I thought as a break form the normal prose some of our readers might enjoy a short overview of the Stack Exchange Network (including Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and Super User) from a technical view:


  • 95 Million Page Views a Month
  • 800 HTTP requests a second
  • 180 DNS requests a second
  • 55 Megabits per second

Data Centers:

Production Servers*:

  • 12 Web Servers (Windows Server 2008 R2)
  • 2 Database Servers (Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 R2)
  • 2 Load Balancers (Ubuntu Server and HAProxy)
  • 2 Caching Servers (Redis on CentOS)
  • 1 Router / Firewall (Ubuntu Server)
  • 3 DNS Servers (Bind on CentOS)

Software and Technologies Used:

Developers and System Administrators:

  • 14 Developers
  • 2 System Administrators

*(excludes fail over and management servers)

  • Are you going to post details on the hardware of the various machines?

  • Chamiltongt

    What are you guys using for version control? I know, boring, but I’m curious.

    • Oops forgot about source control 🙂 Updated the post, it is Mercurial (and many use the kiln interface)

      • Guest

        Where is the “updated post”, I don’t see any mention of VCS in the above blog post. 😉

  • What’s the Ubuntu Server for? HAProxy?

  • Why Redis on CentOS and not Ubuntu like HAProxy?

    • Hi Darren,

      I actually ran into a problem with Ubuntu server where it would boot into ‘runlevel unknown’ which has made me a little wary of Ubuntu server (I was able to fix it, but the problem has been around for a few releases). For my monitoring and backup systems I really favor Ubuntu as it has a package for everything and I can install new tools easily without hunting for repositories or compiling the programs. For things like the router and HAProxy I will probably opt for CentOS going forward. However, I don’t feel so strongly about this that I felt the need to rebuild the haproxy servers. That reminds me, I totally forgot to mention our 3 bind DNS servers — time to update the post!

      • Charlie

        If you like Ubuntu’s ‘package for everything’, you might like Arch Linux. It’s a little lighter than Ubuntu, and everything in their repos is up-to-date.

        • RyanD

          for production, I’d rather stick with a widely accepted stable release than the newest version deemed stable by the package maintainer.

  • Matt Phillips

    Looks pretty cool to me!

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  • Built in MVC, not web forms, right?

    • Yup, this is correct, we’re moving to MVC3 now (like right now, chat is already running on it).

  • Architecture still seems to be favoring scaling-up vs scaling-out, is that correct?

    Does the team use any key-value store systems for analytics processing?

  • wdh

    Is there any CDN in front of things at all? I’m assuming no, but wanted to verify.

    • No we do not use a CDN. All static content is served off the sstatic.net domain hosted in our datacenters.

  • @Kyle,

    Can you expand on the http requests (800/s) vs page views (95m/mo) figures a bit? Is 800/s a peak figure? I’m just curious because 95,000,000/(seconds in a month) is more like 36 hits/second. Is 96% of your traffic really API or Ajax calls? (It’s also possible I’m an idiot.)

    • Every asset served and AJAX request is also an HTTP request. ‘Page views’ doesn’t include these types of requests.

    • Hi Michael,

      Each pageview is going to make multiple HTTP requests. These include requests to our cookie-less sstatic.net static content if that data has not been cached on the client as well things like Ajax requests and API requests. But yes, 800 req/s is the peak amount of requests (Actually a little higher). From a sysadmin perspective I am mostly interested in my peak figures as this is what we need to make sure we can handle.

      • Thanks for clarifying, Kyle. It’s clearly an impressive system–good work!

  • Are you guys still using LINQ to SQL?

    • I’d like to know the answer to that too!

    • Yes, where it makes sense – in other places we’re using raw SQL.

  • wil

    Awesome! Amazing how few servers considering the popularity/throughput – Good admin! 🙂

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  • ahm

    What does backula backup in your architecture?

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  • nicely done. Not into the MS stack but nice job anyway.

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  • I bet those are beefy servers whose specs have been conveniently left out. Look we’re only on two servers and it only cost us $100K + hardware costs. And I’m guessing $100K is nowhere near the actual cost since you have to pay by CPU or CAL. Pooh on the open source guys, they need a bunch of $10K servers to get the same results.

    • wil

      I’m guessing you have not seen statistics for some sites in similar usage to SO – You would be surprised…

      • sm

        I know it is kind of late to ask it – but could you elaborate how we would be surprised?

        Is the amount of hardware high or low compared to other sites? What is the usage scenario on these other sites: seldom updates and a relativly static page grwoth or many small updates every second (like on so)? How is the search beeing used?Thanks for any feedback

    • We’re very open about the hardware…we simply didn’t repeat it in this blog post. You can find the complete specs in an earlier post on this very blog: http://blog.serverfault.com/post/1432571770/

  • Railmeat

    I am curious about how you are using Bacula for backup. Are you backing up to tape or disk to tape? I assume the actual backup server is running Linux.

    • We do both. We backup to disk for fast retrieval and to tape for historical archiving.

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  • James

    RReally like this post. Generous gift out to the community.

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  • Nick

    Hi there, you have 2 HaProxy load balancers but then say * excludes fail over. I assume 1 at each DC? Do you have any failover for the load balancers, and how do you manage that/them (heart beat?), why not use Peer1’s ‘community’ load balancer – any issues using your own?

  • Question: Why prefer splunk over developing your own solution?

    • My guess is that it’s substantially cheaper (currently) to use an existing tool that has support than it is to roll their own

    • Matt

      Log analysis and event correlation is a difficult problem and massive effort to build yourself. Why not default to a pre-existing product? Splunk seems affordable.

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  • Matt

    Hi Kyle thanks for posting. Would love to know how you decided on Redis vs. the alternatives like Memcached, Microsoft’s alternative, etc?

    Also what are some of your use cases for Splunk? Love it.

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  • Iamxjb

    use Asp.net mvc ?

  • -One- firewall? What happens if it breaks or gets rebooted? Have you considered dual ASA’s in stateful active/passive failover, or something like CARP atleast?

    • Fine print at the bottom: *(excludes fail over and management servers)


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  • 95M page views per month on only 12 app servers and 2DB server is truly impressive! Nice work!

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  • Diego Barros

    Are you guys using any sort of message queuing for background tasks?

    For example, sending emails, resizing images (if you needed to do this), etc. Anything that doesn’t have to be done when a web server request is made.

  • Kyle, how are you making your SQL Servers highly available? Are they setup in a cluster or are you using mirroring?

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  • Anonymous

    Very good information, thanks! It is nice to see stuff that can be applied to the not google/facebook scale websites as well! 

  • Joy George

    Thanks for the post..I don’t know is it right to ask..What are the best practices you are taking while calculating the badges and all? Is it a background task? or done when people click on the points link or profile page?

  • Kaye

    Awesome! i’m not a system administrators. why 180 DNS requests a second needs 3 DNS server ?

  • Awesome! What is the page views a month now in 2012?


  • Do you use 12 physical web servers? If so, then what hardware configuration they have?

  • Erick Machado Alvarez

    The application is centralized? How do servers to communicate with the application?

  • Josh

    Would be great if you updated this to current…

  • shahyad

    That was fun. The servers and how do they work?کرکره برقیراهبند اتوماتیک