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Linux Makes PalTalk Possible In A Windows World - page 2

Reaching Out and Touching Everyone

  • July 24, 2003
  • By Rob Reilly

Katz was batting around the idea for an instant messaging, audio, and video system as an integrated web based package as early as January of 1998. By August of that same year, production started with a single dual-processor Pentium II 300-MHz Windows machine. Five developers tapped into that development system.

The early PalTalk service ran on Interport-hosted servers and lasted for about 5 months. Demands rapidly grew and PalTalk moved over to Exodus, who was a major hosting player at the time. Now hosting is done by AT&T in two separate data centers.

It wasn't all fun and games in the beginning. After switching to Linux for the back-end platform, Katz and his team spent "lots of time building kernels." He wanted to optimize the performance for the various server functions. The server's cluster, audio, and video software are all Java-based. Katz settled on Java because it ran on a number of platforms and "just worked as advertised." Hiring high-end programmers and writing Java code also accomplished Katz' goal of being able scale up the operation by simply imaging a machine and then adding it to the network as the business grew.

Scaling the operation proved to be important, because Katz now says that he adds 10 new server nodes about every 3-4 months to keep up with user demand.

When asked about his choice for Linux as a development and server environment, he immediately replied that cost was a major factor in the decision. He also said that he couldn't see Windows being able to handle the tasks and loads that his operation generates.

Interestingly enough, many of the early PalTalk programmers came out of the IT industry on Wall Street. Which makes some sense, since PalTalk is based in New York City. Katz has assembled a team of 25 full-time employees who seem to have put together a very functional package.

Katz also mentioned that he was grateful to IBM and Sun for providing development servers, test machines and consulting when he was just getting the PalTalk service off the ground.

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