Server architecture for a multiplayer game?

I'm planning to build a small multiplayer game which could be run as a java applet or a flash file in the web browser. I haven't done any server programming before, so I'm wondering what sort of server architecture i should have. It'll be easy for me to create perl/php files on the server, which the java/flash code contacts to update the player position/actions, etc. But I'm considering whether i should get a dedicated web host, which OS to use, which database, etc. Also, the amount of bandwidth used and scalability is a consideration. Another option could be using a cloud hosting system (as opposed to a dedicated server), so they would take care of adding additional machines as the game grows. As long as each server ran the core perl/php files for updating the database, it should work fine. Yet another option could be using Google app engine. Any thoughts regarding the server architecture, OS/database choice, and whether my method of using perl/php/python scripts for server-side programing is a good one, will be appreciated!
Can you elaborate what kind of game this is? This will help us help you :)

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