Colophon for the GOV.UK beta

We’ve been cataloguing the technologies and tools we’ve used in producing the beta of GOV.UK. Naturally our technology stack is always evolving, but this list captures its state at the moment when the beta was released. You can see the equivalent list for alpha.gov.uk here.

We’ll be updating this post with links to more detailed blog entries on various tools and technologies over the coming days.

Hosting and Infrastructure

  • DNS hosted by Dyn.com
  • Servers are Amazon EC2 instances running Ubuntu 10.04LTS
  • Email (internal alerts) sending via Amazon SES and Gmail
  • Miscellaneous file storage on Amazon S3
  • Jetty application server
  • Nginx, Apache and mod_passenger
  • Jenkins continuous integration server
  • Caching by Varnish
  • Configuration management using Puppet

Languages, Frameworks and Plugins

  • Most of the application code is written in Ruby, running on a mixture of Rails and Sinatra
    Rails and Sinatra gave us the right balance of productivity and clean code, and were well known to the team we’ve assembled. We’ve used a range of gems along with these, full details of which can be found in the Gemfiles at https://github.com/alphagov
  • The router is written in Scala and uses Scalatra for its internal API
    The router distributes requests to the appropriate backend apps, allowing us to keep individual apps very focussed on a particular problem without exposing that to visitors. We did a bake-off between a ruby implementation and a scala implementation and were convinced that the scala version was better able to handle the high level of concurrency this app will require.

Databases

  • MongoDB
    We started out building everything using MySQL but moved to MongoDB as we realised how much of our content fitted its document-centric approach. Over time we’ve been more and more impressed with it and expect to increase our usage of it in the future.
  • MySQL hosted using Amazon’s RDS platform
    Some of the data we need to store is still essentially relational and we use MySQL to store that. Amazon RDS takes away many of the scaling and resilience concerns we had with that without requiring changes to our application code.
  • MaPit geocoding and information service from mySociety
    MaPit not only does conventional geocoding (what’s the lon/lat for a postcode) but also gives us details of all the local government areas a postcode is in, which lets us point visitors to relevant local services

Frontend

  • HTML & CSS (naturally), with elements from HTML5 & CSS3 where appropriate
  • Javascript uses jQuery, jQuery UI, Chosen, and a variety of other plugins
  • Gill Sans provided by fonts.com
  • Google web font loader

Misc


James Stewart is Tech Lead on the beta of GOV.UK. You can follow @jystewart on Twitter