Muvee virtualizes to stretch server resources

Singapore-based video software maker implements virtualization to maximize its limited resources, in order to support a rapidly-growing video portal.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

case study As a small company, muvee Technologies needs to make the most of its budget to deliver the best results.

The Singapore-based video software maker in April launched a public beta version of its new online video portal, Shwup.com. As the service is targeted at a U.S. audience, the company decided to locate its server assets in the country to achieve shorter latency and better performance.

However, this decision placed several stress-points on management of the backend because a remote asset is harder to monitor for latency, and would require costly manpower for maintenance, noted Lo Sheng, muvee's vice president of engineering, online services and support.

On top of that, a rapidly-growing user base added more pressure to provide reliable support--a factor crucial to the success of an online product during its beta phase, Lo said in an interview.

Since April, Shwup.com has attracted some 60,000 beta users, he told ZDNet Asia.

To stretch the backend infrastructure, which consisted of five physical servers, muvee decided to adopt virtualization technology.

Lo said: "The most important thing for us is reliability, but we didn't want [the cost of] buying so many servers to assure redundancy.

"Furthermore, manpower is the highest cost. You can say it's only a thousand dollars to get a new box, but there is the added cost of engaging a guy to sit there and manage it."

He noted that muvee employs 55 staff in Singapore, the majority of whom are engineers. It has one employee who is based in the United States, but is a non-technical sales person, he said.

Adopting virtualization was, therefore, a "natural" choice to allow for greater network resiliency, Lo said. In the event of a hardware failure, workloads "hop over" to another server so the user's experience stays uninterrupted, he explained.

muvee roped in Red Hat to support its implementation, he said, so that it has "somebody to call" in the event of a system failure. The open source software vendor had been involved in designing, implementing and testing muvee's server infrastructure.

The virtualization project took about a month and a half to deploy and test, Lo added.

On the company's decision to go with Red Hat, he said muvee's choices at the time were limited by the lack of enterprise-grade virtualization providers in the market.

"There was really only VMWare and Red Hat to choose from. Microsoft's Hyper-V product [in April] was not out yet and VMWare's infrastructure was just too expensive," Lo said.

Path to virtualization and beyond
This project is not the company's first experience with virtualization. It first adopted the technology in 2001, on an internal server that was used to test a new product. The product had to be tested on multiple operating systems and languages--a gargantuan task that would have been "impossible" without a virtualized server, he said.

However, Lo noted that the Shwup virtualization implementation met with some resistance initially from the company's engineers.

"There were some skeptics of the technology. People also felt the upfront costs of virtualization were high," he said. "But people had to see that the big picture matters, and that the cost of management grows with buying more hardware, too."

Following its success with this project, muvee now has plans to implement virtualization on its servers in Korea, he said.

It is also in the process of evaluating open source package KVM, which Red Hat acquired as part of Qumranet in September.

"Virtualization is a definite trend that is taking off--anything that can help reduce headcount," Lo said.

"Breaking down the mindset around virtualization is important, too. Desktop virtualization is helping with that because it shows people how convenient it is [to deploy] virtualization," he said.

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