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:


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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  • Phiro - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    So how are you laid out? Are your web servers clustered? Are you using App Center? Component Load Balancing? Request forwarding?
  • JasonClark - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    In regards to linux, our expertise lies in windows and it hasn't given us any grief what so ever. Windows can be stable if it is administrated properly.

    Code is as bloated as the developer makes it, experience, experience...
  • joeld - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    alfatekpt - what are the advantages of PHP/MySql over Windows and the .Net platform? I haven't researched this much, but I am under the impression that a SQL server is better than a MySQL server, and would guess that PHP/Apache would be a little faster than IIS/.NET, but that's just a guess. I know it's very easy to code on .NET, which can make your pages bloated if you are not careful - something that hardly happens with PHP.
  • alfatekpt - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    You have servers with high needs and you use Windows and .NET plataform... I don't need to be a big *nix zealot to say that is so wrong...

    You never tried PHP/MySql? You can save the money in software to hire a linux sys admin to tune your servers...
  • vda - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

  • vda - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    Did you ever considered using Linux?
  • sonicDivx - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    Very Interesting. Im a ColdFusion developer so kinda bummed that you had switched. Looking at the performance numbers, I was wondering was % of improvement can be attributed to .Net and wondering did you try recoded routines in MX to do a performance comparisons ( always new ways to skin a cat).

    Just curious from an informational standpoint.

  • ChucklesHB - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    I got turned onto Anandtech about... 2 years ago (the 3.0 version was only around a short time) and I've been a fan ever since.

    As a web developer myself, it's great to see sites that don't have an issue with showing the evolution of the technology behind the scenes. Thanks for a peek behind the curtains. ;)
  • Creig - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    It'd be nice to be able to go through the old news/forums again. Maybe they could be rehosted on a "Limited time only" basis so the oldtimers could reminisce and the newcomers could see cutting edge overclocking with a 300a Celeron that would do 450. :)
  • RZaakir - Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - link

    Cool article,

    But come on now, ASP.NET syntax is VERY different from ASP. If for no other reason than the fact that you're going from VBScript to VB and Javascript to J#/C#.

    Not to mention the other features like User/Server controls (as opposed to SSIs), Assemblies (as opposed to COM Objects), and language independence. Though ASP was a bit more flexible than many people thought on the latter.

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