Wednesday, April 04, 2012

TheGunCounter Forums are Migrating Software and Servers this week

So, one presumes most of you know that I am a cofounder and administrator of The GunCounter forums, whether or not you happen to be a member or regular reader.

I am crossposting this here now, so that people who go looking for the forum and notice it is down at some point this week, will know what's going on.

Also, it should explain some why I'm a bit busy this week.

For several months, our hosting provider has needed us to migrate from our old server farm, to a new server farm with updated OS, libraries, tools etc... The old servers are running on worn out hardware, and obsolete software revisions, and need to be decommissioned.

One of the things hindering that process has been that we were two revisions back on our forum software, and the current revisions of PHP and MySQL (the underlying language and database for the forum software), were not bug compatible with the version of the forum software we have been running. Unfortunately, through several test cycles, I had not been able to successfully perform a non-destructive upgrade of the forum software.

With the newest release of the forum software however, in theory, there is both a seamless non-destructive upgrade path from the old version to a current version; and a compatible migration path to the newest revisions of PHP and MySQL on the new server farm.

So, around midnight pacific time last night, we conducted a number of maintenance and cleanup operations, got a full backup of the site and database, then upgraded the boards software to the latest revision. After the upgrade successfully completed, we tested it briefly, and then got a post upgrade full backup of the site and database as well.

All of this is in preparation for the move to the new server farm, which must occur before Sunday. We are working on the test servers for the migration now.

We hope to be able to conduct a seamless migration; shutting down for maintenance some time late Friday night or Saturday (at the latest. We may do it overnight on a weeknight if we're ready earlier), completing a migration of the forum and database to that point, throwing DNS over and then going live on the new servers.

In this process, there will be some disruption of service; as little as an hour or two for some (depending on how long it takes to do a final migration. It's not a small database), to as much as 24 hours, depending on exactly what corner of the internet you are in relative to our hosting provider, and how long DNS changes take to propagate.

In the changeover, the new site will most likely become accessible to different folks at different times, because of this. This isn't a bug or a deliberate rolling upgrade, it's just a part of how the core technologies of the internet work.

If all goes well though, most people should be able to access the site within a couple hours.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to successfully test a site migration thus far. We are hoping that the new revisions of all the software in question (php, MySQL, and phpBB), and some newly installed tools on the new server farm, will allow us to migrate successfully; and we will continue to work on this and test through the week.

However, no matter what, before noon on Sunday, the Guncounter will be on the new servers; because the old servers will be powered down.

If we are unable to migrate our current software, that may mean a change of forum software. Even if we are able to migrate the software, we may not be able to migrate the database properly and It may mean a loss of content. We hope not, we don't think so, but it is a possibility.

In the mean time, as I said, we upgraded to the latest forum software revision last night; and I need folks to be on the lookout for weirdness between now and then. Post any glitches, misses, bugs etc... here in this thread.

Thanks, and hopefully we'll get through this fully intact.