Hailed by the New York Times as the “Internet’s highest honor”, The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. Established in 1996 during the Web’s infancy, The Webbys is presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, an academy of Web experts from over 60 countries around the world. The Webbys presents two honors in every category—The Webby Award and The Webby People’s Voice Award. Members of the IADAS select the nominees for each category, as well as the winners of The Webby Awards. The online community determines the winners of The Webby People’s Voice Awards by voting for their favorite nominees over a two week period in April. Each year, The Webby People’s Voice Awards garners millions of votes from the Web community all over the globe.
Area 17, an interactive agency with offices in New York and Paris, built The Webby Awards’ “People’s Voice” web application and deployed it on Engine Yard. This is a case study of the application’s deployment and performance since its public debut.
"We needed a platform that would allow us to deploy quickly, scale without downtime, and push enhancements on a regular basis without any service interruption. Engine Yard delivered on every requirement. The Engine Yard Professional Services team provided advice and support through the entire setup process and allowed us to be confident that both the application and its infrastructure were going to hold under traffic. The entire team at Engine Yard were responsive, professional and continued to prove themselves as experts in their field."
Director of Strategy
Area 17 needed to deploy The People’s Voice application in such a way that it would be immediately scalable at launch. They expected a large surge of traffic at launch, and the possibility of traffic spiking rapidly and repeatedly throughout the voting period.
This led them to use Engine Yard due to the ease with which a cluster can be horizontally scaled for added throughput.
The People’s Voice application is a Ruby on Rails application running Ruby 1.9.3 and PostgreSQL 9.2 using ActiveRecord. The team used rspec along with rspec-rails to develop the ain standard TDD fashion. The application uses the underlying PostgreSQL database efficiently. The operations which conduct reads or writes against the database are rebuilding cache, registering votes inside a transaction and authentication. The application runs on Nginx, which forwards requests into a Unix socket where Unicorn application workers process it.
Environment setup: The People’s Voice application was first deployed to Engine Yard in a staging environment consisting of 3 High CMedium instances: application and database master instances and an Elasticsearch utility instance for search index and aggregation. This allowed Area 17 to test their deployments, future releases and custom chef recipes on Engine Yard prior to production.
From staging to production: The initial deployment into staging took approximately one hour, including data import. Shortly thereafter, Area 17 personnel stood up a production cluster, deployed the application and imported data into production. Total time to deploy: Just under two hours.
Customization with Chef: Area 17 needed access to memcached and Elasticsearch. With Engine Yard, memcached is deployed on application instances out-of-the-box. Area 17 was able to deploy Elasticsearch easily by using the ey-cloud-recipes open source repository that Engine Yard maintains.
Traffic analysis: To ensure the application would satisfy heavy loads, Area 17 utilized the Engine Yard Professional Services team to conduct a traffic throughput analysis prior to launch.
The Webby Awards “People’s Voice” web application
The production environment for The People’s Voice application consists of five High CXL instances (64-bit): three application instances, a database master and one Elasticsearch utility instance.
Gra1: Application master Cutilization
Gra2: Database master low Cutilization due to intelligent use of caching
Gra3: Database master disk write operations are fairly minimal
Gra4: Elasticsearch instance low Cutilization
The People’s Voice application performs reliably on Engine Yard due to its intelligent use of caching and overall solid build. The application was deployed relatively quickly thanks to Area 17’s experience with the platform and clever architecture design by Engine Yard.
"I want to thank Engine Yard for our partnership this year on The Webby People’s Voice campaign. The site launch went more smoothly than it has ever gone before and remained stable throughout the campaign. We’ve historically had trouble managing the stability of the site and this year we could not have asked for more. You know you need to batten down the hatches when a @JustinBieber tweet sends 67,000 users your way—but the site didn’t even flinch thanks to you guys.
The Webby Awards
Industry: Media & Entertainment
Location: California, USA
Use Case: A highly scalable web application
Results: Intelligent cluster architecture allowed for 1.5 million votes and 1.3 million unique site visitors in a two week period