SERC > SERC News > SERC Servers Moving December 15

SERC Servers Moving December 15

published Nov 25, 2013 11:56am

Update: The server move described below was successfully complete by Sunday evening. The sites are now fully operational in their new home.

On the morning of Sunday, December 15 2013 we will start the final steps in a migration to new servers that has been in the works over the last year. This migration will effect all the services hosted at SERC including our webservers (everything under,, and and the email lists we host.

What Will Happen on December 15

On morning of the 15th all our sites will go into a 'read-only' mode where any features that would allow content on the site to change will be disabled. This includes editing pages (including workspaces), submitting forms (including payment and registration) and accessing any part of the 'admin' site. Actual viewing of pages on the site should not be affected, and anyone who attempts to submit new information (e.g. by visiting a form) will be greeted with a message explaining the outage. There may also be brief periods during the day (i.e. a few minutes at a time) where the sites are entirely unavailable. Additionally, email lists hosted at SERC will not deliver mail during the migration. But messages sent to lists should be queued and will be delivered once the migration is complete. Once the migration is complete, which we anticipate will happen the afternoon of the 15th, the site will resume functioning normally. If you have activities scheduled for the 15th that will be impacted by the migration please contact us as soon as possible.

Why the Migration? What's in it for Us?

SERC's CMS runs on a set of servers, managed by SERC, that currently live in a data center at Carleton College. The migration will move the core CMS activities to a set of servers that are part of Amazon Web Services: the largest of the so-called 'cloud' service providers, which hosts many popular sites from Netflix to reddit. Over the past year we've been re-architecting the CMS to work on this new infrastructure. The December migration is just the last step in a long line of development and testing that we've undertaken. This new system will offer a number of benefits:

  • Reliability. We're currently dependent entirely on Carleton's data center. Current best practice is not to keep all of one's server 'eggs' in a single basket. In the face of natural disasters, power outages and fiber cuts even the crack Carleton IT team can't guarantee their data center will be running 24/7. After the migration our servers will be distributed across multiple, geographically separate data centers. Even if one of those data centers goes offline the SERC site will continue to operate normally.
  • Cost-effective Scalability. We currently buy, operate and maintain our own server hardware. After the migration we will be running on hardware managed by Amazon with the ability to scale up with, literally, the click of a button. This means we can dedicate more of our staff time to improving the CMS (rather than babysitting hardware) and will be well positioned to scale up to meet our ever-growing audience (over 5 million in the last year).
  • Improved Performance. Our new setup will take advantage of Amazon's content delivery network so that SERC-hosted materials will often travel to your computer directly from a nearby server in Amazon's network (currently over 45 scattered around the globe) rather than having to make the trip from Carleton. Depending on where you live this may greatly improve the speed at which pages load across the site.

Question or comments about the migration? Please don't hesitate to drop a line.

Sean Fox