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Thoughts on Scaling Without a Database

16 replies on 2 pages. Most recent reply: Apr 30, 2007 12:32 PM by Bob Lozano

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James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Databases are only for mid-sized apps Posted: Apr 17, 2007 2:52 PM
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> You should work there for awhile. I did for 2.5 years and
> it smashed a bunch of previously held prejudices I had
> about how to build scalable apps. Amazon started out as a
> conventional database centric app. A lot of the
> architecture evolved to work around the lack of
> scalability in the database. That limit was reached many
> years ago and new models have been developed to cope with
> their admittedly unique demands.
>
> Its a pity they don't publish their own research
> (competitive advantage), although they do a good job of
> sharing knowledge through weekly brown bag presentations.

I guess the team we worked with didn't attend those sessions. We were forced to hobble our server to keep it from bringing theirs to it's knees. They couldn't handle more than a handful of inbound connections. When we let out servers run at full clip, we would frequently crash theirs. We to limit our outbound messages to a small fraction of what we could do with a single server.

Bob Lozano

Posts: 1
Nickname: boblozano
Registered: Apr, 2007

Re: Databases are only for mid-sized apps Posted: Apr 30, 2007 12:32 PM
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> > I think it's harder to design
> > than the standard ACID approach, or a least less well
> > known.
>
> Sure it is. ACID is conceptually easy. It is a nice
> model. But the usual implementation isn't efficient
> enough for really high volumes.
>
> You should work there for awhile. I did for 2.5 years and
> it smashed a bunch of previously held prejudices I had
> about how to build scalable apps. Amazon started out as a
> conventional database centric app. A lot of the
> architecture evolved to work around the lack of
> scalability in the database. That limit was reached many
> years ago and new models have been developed to cope with
> their admittedly unique demands.
>
> These days the mantra is: Scalability, Availability,
> Consistency - pick two. Conventional ACID emphasizes the
> latter two while saying nothing at all about scalability -
> which pretty well guarantees you're not going to get it.
Agree that ACID is less complex but limiting in a bunch of apps than more scale-friendly approaches (caching, shards, etc.). "Consistent eventually" is sufficient in even many financial systems, as long as it is dependably true.

I think there are two bigger problems when you let go of the comfort of the traditional rdbms - 1) impact on operations when you actually deploy of all the additional moving parts and 2) impact on the app developer of the additional complexity.

In http://www.appistry.com/blogs/bob/architecture/scaling-digg-shards-and-the-db/ I start to contemplate that point and make the case for ways to help with those two problems / opportunities.

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