"Europeana" Server Crashes on Launch

From the NYT:

A new digital library of Europe’s cultural heritage crashed just hours after it went online and will be out of operation for several weeks, the European Commission said Friday, attributing the embarrassing failure to overwhelming public interest.

Europeana, a Web site of two million documents, images, video and audio clips, opened on Thursday with international publicity and acclaim from researchers. But by Friday, those trying to log on were greeted with a message telling them that the service may not be running again until mid-December, while computer capacity is upgraded.

The designers of Europeana had expected a maximum of five million hits an hour. But there was as much as three times the predicted traffic, a unusual phenomenon for any Web site associated with the European Union.

One CNET writer is in disbelief that Europeana not only failed so quickly but that it will apparently be offline until some time in December:

How a website could crash and be offline for weeks in this age of flexible-scale Cloud offerings and caching technology is a bit mind-boggling–especially considering that a properly architected website should be easily portable to larger hardware or a scaled-out system.

There are a great many ways to deal with traffic bursts, from using Amazon S3 for storage, or EC2 for more machines, to Akamai for edge-caching to Memcached to alleviate database load.

Just by offloading the images from the repository, I bet Europeana would have fared just fine. If searching the database brought the site down then those guys are in for some very tough times.

Indeed, this whole affair seemed avoidable. Hopefully lessons will be learned, though, as Europeana seems like an exciting new project.

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