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Upgrading our database server (again)

August 28th, 2011

Database ServerYes, we’re upgrading the hardware of the Collectorz.com central online database server again.

This server is the host of all five online media databases, for movies, books, music, comic books and video games.
In other words, this central machine is the source of all search results, the items details and all cover images that you get when using your Add Automatically screen.

Our Connect web-apps, the online editions of our software, are also located on this database server.

And finally, it runs the online part of the CLZ Barry system. It is this machine that generates your Barry ID for you and what lets Barry and Buddy “talk to each other”.

You can imagine how important this server is to us and to you all, our customers 🙂 Ensuring this system is fast and always up and running is essential. So that’s why we’re giving it more powerrr !

Performance, stability and up-time

"But, didn’t you just upgrade this server?"

Yes, that is correct. Last year we had regular performance problems with our online databases, with the book and music databases in particular. So in February 2010, we moved the server to brand-new and superfast hardware.

In terms of performance, this hardware upgrade was a success. The server has been running great ever since and the performance is better than ever. Both the Add Automatically searches and the Connect web-apps are super-fast now.

However, looking at stability and up-time, the new box hasn’t been doing so well. We have seen 5 occasions of sudden and random crashes, all 5 times resulting in hours of downtime. The worst crash happening 2 weeks ago, when the server was down for over 7 hours, which of course is completely unacceptable. Again, my apologies to everyone for the inconvenience.

After this last 7-hour downtime, we immediately started investigating the cause of the problems, together with our hosting company pair.com. And we came up with the following solution:

Coming up: faster Database Server and new Image Server!

To resolve the stability problems, pair.com has kindly offered to completely replace our server hardware with their new specification for our hosting subscription. Which just happens to be a big step up from our current setup.

For the geeks among us, the new hardware for our Database Server:

  • 2x Xeon E5620 (2.4 GHz) Quad Core CPU (8 cores!)
  • 24 GB DDR3 1333Mhz RAM
  • 2x 1TB Hard Drives
  • 4x 120Gb SSD Drives in RAID setup (for the database files)

Additionally, we found that the huge amount of images stored on and served by the database server (tens of millions of them!), was not working well together with a high performance database. So we decided to rent a 2nd server from pair.com and set it up as a dedicated image server.

The geek list for the Image Server:

  • Xeon x3470 (2.93 GHz) Quad Core CPU
  • 16GB DDR3 1333Mhz RAM
  • 2x 1TB Hard Drives

This image server will host all our millions of cover images, so that our database server can just focus on it’s main task: run our databases.

Upgrade schedule and possible downtime

Setting up the new Image Server:
We have already copied most of the images to the new machine last week. We will finalize the move to the new images server in the upcoming week, starting Monday August 29. The move will be performed by product, that is, games, comics, music, books and movies. We hope to run all our images from the new server before the end of the week.

During this process, both the old database server and the new image server may need to be restarted one or more times, but downtime should be limited.

Moving to the new Database Server hardware:
This process of moving to the new database server hardware is a bit more complex. We will start preparation next week, but the final move is planned for the week of Monday September 5.

The final steps of the actual move may mean we need to “go down” for a longer period, maybe up to a few hours.

Recommended: Like us on Facebook, or Follow us on Twitter
I will post detailed updates on our progress on our Facebook page and our Twitter feed.
Make sure you like or follow so that you know what’s up if you suddenly get errors in your Add Auto screen or can’t use Connect or Barry!

Finally, let me apologize up front for any downtime and inconvenience.
But you can take it from me: it will be all for the best and another step forward for a fast, stable and enjoyable software experience.