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Behind the Scenes of our Recent Server Migrations and Upgrades

July 2, 2024

When we launched our next-generation hosting platform back in 2016, we had deployed our servers on the CloudLinux 7 operating system (based on CentOS Linux) which had just gained compatibility with our cPanel hosting platform at the time. 8 years later, this operating system has now reached its end of life and has been discontinued.

Traditionally when a server operating system reaches its end of life, our only option was to setup a new server running a newer operating system and migrate customers to it, a time consuming but tried and true method we are very experienced with.

This year introduced a new option, the ELevate Project which could perform in place upgrades from CloudLinux 7 to CloudLinux 8 on existing servers.

While cPanel compatibility with CloudLinux 9 and a stable release of the ELevate Project had been promised for mid-2023, unfortunately these dates were not met as cPanel did not gain support for CloudLinux 9 until until March 2024 and the ELevate Project wasn’t considered stable until April. This created a lot of pressure for everyone in the hosting industry as both cPanel and CloudLinux repeated that they would not provide extended lifecycle support for CloudLinux 7, meaning running it past the June 30, 2024 end of life date would pose a major security risk.

As such, we finalized our migration plans in January and got to work. We knew we did not want to risk using the ELevate project as an issue with a failed upgrade could be catastrophic, resulting in lengthy downtime if a server wouldn’t boot and needed to be restored from backups. We also wanted to retire our oldest servers and upgrade the hardware components of others, so moving customers off of those servers was our best choice.

So the decision was made to migrate all customers to new servers. We had some CloudLinux 8 servers already deployed so we would start by migrating some customers to those servers while we waited for cPanel to introduce compatibility with CloudLinux 9 so we could skip to the newest operating system for the bulk of our migrations.

As CloudLinux 9 dropped support for a number of legacy applications such as PHP versions older than 5.6, we identified customers still requiring these versions and migrated them to our existing CloudLinux 8 servers first to keep their websites operational.

With cPanel growing closer to providing compatibility with CloudLinux 9 we deployed and configured many new servers and waited to begin the bulk of our migrations as soon as that compatibility was deemed stable.

In the past when performing server migrations we would schedule them for a weekend and we’d work around the clock for two or three days straight migrating all accounts from the server at once. With the growing size of our company and a need for a better work-life balance, we knew this wouldn’t be a feasible option this time.

Instead we reviewed each and every account, making note of those that could have potential challenges, such as requiring manual DNS updates, and scheduled anywhere from 10 to 50+ accounts for migration per day, every single day, from March until mid-June until all customer migrations had been completed.

While so significantly time consuming, this has been our most successful migration to date with a record low number of support tickets raised.

With an extensive 6 months of work and planning behind us, we can now breathe a sigh of relief to have completed our migrations before the deadline.

Other hosts weren’t so lucky. The delays with ELevate’s stability and cPanel’s CloudLinux 9 compatibility left many other providers without sufficient time to upgrade their server fleets. As such, at the end of May, cPanel and CloudLinux reversed course and announced a paid, extended lifecycle support program for CloudLinux 7 for an additional 18 months to prevent the security nightmare of having so many out of date servers on the Internet. While we wouldn’t need it, we were among those very vocal that such a program was critical given the time constraints introduced.

If you’ve read this far you may be asking, what does all of this mean for you?

1. Faster servers. Our oldest equipment has been retired and replaced with brand new, faster servers.
2. 100% solid state storage. All hard disk drives have been decommissioned and replaced with solid state drives. We spent tens of thousands on SSDs over the past few months to complete this upgrade. With the faster storage we have also doubled Disk IO limits across all of our hosting plans.
3. Team management. You can now create multiple logins for a cPanel account (Manage Teams feature) with the ability to limit access.
4. Email compression. Emails in your inbox are now compressed, significantly reducing the storage space they require.
5. Faster backups and restores. With an all-new offsite backup server and JetBackup upgraded to v5 across all servers, backup times have dropped from 8-12 hours per server to just 1-2 hours!

And several more new features are coming soon! Welcome to the new, next-generation of Varial Hosting!


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