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Scalable Plone hosting with Amazon EC2

November 8, 2010

At the recent Plone Conference in Bristol, UK, I had the privilege of giving a talk about Scalable Plone hosting with Amazon EC2. In particular, the talk centered around a project that we did recently with Rice University. Rice has been at the forefront of online teaching and learning platforms with their Plone-powered Connexions site which serves more than 2 million visitors every month! In fact, I remember first hearing about Connexions at the very first Plone conference in New Orleans, so they’ve been around for a long time, and publish an excellent development blog. The Connexions project is a significant showcase for the power and flexibility of Plone as a development platform.

What’s even more cool is that they’ve open-sourced the software that powers the http://www.cnx.org site as Rhaptos, so if you want to set up your own open learning platform, you can check out the code and be up and running in minutes.

But it didn’t always used to be this easy though. The suite of software that powers a Rhaptos site has evolved over the years, and has grown into a formidable stack. In order to get this software installed on a server used to require many hours of reading documentation and manual steps.

One reason that Rice hired Enfold Systems and Jazkarta was to get expert assistance in getting the Rhaptos software stack up to modern standards with buildout to make a repeatable deployment and a full test suite to ensure that bugs would be identified more quickly when running tests. Enfold did this beautifully, and then it was Jazkarta’s job to make it easy to deploy Rhaptos up onto an Amazon EC2 instance with just a few commands. For this we used mr.awsome, a buildout recipe written by Florian Schulze from Jarn.

You can see the AWS buildout that we created to deploy not only test/demo instances but full multi-server production deployments of Rhaptos and CNX. There’s also full Sphinx-based documentation that explains how to use the buildout and launch new instances of Rhaptos on Amazon EC2.

Since I completely spaced at the end of my talk, and forgot to invite Mark and Roche to come up and tell people about the conference sprint, I don’t want to forget this time. The next sprint is happening at the Connexions conference on February 10, so if you’re a developer interested in working on Connexions/Rhaptos, this is an excellent opportunity to get involved and meet the core developers.

Here is the video and slides from my talk:

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