Flash Masters: Shape Shifting Into the Modern Data Center

Flash memory is taking the data center world by storm and creating new and innovative opportunities to challenge the status quo. This is occurring across numerous use cases: turning SQL server databases into fraud detection powerhouses for the world’s largest retailers, scaling MySQL to support the infrastructure behind a premier sport league’s mobile application, and capturing massive data volumes in real time with new NoSQL stores like MongoDB. Across the board, these organizations are breaking new ground with unprecedented performance, scaling beyond what was previously possible, and slashing infrastructure spending.

Pushing SQL Server Performance to Protect Retail Businesses

Sysrepublic a global leader in retail software technology, based in London and Los Angeles, delivers Secure, a loss prevention solution used by retailers worldwide to catch and prevent fraud, theft, and shrink. Secure protects more than 50 million transactions per day across 20,000 stores worldwide. Sysrepublic counts the largest retail chains on three continents among its customers.

Secure provides immediate insight into critical data, which demands a lot from database infrastructure, particularly conventional solutions based on disk drives. Real time tools to find and investigate real time fraud requires speed and performance from hardware that can handle these massive data loads while maintaining performance. 

According to Nathan Smith, chief executive officer, Americas for Sysrepublic, “We are constantly pushing the performance envelope with Secure to deliver unparalleled results for our clients. SQL Server delivers the database features we need to provide a great customer experience. The final piece was guaranteeing performance and delivering a compact and powerful solution without requiring expensive external storage arrays.”

Sysrepublic uses PCIe NAND flash solutions to boost SQL Server performance. Placing flash natively within the server, instead of externally on a storage network, ensured that critical low-latency requests were handled with ease. Total processing throughput improved, reporting time decreased, and the rate of successfully identifying loss increased.

Scaling MySQL to Support Ultra-High Demand Mobile Websites

BroadCloud delivers managed services and hosting to demanding applications. Brent Eubanks, EVP, Strategic Services of BroadCloud, says, “We typically get the 20% of the applications that are the most difficult to scale and secure.”

When the call came from a premier sports league to support their mobile web site, the team at BroadCloud knew it would need to be prepared, flexible, and able to deploy performance quickly and with the utmost precision.

Between 2010 and 2011, the league saw a six-to-eight-times increase in traffic and the demand from the mobile website was placing undue strain on the server infrastructure. The addition of a fantasy league polling the same statistics threw the databases for a loop, particularly as they needed to support 40 million refreshes in a single game day afternoon.

BroadCloud found that it could most easily scale its MySQL solution by deploying blade servers coupled with a PCIe-based flash device in the mezzanine slot of each blade. It could then simply redirect the most active databases to the flash-enabled blades quickly and easily to keep up with demands.

“Scalability is always top of mind as we support some of the world’s most demanding applications,” explains Brent Eubanks, EVP, Strategic Services of BroadCloud. “We particularly appreciate the ability to build a platinum tier of hosting infrastructure for these applications by using native PCIe based flash devices in our blade servers. This allows us to redirect MySQL databases to these powerful server nodes with all of the same settings we use throughout our infrastructure.”

Solving Real-Time Challenges with New Data Stores

Meeting the demands of real-time workloads presents unique challenges for companies that want to ingest, process, present, and store data. According to Dale Russell, CTO at Talksum, “When we consider the demanding needs to process big data in real time, leaving the speeds of silicon and going to rotating mechanical disks is simply not an option.”

Talksum is an emerging company built from the ground up for real-time event handling for massive volumes of streaming data. The company employs a “light but powerful” architecture that transforms incoming data streams into a common protocol for filtering, routing and driving interactions through APIs 

“Coupling our event handling and data stores enabled with server-based PCIe flash technologies has allowed us to achieve more transactional throughput with less infrastructure than disk-based technologies could even approach,” Russell continues. “We have had success with MongoDB and other datastores where we can process more transactions with less server infrastructure by utilizing the low-latency capabilities of persistent flash as storage in the server.”

Changing Data Center Performance and Economics

From these examples, we can see the power of server-based PCIe flash solutions to boost performance and reduce costs across applications like SQL Server, MySQL, and new data stores like MongoDB. Regardless of database choice, opportunities exist across the board to change the status quo through innovative flash-enabled solutions.

About the author:

Gary Orenstein is vice president of products at Fusion-io.