Friday, January 02, 2009

This holiday I have mostly...

... been working. Hence the lack of posts. I've been re-factoring a manufacturing control system I began writing about three years ago, so a company that, literally, put their factory on the back of a fleet of trucks and shipped it to Poland could continue to design products here - they're metal bashers, making vehicle roll-over protection - and have them made, immediately the design is approved, in a location that initially had almost no communication links. A laptop with a GSM card in Poland could access fully-indented, illustrated bills of materials and manufacturing instructions that had been completed minutes earlier in the UK.

Then purchase order processing was added. Then sales order processing, then invoicing. Then manufacturing control (so the sales people in the UK could see where on the factory floor in Poland an order was, in real time)... but since it was being developed, often experimentally, while being used for production (don't try this at home, people) the scripts wound up containing a large amount of spaghetti.

So I've been re-factoring a lot of procedural stuff into properly object orientated structures, templating it, adding proper internationalisation and so on. Will probably launch it as a product next year.

To add to the festive gaiety, a 100% price rise in a data centre led to my having also to move a small hosting system - web, databases, mail, webmail, online backup, snapshotted archiving etc - to another location. After a bit of tooth-sucking, I decided to move it into Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), with a bit of help from their Simple Storage Service (S3). Wow. What a pleasant experience that's proved to be. The hosting system in question has maintained 100% uptime for the past four years (99.9% the four years before that [99% is crap, three and a half days out per annum, so these are the percentages you need to be achieving]) and that includes this last migration period. No downtime whatsoever.

The Amazon systems are a pleasure to use. Nice clean API, good tools and a firefox plugin if you just want to click to create a server instance, click to create a storage volume, click to give it a DNSable ip address. It's the way forward for small to medium systems, and for the hosting system in question represents an enhanced infrastructure with costs running at about a third of their pre-price-rise level. Everything charged by the hour, so you can add capacity when needed, and get rid of it when it's no longer necessary.

I have no vested interest in the Amazon system. But it's recommended.

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