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Rails Helps Service Survive Hawaii Earthquake

by Obie Fernandez on Nov 08, 2006 |
The Hawaiian Islands experienced a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in October 2006. The shock knocked out power state-wide for nearly 24-hours, shutting down businesses, tourist attractions, hotels, traffic lights, restaurants and even air travel. The quake temporarily stopped all phone communications to the U.S. mainland and crippled local service providers who did not have backup generators.

Spoxel’s development and support activities are clustered in the Kahala district of Honolulu, just East of Diamond Head, exactly where the quake hit. In a statement to the press, CEO John Davidson explained that Spoxel engineers had to rely on battery-power and cellular internet connections to access the data-center during the disaster.

“Our staff attributes our success to the fact that our execution environment for the Spoxel service is all Open-Source Ruby on Rails, one of the most popular new tools for implementing today’s Web 2.0 sites,” added Matt White, Chief Technologist for the Company. “Ruby is an interpretive programming language, so the source code for all the Spoxel functionality is right there on the servers, where it can be easily modified from a distance. It’s not the same as accessing the check-in/check-out facilities of our Source Control system here at our development center, but every aspect of our trouble shooting and bug fixing came back under our control”.

This is not the first time that the press has picked up on companies relying on Ruby on Rails during a disaster. Last summer, a small team of programmers at EarthLink used Ruby on Rails to contribute to the New Orleans relief effort after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city. They quickly built and deployed a Web site to help survivors reconnect, in less than a day.

"Had we gone through our normal development process it could have taken weeks," said Greg Hartling, team leader on the project.

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WTF? Are you serious? by Ilya Sterin

You can't be serious? What does the fact that it's Ruby or RoR and/or the fact that it's open source have to do with surviving a disaster? What a horrible way to promote Ruby and/or post a quote from someone who has no clue.

Here in the midwest, we survived the 2003 blackout by running Weblogic:-) Although the lights were out, BEA's autonomic electric sensors detected it and allows it to run on solar power.

Document exchange for earthquake relief? by Frank Cohen

Spoxel's Web site talks about secure document exchange. I wish they talked about how document exchange helped with the earthquake. I get that they like the fact that they can edit Rails source on their servers, but it would be just as easy to have a backup cvs repository in their data center to continue working with Java. Also, I would imagine that the advantage of Rails would be to rapidly develop new pages for the emergency. That's lost in their press release. Oh well. -Frank

Re: Document exchange for earthquake relief? by Ilya Sterin

Yeah, but it's no different than adding a jsp page and redeploying a war file. Dude, this whole edit and see thing is great maybe for development and the same can be done with java's hot deployment. I can't imagine developing code without propert qa, etc... in production space. If that's the case for Spoxel, I hope their customers are reading.

With proper design, you can easily allow to put up emergency info, by seperating a static server component from the application deployment component, though you can add static pages to the static server on the fly.

Ilya

Re: Document exchange for earthquake relief? by Steve Zara

Spoxel's Web site talks about secure document exchange. I wish they talked about how document exchange helped with the earthquake. I get that they like the fact that they can edit Rails source on their servers, but it would be just as easy to have a backup cvs repository in their data center to continue working with Java. Also, I would imagine that the advantage of Rails would be to rapidly develop new pages for the emergency. That's lost in their press release. Oh well. -Frank


But there is no great advantage to Rails here; the same capability would be there for any web framework with the ability to hot-deploy new code. If the issue is the ability to edit code on the server, a similar story could have been written based on Perl! Unless some highly specific features of Rails were of benefit (and none were mentioned), this seems to me to be little more than a rather unfortunate example of Rails hype.

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