 Clive: No, we try and keep away from design and coding issues.

43:27 Clive: We do have consultants we can point customers to on these issues.

44:49 Clive: When new customers come to us, we do all the setup and installation of Alpha.

45:22 Adam: At that point they are working from within Alpha without worrying about Windows. I would rather work at the application level. You make that possible.

46:34 Clive: That's correct.