DrupalCon Preview: Q&A With Chapter Three's Zack Rosen

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 12, 2010

The annual DrupalCon conference is coming up, April 19th to 21st at San Francisco's Moscone Center.  Drupal, of course, is the increasingly popular open source content management system founded by Dries Buytaert, and OStatic itself runs on the platform. There will be many movers and shakers from the Drupal world at the conference, and we've been running a series of Drupal-focused guest posts in advance of it.  In this latest Q&A post, Zack Rosen, co-founder of Drupal-focused services company Chapter Three, discusses the company's new offering, dubbed Mercury.

OStatic: What is Mercury?

Mercury is a drop-in replacement for Drupal website hosting that includes many best practices in server provisioning. We've worked more than a thousand hours over the past year tuning the LAMP stack and integrating best-of-breed caching systems to work seamlessly with Drupal.

Benchmark tests show Mercury runs Drupal more than 200+ times faster than standard hosting environments.

OStatic: What infrastructure are you using for Mercury, and how will you support users?

Mercury is open-source and currently available instantly on Amazon EC2.  If you want to use Mercury on your own server, you can access our set-up instructions here.  Mercury uses a server configuration management technology called BCFG2, so no matter where it runs you will be able to easily keep up to date.

Soon, we will be offering it as an on-demand service comparable to Slicehost in terms of pricing and support. Other hosting companies will also be providing Mercury services in the near future.

OStatic: How does Mercury help Drupal performance?

We have worked on every layer of the hosting stack to improve performance. You can read all of the technical details here, but briefly:

* Much of the performance increase comes from integrating Varnish, a world-class reverse-proxy caching system.
    * We have also integrated Memcached, a distributed memory object cacheing system to increase logged-in page performance.
    * Apache Solr, a very fast and accurate open-source searching system comes bundled to replace the built in Drupal search.
    * We include a very tuned MySql server ready to scale beyond a single-server architecture.
    * Our web-tier includes many tuning best practices such as fully utilizing mod_php and the APC opcode cache and using Pressflow Drupal which includes many performance improvements to Drupal core.

OStatic: Why would someone (or an enterprise) use Mercury over another CMS or even ordinarily running Drupal?

With Mercury you can in minutes launch a website powered by the leading social publishing system (Drupal) capable of serving 2,500+ requests per second on low-cost commodity hardware.

OStatic: Why did you create Mercury?

It didn't make any sense to us that Drupal site developers were having to individually provision and tune servers by hand to achieve decent performance. With Mercury we set out to solve the problem once and for all for the Drupal community.

OStatic: How does Mercury differ from Drupal Gardens?

Drupal Gardens is an awesome hosted service from Acquia that allows you configure, design, and launch a Drupal site in minutes. While it's quite flexible, it is meant for site developers that can get what they need out of Drupal through configuration alone.

Mercury is targeted at site developers that need to be able to run Drupal on their own.

OStatic: Are you showcasing Mercury at DrupalCon?

Yes, we will be demoing Mercury throughout the conference and presenting the service on Wednesday afternoon.
Zack Rosen's Bio:

Zack co-founded and directed the CivicSpace project, a critical organization driving early-adoption of Drupal. He remains an active business leader in the community and has freely contributed his expertise to hundreds of web projects. Today, in addition to his work with Chapter Three and Drupal, he is CEO of Mission Bicycle, a new startup which manufactures beautiful customized bikes in San Francisco.