A Brief History of Time

We've always talked about our hardware upgrades and how well they perform. Our hardware architecture is, no doubt, critical to the success of the site, but the software that actually runs AnandTech.com is equally important. Recently, we performed a major architecture shift from a ColdFusion based back-end to Microsoft.NET. We thought that this would be an interesting article, to highlight the history of AnandTech.com from a software perspective.

In this article, we will discuss background information on the following platforms:

ColdFusion

Macromedia ColdFusion is a web-based language that focuses on the RAD development of dynamic web content. ColdFusion started off based on a C++ runtime that interpreted code within HTML templates and compiled it into PCODE, which was then interpreted by the ColdFusion runtime and delivered to the web server and, in turn, to the end user requesting the page. ColdFusion back then was similar to PHP and ASP. Recently, Macromedia decided to take the ColdFusion language to a standards based platform, JAVA. ColdFusion runs on top of almost any J2EE server; we used the ColdFusion standalone version, which uses Macromedia JRUN as the J2EE server. ColdFusion templates are written in CFML (ColdFusion Markup Language) and then compiled down to JAVA byte code and executed by the J2EE server. Macromedia used to be the only game in town, in terms of ColdFusion. Now, a company named New Atlanta makes a ColdFusion server that also runs on .NET.

Microsoft .NET

The .NET platform is the new framework for building Windows based and web-based applications from Microsoft. It not only replaces the older ASP platform, but introduces some up-to-date languages that run on the Common Language Runtime, which is the backbone of .NET. The three main languages used with .NET are: C# (similar to C++), VB.NET (somewhat similar to VB) and J# (fairly close to JAVA). The beauty of this architecture is that it brings different developers together on a single platform. Those who wrote mostly in C++ or JAVA will probably choose C#; and those who are familiar with VB or more verbose languages will probably choose VB.NET. J# is there for the JAVA developer. Whatever language in which you write your code, it is compiled into an intermediate language, CIL (Common Intermediate Language), which is then managed and executed by the CLR. ASP.NET is simply another .NET based environment that allows you to write in any of the languages that run on the CLR. Its syntax is similar to ASP.

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  • STaSh - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    Keep up the great work guys. The site is very fast, and I really enjoy these behind the scenes articles. Reply
  • JasonClark - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the comments thus far, some answers:

    Jeff7181:
    1) Very true regarding what you can buy for a reasonable sum of money these days. We have been running the same hardware for over 2 years now, and I don't see any changes any time soon. The Dual Athlon MP's are holding up just fine, especially with the headroom we have from the performance jump the .NET migration gave. I'd say hardware has gone ahead of load, you need less to do more for less money, if that makes sense :)

    2) We are all IDE in the webservers, no need for scsi as everything is in memory after initial compilation. The DB server has only changed in space, as the databases are growing, especially the statistics database..
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    Excellent article... I've always wondered what kind of server AnandTech was hosted on. Very interesting. I do have a couple questions though that were answered though.

    #1 Besides bandwidth of course, has the cost of the hardware stayed pretty much the same? I mean, $15,000 today buys A LOT more power than it did 2 years ago simply because more power is available now. With loads considered (more users now than when the site first started) is the cost pretty much the same to get hardware capable of handling the load? In other words, has the cost of the hardware grown more in line with load, or technology?

    #2 How has your disk storage needs changed, what drives were used in your first server and what ones are used now?
    Reply
  • Locutus4657 - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    Cool, .Net is deffonetly a great platform to develope in... I've been trying to convince my boss that if we switched away from PHP/MySQL and went to .Net/Posgres (or MSSQL) all of our problems would be solved!

    Carlo
    Reply
  • tfranzese - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    Not a bad job. I can relate to .NET as I recently had to jump into it for a client at work for a web application they speced out. It definately is a different animal compared to ASP. Reply
  • GokieKS - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    Been reading the site since the version 2.0 days, and this certainly brings back some memories and gives some interesting insights. Good job. =)

    ~KS
    Reply
  • darkswordsman17 - Monday, July 26, 2004 - link

    Cool article. I'm a relatively new member and found this to be fairly interesting.

    Also, keep up the great work!
    Reply

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