Internet Servers Doing the Buzz Shuffle - The Waggle Dance
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A forager bee's job is to collect nectar for the hive. And even us humans know that optimal weather conditions are more of a blessing than a common occurrence. Add to that the sun's position in the sky and a plant's blooming/withering cycle and you'll get an idea of what bees have to deal with on a daily basis. The forager needs to be told where the most affluent flower patch is at any given moment in the most efficient way possible.
Enter the waggle dance. The waggle dance is, quite simply, the dance of the honey bee. This figure-eight shuffle helps foragers share information about the location of the highest nectar yielding flower patches. It is strictly a recruitment mechanism designed to bring in the most nectar, but deep down I think they enjoy doing it.
A bee will come back from a highly prosperous source patch so excited, it has to express itself on the dance floor – in this case, one of the vertical combs. The dance itself can range from 1 to 100 “circuits” with two phases in each circuit (the waggle phase and the return phase) forming a figure-eight. It starts off with a waggle run, which is just shuffling back and forth down a straight line, then a turn to the right and circling back to the starting point, another waggle, and a turn to the left, circling back to the start. That is just one “circuit.”
Shake your groove thing!
The waggle phase of the dance is the most important. The direction and duration of the run coincides with the direction and distance of the flower patch. If the patch is in line with the sun, the waggle will go upward on the vertical comb. If it is to the left or right of the sun, the run will go up and to the left or right. The duration of the waggle correlates with the distance to the patch. Also, if the dance lasts an extended period of time, the bees are capable of altering the dance according to the sun's shift in movement. Maybe they aren't as mindless as I thought.
In the same way that a group of bees are called on to forage a certain flower patch, a group of Internet servers handling requests for a co-hosted service make up what's called a “virtual server.” They range in size from small to large depending on the amount of traffic to a particular site. Decisions on how to allocate these servers must be made when the traffic fluctuates from site to site. And because a fee can be earned on the basis of how many requests are served, a hosting center doesn't want to see requests waiting to be served all because a server wasn't allocated to that particular virtual server.
This kind of problem isn't new to hosting companies. And because finding the hot sites is much like finding the prosperous flower patch, developers have been working on a way to incorporate the waggle dance into Internet server orchestration. The next section will take a deeper look at just how they are doing this.
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