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September 13, 2006

Dynamically Generated Pages, a Bad Idea for Blogger?

The most important feature of the new Blogger Beta is dynamic pages. "In the new version, adding a new post simply updates your information in our database. Then, when someone wants to see any of the pages on your blog, those pages are created for them dynamically, on the fly."

When I heard about this change, I was unsure if it's a good thing. I know it's very hard to edit the template and wait until Blogger updates all the blog posts, but the dynamic pages could lead to serious problems.

A reader of the blog, whose digital alias is geekWithA.45, sent me this:

The nature of blogger pages is that they are infrequently published pages of (generally) low complexity, and they are frequently demanded.

"Produce content on demand" is completely the wrong policy for this, it is the wrong tool for the job.

I predict massive problems that scale directly with load, which may or may not be revealed during beta.

When that happens, blogger will go through a familiar sequence of attempted remediation steps.

First, the database connect cache settings will be played with. Then whatever the underlying system's object caching hoojie is will be turned on, and messed with extensively.

After that, they'll start messing with cluster settings for the server farm, and scratch their heads trying to scale out and cluster the back-end data servers. During this phase, the overall size and configuration of the server farm may or may not be altered dramatically.

Somewhere along the line, someone smart will say, "AHA! Edge Caching for relatively static components!" and Akamai sales reps will get in on the game.

Finally, the development team, who hasn't been home in weeks, will be taken out back of the barn and shot, but they won't mind too much, death is preferable to the hell they live in. Perhaps whoever decided to go dynamic, based on someone's grad school project white paper will be shot with them, but more likely, he or she will be promoted to a position where he can do more damage.

His arguments are interesting, but the future will tell if Blogger's decision was correct. Blogger had a lot of problems in the past, but even if their server was down and you couldn't post anything, the blog was still available. If the problems continue, when Blogger will be down, blogs will be down too.


  1. Yes, but I've seen many blogs down, so...

  2. It will be interesting to see..

    whether or not it is the most scalable model isn't the only factor. Perhaps they understand the complexities, have engineered it well, and believe the benefits from dynamically produced content will somehow outweigh any perceived reliability/availability/scalability/performance risks.

    the point is nobody knows.

  3. My hope is that since it's run by google, they already have figured out how to design the system so that it can handle large server loads.

  4. The original poster would be right if it was a regular operator and not Google.

    Google has the top expertise, infrastructure and technology in the world to operate scalable high traffic websites.

    One word: BigTable.

  5. Whoever said all that caching stuff doesn't know anything about insanely different Google does everything. Big Table is right.

  6. It is true that dynamic pages are going to be very resource intensive but Google has the luxury of resources-on-demand.

  7. That Wikipedia page says they're using BigTable for the old Blogger too, but that doesn't have anything to do with the performance of the service.

    Analytics uses BigTable and it was down (or really slow) days in a row. Google Reader was also down many times.

    Google uses less resources for other services than for search, so there will always be problems.

  8. A mix is probably the best answer. Dynamic index and link pages/areas(since they will likely change a lot) with static "post"/content pages that are less likely to change. Either way, I'm not particularly worried about seeing blogger "go down" because DB issues....

  9. 1) Dynamically generated pages is how 99% of blogging systems work
    2) It makes Blogger easier to deal with (and, in my experiance, maybe even a tad faster)


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