• 11/07/2003
    6:00 AM
  • Network Computing
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Breaking News and Server Gridlock

MediaNews Group' sluggish Web site was turning off readers and advertisers. The culprit? A content-management application.

The Vignette app, version 6.01 of the packaged content-management software, uses templates for displaying Web pages and information, and MediaNews creates elements such as breaking news or reader polls using these templates. They then get cached at the Web server, along with the rest of the content. This way, a request doesn't always have to go back to the app server and database to render a page, Marsh says.

Caching alone temporarily perked up the site's performance, but there were so many different site components inside the Web server that when a newspaper posted breaking news, Vignette still had to flush out the entire cache to present the new content. This is because Vignette's cache-management procedure is single-threaded, so it couldn't handle a deluge of requests without crashing. Configuring the software to refresh the cache takes the load off of Vignette because the software doesn't have to manage a separate request for each page element.

Next MediaNews tried a caching appliance, but it couldn't decipher the generic vanity URLs, either. And when a newspaper editor modified a Web page, the cache server couldn't synchronize with the Web servers. "We were back to square one. Every third request to the Web server went straight back to our app server," Marsh says.

Load balancing didn't work because it increased the load on the database, and the caching appliance APIs the company used were excruciatingly slow, taking as long as 20 minutes to cleanse the content, an eternity in daily news time. "That didn't fly with our newspapers--they wanted a breaking news story on the Web site right now," Marsh says.

Translating Into Dollars

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