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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wikipedia short of money? No

Florence Devouard (known as Anthere on the projects), the Chair of the Wikimedia Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation (which operates Wikipedia amongst other projects) has said at LIFT07 that the project will close in 3-4 months unless they get more funding. (Update actual quote via Scoble. So Devouard never said Wikimedia was that short of cash. But I still don't agree with their finacial planning - read below and the update.)

I don't buy that for a moment. Wikimedia has just finished a $1m fund raising campaign, and gets a steady $30-40,000 a month in donations besides that. They are not short of servers nor cash to buy new ones.

In fact that September order is their latest - they haven't spent a penny of the $1m yet, but Wikimedia is running just fine. Their traffic growth is far from unmanageable, too.

Update Erasoft 24 below led me to "What we need the money for", from the Wikimedia Foundation. However I'm struggling to agree with the report, which suggest that 300 new servers will be bought in February, more than double the existing total (Devouard says 350, Nagios says 295). Why does Wikimedia need to *greatly* more than double its server power so soon? (Many of the existing servers are quite old, e.g. single core P4s.) Wikimedia's Ganglia monitoring shows average CPU loads of 55% and a peak of 70% (but look at the Kennisnet figures - the existing machines are barely being used!).

Buying so many servers when the site does not appear to have any load issues at the moment seems unwarranted. Performance per dollar is constantly dropping so the Foundation would get much better value later on. Then there's the rackspace costs.

I ask the same questions about buying more bandwidth - why go to 10Gb? The traffic graphs I linked to above suggest such a large pipe wouldn't fill for years, so why buy it now? Also the same of hiring more people - why does the Foundation need to increase staff costs by three times, from $32,000 a month to $100,000 a month?

If I'm wrong on any of this, feel free to explain why in the comments!

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A Wikipedia spokeswoman later backed off the dire quote about it "disappearing." More here:
Just an FYI- while Wikipedia has not spent a great deal of its 1 million raised, keep in mind that their bandwidth cost over $10,000 a quarter.
I'm sure you'll be interested in looking at this: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/What_we_need_the_money_for

Of course, the Foundation will have to cut most of the expenses, but I'm sure there will be a wikiblack-out :'(
Erasoft24, thanks for the link, will update post.
> The traffic graphs I linked to above suggest such a large pipe wouldn't fill for years, so why buy it now?

Because you need to buy bandwith in blocks and given that WP is now at 2gbps the next reasonable block to grow into is about 10gbps -- depends on the provider.

Also, 10gbps is not years away -- less than a year ago they were at .5Gbps. If traffics continues as it does now, traffice spikes could reach into 10Gbps next year. Not that far away.

But, in the end I agree with your conclusions. The money they have in the bank NOW would cover 3-4 months of the budget they want to grow into during 2007.
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