5 Tips for Scalability

Your website is slow but you’re not sure why.  You do know that it’s impacting your business.  Are you losing customers to the competition? Here are five quick tips to achieve scalability

1. Gather Intelligence

With any detective work you need information.  That’s where intelligence comes in.  If you don’t have the right data already, install monitoring and trending systems such as Cacti and Collectd.  That way you can look at where your systems have been and where they’re going.

2. Identify Bottlenecks

Put all that information to use in your investigation.  Use stress testing tools to hit areas of the application, and identify which ones are most troublesome.  Some pages get hit A LOT, such as the login page, so slowness there is more serious than one small report that gets hit by only  a few users.  Work on the biggest culprits first to get the best bang for your buck.

3. Smooth Out the Wrinkles

Reconfigure your webservers to make more connections to your database, or spin-up more servers.  On the database tier make sure you have fast RAIDed disk, and lots of memory.  Tune queries coming from your application, and look at possible upgrades to servers.

4. Be Agile But Plan for the Future

Can your webserver tier scale horizontally?  Pretty easy to add more servers under a load balancer.  How about your database.  Chances are with a little work and some HA magic your database can scale out with more servers too, moving the bulk of select operations to read-only copies of your primary server, while letting it focus on transactions, and data updates.  Be ready and tested so you know exactly how to add servers without impacting the customers or application.  Don’t know how?  Look at the big guys like Facebook, an investigate how they’re doing it.

5. A Going Concern

Most importantly, just like your business, your technology infrastructure is an ongoing work in progress.  Stay proactive with monitoring, analysis, trending, and vigilance.  Watch application changes, and filter for slow queries.  Have new hardware or additional hardware dynamically at-the-ready for when you need it.

iHeavy Insights 68 – Transparency

The analogy du jour for cleaning up the financial mess is that sunshine makes the best disinfectant.  The idea is to push for more corporate transparency as a cleaning agent upon our current financial troubles.   Whether this cleaning job will have longstanding impact remains to be seen, however it’s clear that transparency is good for markets and economic stability.
In computing that same sunshine can be put to work as a disinfectant as well.  Transparency is as important for your cloud hosted application or traditional servers alike.  So how does it work?
Your typical internet application consists of a whole fleet of servers working together to do work for you.  Unlike automobiles, bridges, buildings or even most electronics however, the construction is constantly changing.  In effect these are buildings that are always being built, and bridges always being expanded.  Due to their changing nature, their behavior changes as well.  That’s where transparency comes in.
There are a number of great historical data tools specifically designed to capture the myriad of different metrics on your servers and then analyze and graph that information for you offline.  We like offline because that means the monitoring itself won’t affect or impact the performance of your application and servers.  Some of the tools of choice today include Munin, Cacti, and Collectd.  They each have their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of installation, configurability and so forth.  What they all have in common though is the transparency they provide.
Once installed, they will begin happily collecting information and monitoring your servers, all day and all night long even while you are enjoying your sunday brunch.
Are you looking at an outage that you encountered yesterday at 11pm?  Did your customers have trouble ordering your products, or utilizing your service? Fire up your cacti graphs, and drill down to that time window, and then review the various metrics to see what they reveal.
Having the right information at your fingertips is the first step in being able to resolve troubles.  Only with the right information can you fix these problems, and serve your customers what they expect.  So follow the analogy of using sunshine as a disinfectant and shine some light into your complex cloud environments. Let transparency lead you to the root of the problem and clean it up before it touches your customers.

The analogy du jour for cleaning up the financial mess is that sunshine makes the best disinfectant.  The idea is to push for more corporate transparency as a cleaning agent upon our current financial troubles.   Whether this cleaning job will have longstanding impact remains to be seen, however it’s clear that transparency is good for markets and economic stability.

In computing that same sunshine can be put to work as a disinfectant as well.  Transparency is as important for your cloud hosted application or traditional servers alike.  So how does it work?

Your typical internet application consists of a whole fleet of servers working together to do work for you.  Unlike automobiles, bridges, buildings or even most electronics however, the construction is constantly changing.  In effect these are buildings that are always being built, and bridges always being expanded.  Due to their changing nature, their behavior changes as well.  That’s where transparency comes in.

There are a number of great historical data tools specifically designed to capture the myriad of different metrics on your servers and then analyze and graph that information for you offline.  We like offline because that means the monitoring itself won’t affect or impact the performance of your application and servers.  Some of the tools of choice today include Munin, Cacti, and Collectd.  They each have their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of installation, configurability and so forth.  What they all have in common though is the transparency they provide.

Once installed, they will begin happily collecting information and monitoring your servers, all day and all night long even while you are enjoying your sunday brunch.

Are you looking at an outage that you encountered yesterday at 11pm?  Did your customers have trouble ordering your products, or utilizing your service? Fire up your cacti graphs, and drill down to that time window, and then review the various metrics to see what they reveal.

Having the right information at your fingertips is the first step in being able to resolve troubles.  Only with the right information can you fix these problems, and serve your customers what they expect.  So follow the analogy of using sunshine as a disinfectant and shine some light into your complex cloud environments. Let transparency lead you to the root of the problem and clean it up before it touches your customers.

Book Review:  The Ascent of Money – Niall Ferguson

When I think back to the dot-com days, I recall euphoria in people’s eyes.  It was that excitement in the face of making boat loads of money off the stock market that I remember clearly.  It is the excitement of the gambler, the thought of taking the shortcut, of getting something for nothing.  I remember seeing that same look in people’s eyes when they talked about housing just a short few years ago.  Talk of flipping houses and making money without adding anything.

It’s after the bubble bursts that everyone starts to think clearly again.  The tide has receded and we are left wondering how there could be bathers who weren’t wearing bathing suits, while it’s now plain for all to see.

Niall Ferguson’s book chronicles money’s use through history both the good and the bad.  By putting the current financial mess into historical perspective, he offers us new insights into our current predicament, helping us chart the way forward.  For anyone wanting to understand the financial forces around us, this is definitely a book worth reading.