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Microsoft and Knowit team up to deliver Umbraco to the people

Some weeks ago, Microsoft Norway contacted our company with an interesting project proposition:

Build 500 Umbraco websites to be delivered to participants of The Gathering 2012, a yearly LAN party in Vikingskipet in Hamar, Norway. And be done in less than a month.

Each site will be hosted on a separate virtual server using  Windows Server 8. All servers will run on the Windows 8 Hyper-V hypervisor. Every user will have full remote desktop access to their site, so they use the server to learn the "tools of the trade", namely Umbraco, Windows Server and SQL Server. The sites should also be portable to Azure.

Challenging as it might sound, the biggest challenge was actually making a secure signup process and build scripts to initialize the servers.

To save time we decided to make one server template, and then use that to provision all 500 servers. The template was tanked up with SQL Server 2012 Express, Umbraco and a self-made template. We then pre-provisioned the servers to minimize the delivery time when people sign up.

There were also some issues with sudden spikes in server load (like potentially getting ~500 requests at once during signup), where the Umbraco startup time was too slow but we managed to solve them by preventing the sites from going into hibernation mode.

We hope this will create more interest for Umbraco and .NET, and open the gates to the great community that surrounds it.

Here is a sample of the template:

The signup is going live Thursday 5. April 2012 at 19:00.
Wish us luck :-)

Server farm:

7x Dell M710HD Blade Servers in a Dell M1000 Chassis
Each blade sports 2x Intel Xeon X5675 processors, and 96GB memory
All servers are backed by a 10GbE iSCSI SAN

The project was a major success! Read more about it here.