The First Hours
We had been testing and bug-fixing the new website for the entire weekend but as always, when you finally DO go live you'll find out there's still one more thing to do. In our case, it turned out we had not re-configured the database server to the new hostname of our new webserver. As a result, the new site was unavailable for about half an hour.
After that, thing went rather smoothly - traffic literally poured in at about 2 to 3 pageviews per second and to our joy the new server held up beautifully while the Blender community was exploring their new home. Under these conditions our old server would already be having a hard time, so things were looking good.
We had a few more minor issues to fix the next day: blender.org (without the 'www.') was still showing incorrect content and of course there were lots of content changes still being made. This is an ongoing process; if you find anything not in order on the new site (and you will!) be sure to report it through the blender.org contact form.
When I woke up the next day, we were already on Digg.com. Like Slashdot, being listed on their homepage results in massive amounts of traffic. At the end of the day Slashdot also featured a post on the release (and they included a link to BlenderNation - sweet!). The load on the Blender.org webserver was still acceptable, but around midnight local time there was a hiccup for a few minutes. I'm not sure what happened, but after that, business resumed as usual. Our website statistics show that on Monday, we had around 400,000 pageviews and 65,000 Blender downloads (including the mirror downloads that originated from our download page).
Thanks to being mentioned on site as Digg and Slashdot, the news will be disseminating fast this week. This morning we were already on the CGSociety.org homepage and I'm expecting many more to follow over the next few days. During the 2.42 release, traffic levels were extreme for about two weeks..
Oh, while you're there - if you have an account on Digg, please give us a digg, won't ya? It'll help push Blender higher up on the site.
About the new server
Our new server is a Dual Core 2 E6600 / 4GB / 3 x 250GB running FreeBSD. We've stopped using Apache as our webserver as it's too much of a resource hog on such a high-traffic website and instead we're now using lighty - a simple but high-performance webserver. Our PHP engines use the opcode cache XCache. The site is still using Typo3 as its Content Management System, but we have switched to using TemplaVoila as the templating engine. This results in a much larger flexibility for our layouts; mixing single column and multi column content is now possible, and we have several types of content for the sidebar (such as banners - see the homepage, related links and notes). We are thinking about adding a few more content types later to spice up the site even more. The new caching mechanism in Typo3 4.0 is awesome; on our old site we published all our content to 'static' HTML files to avoid database hits, but the new 4.0 is so fast that we can do without that.
Well, so far it was fun! A few years ago, being linked to from Slashdot would always result in a state of slight panic and raised adrenalin levels but now we're at the point where we can easily handle Slashdot and Digg at the same time. Ton was even disappointed that our servers weren't overloaded this time ;-)
I think it's fair to say that we have a team of great people working on this project. There was a fair deal of sighing and an occasional curse this weekend, but the result speaks for itself. Thanks guys!