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Compute-optimized cloud VMs boost WP Engine's web performance

High demand for increasingly dynamic, personalized websites means that compute-optimized VMs are relevant for companies such as WordPress hosting provider WP Engine.

AWS, Microsoft and Google all offer compute-optimized virtual machine options on their clouds, which are relevant not only for scenarios such as gaming and high-performance computing, but also more common use cases.

WP Engine, an Austin, Texas, company that offers hosting services for the widely used, open source WordPress content management system, is an AWS and Google Cloud customer. The company recently began to use new C2 compute-optimized cloud VMs from Google Cloud and saw a 40% increase over the general-purpose N1 VMs its team tried out, founder and CTO Jason Cohen said.

For testing purposes, the company used typical WordPress sites that incorporate e-commerce functionality, such as product catalog browsing and purchase checkouts. More dynamic WordPress sites often keep data sets almost entirely in-memory, according to Cohen. "In those cases, the speed of the [storage] is irrelevant and it's only the speed of the CPU that dictates the speed of the website," he said.

Websites are increasingly dynamic, in part to deliver more personalized experiences online, and compute-optimized cloud VMs can help deliver the goods, Cohen added.

"Performance and speed is always critical for marketing, and speed equals money in e-commerce," he said.

Jason Cohen, WP EngineJason Cohen

Another factor in website speed is the efficiency of a browser's JavaScript engine. This has become less of a concern over time, and Google's open source JavaScript engine V8 is particularly good, Cohen said.

Many companies and websites don't need the extra horsepower from compute-optimized VMs, such as a small media company that posts a handful of articles each day. Even some higher-end customers have mostly static websites cached on content delivery networks, and compute-optimized VMs won't materially change those sites' performance either, Cohen said.

WP Engine also uses compute-optimized VMs on AWS, but Google's new type appears to be faster than those, Cohen added. The company's architecture for WordPress sites on AWS has multiple availability zones and a much more complex setup, but some customers desire or require the AWS option, he added.

Google expands cloud VM options

Like its competitors, Google wants to offer customers as many types of cloud VM instances as possible for various needs, even as the market shifts toward containers.

Performance and speed is always critical for marketing, and speed equals money in e-commerce.
Jason CohenCTO, WP Engine

For general-purpose instances with balanced levels of compute, network and storage, Google Cloud now offers an N2 tier powered by 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs. They are in beta and provide more than 20% improvement in price versus performance over previous versions, according to a blog post.

The beta N2 types are available now in select U.S., European and Asia-Pacific regions and will be offered in most of the rest over the next few months, Google said.

Google has also moved its previously announced M2 memory-optimized VMs into beta, with sizes that contain up to 12 TB of RAM. They are certified for SAP HANA, the application vendor's in-memory database.

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