Monday, January 10, 2011

Fun With Servers

Just an FYI: when it rains it pours. Normally betas increase load on our set of update servers. To compound this, one of them is suffering a midlife crisis^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hhard drive failure.* We're working on it now; hopefully it will be resolved in the next 24 hours.

EDIT: the update server is back up - our host not only swapped out the drive, but the whole box. We'll have to take it down one more time in the future, but for the most part I think we're out of the woods.

Another note on servers: Chris has restructured X-Plane for Android to separately download the art assets from our servers, rather than contain all art assets in the actual download. What he found after several painful weeks was that the Android store is not yet reliable for large apps. While the official app size limit is 50 MB, many phones have problems with their configuration that cause downloads to fail. When the user buys our app and the download fails, they get angry at us. (X-Plane may have been, until it was restructured, one of the largest Android game APKs. The other games with large amounts of 3-d content were already doing separate downloads.)

We originally wanted to build a monolithic app (everything in the APK) because we thought that this would provide the simplest, easiest configuration to maintain, and thus hassle-free installation for our users. You get the APK, you install it, you fly! Unfortunately, the Android Market isn't reliable for such a large download, so we had to re-evaluate.

The new system downloads only the core app from the Android Market and then pulls the art assets from one of our servers. So far this appears to be an improvement. If/when Google provides an integrated solution, we will probably switch back to it to simplify the process again (right now we have two points of failure: the Android Market and our server farm, which, per the above notes, sometimes does fail). But for now, we'll host the apps and try to give people the best download experience we can.

Finally, I will try to roll out at least a beta of new installers some time this week. The new installer simultaneously downloads from multiple servers, with a more efficient HTTP implementation; this should hopefully result in better download times and also lower server load per demo.

* Chris pointed out: most normal humans don't know what this ^H^H^H^H is's nerd-speak for the delete key, e.g. to undo a text. ^H is control-H, which you may find works just like the delete key. Yes, I'm a huge nerd.

1 comment:

Matt said...

In spite of the difficulties with the Android support, as an iPhone-to-Android convert, I am happy to have X-Plane on Android and appreciate the offering!