The Ashes: It's 11 v 11 on the field, and 50 dual Pentium servers off it...

Could your site handle two million concurrent users? CricInfo's systems manager talks to silicon.com

Could your site handle two million concurrent users? CricInfo's systems manager talks to silicon.com

CricInfo, by far the most popular cricket website in the world, has its own test coming up this week: how to cope with more than nine million page views per day as England and Australia do battle for the Ashes. Jeff Green, CricInfo's systems manager, is predicting that site traffic will peak at 30 to 40 times the norm - and has some serious technology at hand to cope. The site is hosted by Netscalibur, which looks after five co-located cabinets for CricInfo containing around 50 dual Pentium servers running the open source Apache software. In all, Green says, there are around 700 Apaches serving the site's dynamic pages, and 60 to 100 serving the static pages. Netscalibur can lay on up to 500Mb of bandwidth. However, the most CricInfo is likely to need at any one time is 60Mb because the site is mainly text-based. As Green said: "If we were a porn site, we'd be using at least 1Gb." Strangely, it's not the number of people logging on that causes Green headaches - it's what they want from the site. He told silcon.com: "The site can easily cope with one-and-a-half to two million people concurrently accessing the ball-by-ball commentary. That page has been designed to be as easy to serve as possible, and the automatic refreshes are done in such a way that the servers are never overloaded. "The problems usually come at the end of play or during lunch or tea, when visitors to the site start accessing the longer reports, or the latest stats, or images... There's nothing you can do to simplify serving those pages, as you don't know what people are going to want." He added: "Given that each day's play in this series will end when a lot of people in the UK have got into the office and have fast access to the net, the behaviour of visitors to the site is likely to be a bigger challenge than the sheer number connected." CricInfo decided to keep the site on its own servers because of these unpredictable demands. Green said: "There are suppliers who claim to be able to switch on extra capacity in real time, but they're lying. Their definition of real time is 20 minutes, and that's no good to us." And the crunch question is, of course, who's going to win the Ashes? Green replied: "What I'm hoping for is five close games, which England win by, say, an innings and six hundred runs... Seriously, Australia are a great side and are firm favourites, but let's hope that a few of England's youngsters step up and ensure that at the very least the team competes."