I thought I’d offer a quick update on recent happenings at the Nexus as we battle to resolve the stability of the servers once and for all. Plus I bring news of a new NMM version with a cool “new” feature in it. First of all, the servers.
Right, last time I spoke to you we’d managed to get the database cluster online with 3 nodes (3 servers). Things were going fine and dandy, however, every once in awhile one of the nodes was getting out of sync. That’s fine, these things do happen without it being a bug in the system or what not. Unfortunately when a node becomes out of sync that node no longer serves requests so we only have 2 functioning nodes (or to put it another way, we’re running at 66% capacity) during this time. To make matters even worse another node needs to stop serving requests as well while the out-of-sync node can be brought back up to speed. So 1 node being out of sync actually brings 2 nodes down, so in a 3 node cluster we go down to only 33% capacity if a single node goes out of sync. During this time the sites become extremely slow or unresponsive due to the greatly diminished capacity of the cluster. If the single node running the entire network becomes too overloaded then we need to take matters into our own hands and manually shut down sites (send them into maintenance mode) until things are back and working. If you got redirected to our maintenance page at all over the past couple of months then that’s why. Are you following me so far?
The solution? Buy more servers and add them to the cluster. And that’s what we did. We now have 5 nodes in our cluster using 1 node as a hot spare; so 4 are serving requests from the site while the 5th sits back and stays in sync with all the others but doesn’t handle any of your requests. The thinking being when a node becomes out of sync the hot spare can kick into action and bring the out-of-sync node back into the fold quickly without having to worry about diminishing the performance of the rest of the cluster. Unfortunately we’ve run into a problem where-by adding more nodes to the cluster has actually had a worse effect, rather than a better effect, and after a month or so of troubleshooting we still have no idea why. We’re continuing to run tests in the day, which cause the 502/504/maintenance page errors you might have come across if you browse the site regularly and we’re currently drawing up a contract with a database consultancy firm so they can have an expert take a look at the issue. At $300 an hour. This means there might be some more short term pain (downtime or slowdowns) for what will hopefully be a future of peace and tranquility where the word down will never follow the word time on these sites again.
And hot on the heels of our database is our cloud cluster. So you’re wondering why we need two clusters? One is for database operations and one is for the actual page serving operations. If one of the nodes in the database cluster goes down then you can (well, you’re supposed to be able to) still use the sites perfectly fine. However at the moment, each of the Nexus sites (e.g. the actual pages of the site) are confined to a single dedicated server, so if that server goes down then you cannot access the site irrespective of whether the database is working fine. The Cloud solution we’ve ordered will make use of 6 identical virtual servers setup in a load balanced array. This means that all sites will make use of all 6 servers and if one server goes down all the sites will still work. That’s what we’re aiming for.
Meanwhile in Nexus Mod Manager land…
It seems like a long time since we released a major update to NMM. That’s because it has been a long time since we released a major update to NMM. We’ve been knocking out bug fixes every once in awhile but in the background the programmers have been working on one goal.
The ability to create and manage multiple different playlists for each game we support so you can switch between your playlists before running the game.
What’s the point? Well, if you’re the type of person who likes to do multiple different playthroughs of your game then it should make managing your specific mod lists for each playthrough that much easier. If you like to roll a warrior, a mage and a thief, for instance, you can create different profiles for each of your characters with mods specific to that character’s playthrough, as well as mods used by all the playthroughs.
This profiling system will make use of file linking methods, essentially shortcuts (or symlinks if you’re a UNIX buff) already available in all versions of Windows rather than using a .dll hack that intercepts file calls. Instead of installing your mods directly in to the game’s mod folder all your mods will be installed in the NMM mods folder and linked to via shortcuts that will be automatically set up in the Skyrim data folder by NMM.
It’s our hope to expand this in the not too distant future so you can sync your profiles with the sites, allowing you to share your profiles/playlists with other players on the site in a new section of the site set up specifically for NMM playlists.
Because this new version of NMM has a whole new mod installation method I’m predicting there’s going to be a few issues. The programmers have coded a conversion system that should automatically convert your current mod list over to the new method but as there’s only 2 programmers, and myself, that can test a release before it gets sent out we cannot test the billions of possible software and hardware combinations with this new version. And that’s where we rely on you. We’ll be doing a test release first. It’s our hope that some users will be willing to give the new version a thorough test before we make it an official release of NMM. That means if you want to use this new version to begin with you’ll need to download it manually from a link we provide and the NMM version checker won’t automatically install this version until we’ve had some thorough testing. This should prevent my inbox getting filled with hate mail from users who didn’t read all the warnings when installing this new version. And there are plenty of warnings in the installer with the option to cancel at any time.
The worst thing that can happen is that the converter cannot work out what mods you had activated and what mods you had deactivated, and so you’ll end up with a mod list with everything deactivated (requiring you to manage your activated mods and load order again), but we won’t know if this is a major problem until people actually test it. It works for us. It might not work for you. Hence, OPEN BETA!
Keep your eye out for the new version of NMM in the site news. And if you’re cool you’ll download it before it goes on general release and let us know if it worked for you. If you’re uncool you won’t. And you’ll probably find something to complain about. Because you’re uncool.