News Response Time Falls With Flakes

A lapsed server lease gives The Weather Channel the opportunity to cut response times.
Back when winter was still something to look forward to (or dread) for most of the nation, The Weather Channel was wrapping up an overhaul of its server technology to make its site swifter.

When the first major East Coast storm of the season hit Dec. 5, dropping eight inches of snow from the Carolinas to Maine, the site was ready. It beat the Keynote Business 40 Internet Performance Index for the day, says Dan Agronow, VP of technology for

(Keynote Systems Inc. sells Web measurement, testing, and management services.)

More than 5.2 million people visited that day, and the site served up more than 34 million page views. It's average response time was 1.31 seconds, less than the average 2.16 seconds for the home pages of the 40 U.S.-based sites measured by Keynote that day.

"We need to be available at all times," Agronow says. "In addition to those monitoring severe weather, there are other users that are interested in how they need to dress their children for school, or determine when they can schedule a golf or skiing activity."

Demand Dec. 5 fell just short of the peak-hit record set during Hurricane Isabel last fall, but Agronow believes the East Coast storm this week could set a new record (no doubt to be buried by peak hits during the next hurricane season).

Agronow says decided to refresh its business technology last fall when a two-year server lease expired. The company looked at various tier-one and tier-two server vendors before choosing Dell. To date, has installed 120 PowerEdge servers running SuSE Linux to handle Web-application functions. Additional Dell servers are expected to be added throughout the year, he says.

At the same time, Agronow moved's database apps to eight IBM eServer 325s using Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

The new server infrastructure has increased's performance by 25%, he says. access speed still can fluctuate depending on the day and time, Agronow says. On weekends, when there is less traffic, access time might be 1.5 seconds, but peak demand can lengthen that to 2.75 seconds.

Agronow says, which is supported by ad revenue, operates independently of The Weather Channel and is profitable.

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