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Rails Helps Service Survive Hawaii Earthquake

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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