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Wikimedia Simplifies By Moving To Ubuntu 215

David Gerard writes "Wikimedia, the organization that runs Wikipedia and associated sites, has moved its server infrastructure entirely to Ubuntu 8.04 from a hodge-podge of Ubuntu, Red Hat, and various Fedora versions. 400 servers were involved and the project has been going on for 2 years. (There's also a small amount of OpenSolaris on the backend. All open source!)"
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Wikimedia Simplifies By Moving To Ubuntu

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  • by ACK!! ( 10229 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:54AM (#25328531) Journal

    For such a large effort, it seems wild they had so many different distros running in their environment.

    What do you guys think?

  • CentOS is free RHEL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hero Zzyzzx ( 525153 ) <dan@geek[ ] ['upr' in gap]> on Friday October 10, 2008 @12:00PM (#25328603) Homepage

    So it's unlikely the decisions were influenced heavily from a budgetary standpoint. If they wanted to stay with a free RHEL derivative linux that's essentially identical to the one you pay for, they'd be using CentOS. []

    They chose Ubuntu. Maybe they just like it better? I think you can factor cost of out the equation.

  • by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @12:14PM (#25328765)

    But as a server distro, I'm not so sure. I'm surprised that Wikimedia didn't go with a distribution that's more established for server needs.

    As a server distro, it rocks. I've migrated from Gentoo to Ubuntu Server for my home server and I've never looked back. As for enterprise-level distros, I'd have to go with Debian. There's not a whole ton of differences between Debian and Ubuntu Server, but I would trust Debian's 'stable' repositories over Ubuntu's repositories in a mission-critical setting, as the packages in Debian's repositories seem to be more hardened as opposed to Ubuntu's packages, which tend to be more cutting-edge.

  • by Hero Zzyzzx ( 525153 ) <dan@geek[ ] ['upr' in gap]> on Friday October 10, 2008 @12:32PM (#25328985) Homepage
    I'm sure if you asked nicely enough, RedHat would find some way to take your money.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 10, 2008 @12:49PM (#25329223)

    I'm running Ubuntu server 6.06 LTS for a stand-alone web server, it's been running about 18 months.

    There is no substantial reason to pick Ubuntu server for me because I'm not buying support. I just picked it because I'm also running it on the desktop and I can develop & compile on the same dev platform at home.

    It's been running rock-solid stable. Security fixes are rolled out promptly and install smoothly.

    To be honest any distro will do for a web/java/database machine that you self-admin. The main difference will be in the quality of the support.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @01:11PM (#25329539) Homepage Journal

    Indeed. I've tried Ubuntu a few times over the years and they do seem to have done a great job at making everything feel well put together. The first version of Ubuntu I used kind of had the same problem as some of the other distros I have used where you didn't feel like all the toolbars on the desktop were really meant to be used side by side, but they started modding everything to fit together and improved pretty quickly.. if I wasn't using OSX right now I'd probably be using Ubuntu.

    I recently set up a Windows VM as well for all the proprietary apps I have to use for work (basically only Outlook and Delphi), so I could move to whatever host OS I want without too much fuss, and am going to keep trying Ubuntu occasionally :)

  • by brion ( 1316 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @01:13PM (#25329561) Homepage
    Quick note -- we started our standardization to Ubuntu right around the time the first long-term support release (6.06 LTS) came out, offering the promise of much longer-period security updates. This was a big attractor versus continuing to play the Fedora upgrade game. (That is, even if we didn't keep everything at the latest version, we could continue to get necessary updates for old installations.)
  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @01:42PM (#25329953) Homepage Journal

    They chose Ubuntu. Maybe they just like it better? I think you can factor cost of out the equation.

    There might have been other motivations. For example wikimedia does lots of stuff in mixtures of languages, and probably uses UTF-8 encoding for (nearly) everything. I've been trying to get a good feel for how different distros (and OSs) actually handle mixed-language UTF-8-encoded text. It's been slow going. Everyone claims to support it. But it never takes long to find serious problems.

    The biggest problem is how to persuade printer model X to sanely render text in non-Western languages. Suppose you have a text that's a mixture of Russian, Arabic and Chinese; can you get all (or any) of your printers to print it correctly? If so, can you point to a HOWTO file describing how you did it?

    Ubuntu does have a bit of a reputation for being pretty good at this. But right now, I have a firefox window showing the page at for the char U+2EA8. The "Your Browser" box shows a completely different glyph than the "The Unicode Standard" box. When I copy the character into an xterm window, it also displays the wrong glyph, so it's not just firefox. Tests with various apps show that some display the correct glyph, some show the incorrect glyph. I asked on ubuntuforums about this about a week ago, and there were no replies. Meanwhile, I've found a couple dozen other codes that produce the wrong glyph, but I haven't found any clues.

    This isn't to pick on ubuntu; it just happens to show a problem on my screen right now. I've had lots of geekish "fun" copying some of my files around to various other machines, including several linux distros, a FreeBSD machine, a couple of Mac OSXs, and even a Windows machine, and watching all of them garble some parts of the text. Most of them don't even display all the Kangxi radicals correctly, if you can imagine.

    And watching all of their printers garble the printed output. I think this might be why the OLPC project hasn't yet included any printer support.

    And I won't even go into what happens with file names that contain non-ASCII characters. ;-)

  • Wow, not Debian? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @02:06PM (#25330281) Homepage

    I'm actually pretty surprised. I know Ubuntu == Debian in a lot of aspects, but... To go to a distro that is *mainly* geared toward the desktop market (I know they have a server version, blah) for something as huge as Wikimedia, I'd think they'd rather go to Debian since it's considered more stable (although maybe more outdated as well). I have been a Debian zealot since the mid 90's and moved my DESKTOP to Ubuntu later on - but still think Debian is a best fit for servers.

    Of course, there's always the whole "Ubuntu offers real support contracts" thing. That, in itself, is enough for any larger company to make the choice, right there.

  • by eric2hill ( 33085 ) <eric@ija c k . net> on Friday October 10, 2008 @02:52PM (#25330919) Homepage

    FTR, make sure your ZFS pools don't get above 80-85% full. Our 24T pool went from "pretty good" to "abysmal" when we jumped to 91% capacity. I freed up a bunch of snapshots and got us back to 81% and the performance came back.

  • Re:Wow, not Debian? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @06:52PM (#25333591) Homepage

    Actually, Canonical is a "sponsor" of Ubuntu, and sells contracts for both server and desktop versions - Ubuntu is maintained by the community as well as them.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye