Anyone who has the battle scars that come from managing a large operational set of computers, like a large popular web site, knows all too well the challenge of deploying a new image site-wide. Often times, this needs to happen fast (think emergency patch) and as with so many other applications on the network, the traditional client-server model breaks down at scale in the face of this challenge.
But now there is an interesting open source project from Twitter that might bring some relief to this particular problem. The project uses BitTorrent technology and is called Murder (per the project page, a “murder” allegedly describes a flock of crows, not some lesser crime than the accusations too-often leveled against the hard-working engineers at BitTorrent, Inc). The distributed nature of BitTorrent means an operation that once took many dozens of minutes, now happens in less than a dozen seconds. These efficiencies will reduce maintenance windows, site downtime and exposure to security vulnerabilities.
The folks at Twitter will be disclosing more about the project and the performance of this solution in the coming weeks. We are thrilled to collaborate with them on this and hope that more Web Monsters out there look to this and other applications of BitTorrent in solving some of the hard problems of the Internet.