“I know membership sites aren't a great fit for you, and [I've] had reservations about launching…”
It was a statement I'd said way too often to friends like Tomas, Heather, or Jason at WP Engine.
It wasn't exactly their fault. After all, how many different hosts, WordPress Managed or other, struggled with the ever-increasing performance requirements of membership or eCommerce sites?
And I'm not just talking about memberships for sites like my own. My day job, as the CTO & Chief Strategist at Crowd Favorite, has me working on membership sites that see ridiculous numbers of daily membership visitors traffic WordPress sites we've built.
What I had loved about WP Engine was the innovation of their early days. They weren't the first to roll out Managed WordPress Hosting but they had done a great job of introducing several innovations that today are industry-standards (from staging sites to git integration).
But more often, in recent days, the challenge of dealing with success and growth had been a burden that made me question when we'd see the old innovation focus resurface.
So I'd moved my site, another membership site, and one of our larger corporate projects to Pagely. There, my site was using something called HHVM – a Facebook creation that helps sites perform much faster.
Over drinks & cigars
My friend Tomas and I hang out talking cigars more than we talk work. It's a pleasure knowing someone who knows what I do but also enjoys a good cigar and doesn't mind not talking about work.
Yet, over the last several months there's been that look in the eyes of a friend who can't share details but is working on something that is exciting him. Something that suggests he wants to talk more about work than about our cigars.
His only hint: “We're working on something that is taking all of your feedback and will make you happy.”
My hope was more Seth-designed t-shirts (which are the best in the entire WordPress community).
Because seriously, who can have enough intelligently-designed t-shirts?
WP Engine is innovating again
But what Tomas had been working on, with the WP Engine Labs team, was just as good. (Notice I didn't say better, because I don't ever want to offend Seth and his t-shirts.)
In September WP Engine announced significant enhancements to how they were thinking about cache – which enables sites to perform well because they show content that has already been pulled (previously) from the database. This enables sites to load the content without hitting the database at all, which is the expensive performance issue.
But this was an alpha. Just an early peak. One of the early results of moving Tomas from marketing to R&D and getting him and Jason to work on interesting technology challenges again.
Today they made a larger announcement – called Mercury.
What is Mercury & who is it for?
Mercury is WP Engine's high performance WordPress hosting solution for Enterprises.
So to be clear, sites like yours and mine, blogs and corporate sites that are more “content” than “application” won't need this. This is overkill for that kind of stuff.
This is a formula one car. Most of us shouldn't ever drive one. We're not qualified.
This is more for the work we do at Crowd Favorite. Large, complex, high performance sites that require users to be logged in, can't use the normal cache strategies, and require a different level of fail-over.
Mercury brings HHVM to our customers. High performance hosting available for enterprises.
But it does more than that. It brings a master/master replication strategy to the enterprise – so that you're not looking for a cold or warm fail over. That means that when one server is unavailable, another server loads your site from another location immediately. Immediately.
To do that you have to be synchronizing your content (and managing your DNS) between these different servers, in different locations, all the time.
And that's what they've done.
But as you can imagine, that also means their particular setup is complicated and different from your standard configuration. So they've created a Vagrant box that developers can use locally, much like Automattic's VIP hosting. And they did it with the help of the good folks at 10up who created VVV, so they know something about Vagrant and WordPress.
Enterprises have options
Maybe the best news of their announcement today is that enterprises now have options.
The custom configurations available with SiteGround's GetClouder, the scaling configurations using Amazon infrastructure from Pagely, and this new Enterprise HHVM solution from WP Engine – all give enterprises options for what they need.
WordPress is growing at the edges, but it's also scaling into the enterprise.
That's good news for all.