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Michael Stapelberg

Hosting for Debian Code Search provided by Rackspace (2013)

published 2013-12-25, last modified 2019-02-04
in tag debian
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For a number of weeks now, I have been forwarding traffic being sent to to an instance of Debian Code Search running at Rackspace’s public cloud offering. I feel like it’s overdue to announce how they have been supporting the project and what that means.


First of all, let’s provide some context. Debian Code Search was launched in November 2012, hosted entirely on my private server. Since DebConf 13, I am in contact with DSA in order to get Code Search running on a DSA-provided machine and make it an official Debian service. Code Search runs best on flash storage, and only with adequate resources can we enable some use cases (e.g. package-level results) and make sure the existing use cases work at all (we currently have timeouts for some queries). Unfortunately, flash storage is scarce in Debian, hence we couldn’t get any for Code Search.

At some point, I got the suggestion to ask Rackspace for help, since they are quite friendly to the Open Source community. They agreed to help us out with a generous amount of resources in their public cloud offering! This means I can run Code Search at Rackspace the way it is meant to be run: with the index sharded onto 6 different machines and the source code being searched on fast flash storage.


Now, when using third-party infrastructure, there are always two big concerns: proprietary infrastructure and vendor lock-in.

As for the proprietary aspect, Rackspace’s public cloud offering is based on OpenStack, which is FOSS. Granted, they have a couple of extensions that are not (yet?) released in OpenStack, but those are minor details and any automation that we use can trivially be ported to any other OpenStack offering. Who knows, maybe in the future we use OpenStack in Debian, too?

Given the OpenStack situation, I am not concerned about vendor lock-in. However, to specifically address this concern and err on the side of caution, attention will be paid to keep Code Search able to run on “non-cloud” infrastructure, such that we can run our own instance on DSA-provided hardware. My current intention is that this instance will be the fall-back that we can use should there ever be problems with Rackspace. So far, however, I am very happy with Rackspace’s stability.


There are a number of improvements waiting: for users in the United States, traffic first goes to my server in Europe and then back to Rackspace in the US. Eventually, we should get rid of this indirection. Perhaps we can also spin up another instance in Europe eventually. Furthermore, Rackspace recently announced new available hardware, which we are not yet making use of. I expect a big speed-up, but will have to do some careful benchmarking. Also, I have some interesting performance data, which will be shared in subsequent blog posts. Stay tuned :).


I’d like to thank Rackspace very much for their generous support of the Debian project and Code Search in particular. I hope you look forward to the upcoming posts with more details.

Also, to be perfectly clear about it: I also thank DSA for their help, and hope they will continue working with me to have our independent (yet slower) instance of Code Search running on Debian hardware.

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