MySQL and Memcached: End of an Era?

If you look at the early days of this blog, when web scalability was still in its heady bloom of youth, many of the articles had to do with leveraging MySQL and memcached. Exciting times. Shard MySQL to handle high write loads, cache objects in memcached to handle high read loads, and then write a lot of glue code to make it all work together. That was state of the art, that was how it was done. The architecture of many major sites still follow this pattern today, largely because with enough elbow grease, it works.

This was a pre-cloud, relational database dominated world, built from parts scrounged from the remnants of enterprises and datacenters past. Twitter and Digg started in this era, but are evolving into something different, as scaling pressures increase and new purpose built technologies pop into being.

With a little perspective, it's clear the MySQL+memcached era is passing. It will stick around for a while. Old technologies seldom fade away completely. Some still ride horses. Some still use CDs. And the Internet will not completely replace that archaic electro-magnetic broadcast technology called TV, but the majority will move on into a new era.

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Paper: High Performance Scalable Data Stores 

The world of scalable databases is not a simple one. They come in every race, creed, and color. Rick Cattell has brought some harmony to that world by publishing High Performance Scalable Data Stores, a nicely detailed one stop shop paper comparing scalable databases soley on the content of their character. Ironically, the first step in that evaluation is dividing the world into four groups:

  • Key-value stores: Redis, Scalaris, Voldmort, and Riak.
  • Document stores: Couch DB, MongoDB, and SimpleDB.
  • Record stores: BigTable, HBase, HyperTable, and Cassandra.
  • Scalable RDBMSs: MySQL Cluster, ScaleDB, Drizzle, and VoltDB.

The paper describes each system and then compares them on the dimensions of Concurrency Control, Data Storage Replication, Transaction Model, General Comments, Maturity, K-hits, License Language.

And the winner is: there are no winners. Yet. Rick concludes by pointing to a great convergence:

I believe that a few of these systems will gain critical mass and key players, and will pull away from the others by next year.  At that point, open source contributors will likely migrate to those players.

From the paper:


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Hot Scalability Links for February 24, 2010

  • Cassandra @ Twitter: An Interview with Ryan King. Great interview by Alex Popescu on Twitter's thought process for switching to Cassandra. Twitter chose Cassandra because it had more big system features out of the box. Is that Cassandra FTW?
  • I Had Downtime Today. Here’s What I’m Doing About It by Patrick McKenzie. Awesome deep dive into went wrong with Bingo Card Creator. Sh*t happens. How do you design a process to help prevent it from happening and how do you deal with problems with integrity when they do?
  • High Availability Principle : Request Queueing by Ashish Soni. Queue request to ride out traffic spikes: 1) Request Queuing allows your system to operate at optimal throughput. 2) Your users only experience linear degradation versus exponential degradation. 3) Your system experiences NO degradation.
  • pfffft twatter tweeter by Knowbuddy. The reason you should care [about NoSQL] is because now you have more options--you're not stuck trying to wedge your system into a relational model if you don't want to. And isn't /. all about freedom of choice?
  • Wordpress, Varnish and Edge Side Includes. Using Varnish to go from .63 requests per second to 537.44 requests per second.
  • Facebook’s Petabyte Scale Data Warehouse using Hive and Hadoop by Ashish Thusoo and Namit Jain. How does Facebook deal with 12 TB of compressed new data everyday? They get a bad case of the Hives.
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    Sponsored Post: Job Openings - Squarespace

    There was a bit of drama earlier when I posted a free job opening for Zynga. It caused unfortunate and just plain wrong accusations. It also caused a number of requests for more free job posts, which I should have anticipated, but obviously I can't let this blog become cluttered with that kind of stuff. Earlier I tried a job board type service, but that never really worked out. So what to do? Someone suggested a sponsored post approach and I think that's a good compromise. It minimizes the noise, let's people know about work, and brings in a little revenue. It works like an advertisement. If you are interested please let me know. When we have any job openings there will be a sponsored post like this one, that you can easily ignore or pay attention to, depending on your situation.

    Squarespace Looking for Full-time Scaling Expert

    Interested in helping a cutting-edge, high-growth startup scale? Squarespace, which was profiled here last year in Squarespace Architecture - A Grid Handles Hundreds of Millions of Requests a Month and also hosts this blog, is currently in the market for a crack scalability engineer to help build out its cloud infrastructure. Squarespace is very excited about finding a full-time scaling expert.

    Interested applicants should go to for more information.


    When to migrate your database?

    Why migrate your database? Efficiency and availability problems are harming your business – reports are out of date, your batch processing window is nearing its limits, outages (unplanned/planned) frequently halt work. Database consolidation – remove the costs that result from a heterogeneous database environment (DBAs time, database vendor pricing, database versions, hardware, OSs, patches, upgrades etc.). OK, so the driving forces for migration are clear,  what now?



    Twitter’s Plan to Analyze 100 Billion Tweets

    If Twitter is the “nervous system of the web” as some people think, then what is the brain that makes sense of all those signals (tweets) from the nervous system? That brain is the Twitter Analytics System and Kevin Weil, as Analytics Lead at Twitter, is the homunculus within in charge of figuring out what those over 100 billion tweets (approximately the number of neurons in the human brain) mean.

    Twitter has only 10% of the expected 100 billion tweets now, but a good brain always plans ahead. Kevin gave a talk, Hadoop and Protocol Buffers at Twitter, at the Hadoop Meetup, explaining how Twitter plans to use all that data to an answer key business questions.

    What type of questions is Twitter interested in answering? Questions that help them better understand Twitter. Questions like:

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    Seven Signs You May Need a NoSQL Database

    While exploring deep into some dusty old library stacks, I dug up Nostradamus' long lost NoSQL codex. What are the chances? Strangely, it also gave the plot to the next Dan Brown novel, but I left that out for reasons of sanity. About NoSQL, here is what Nosty (his friends call him Nosty) predicted are the signs you may need a NoSQL database...

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    Scaling Ambition at StackOverflow

    Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood are raising VC money for StackOverflow. This is interesting for three reasons: 1) Joel has always seemed like a keep it small and grow organically type of guy, so this is a big step in a different direction. 2) It means they think there's a very big market in the Q&A space and they mean to capture as much as the market as possible. 3) Most importantly for this blog, Joel gives some good advice on when to stay fresh and local and when it's time to jump for the brass ring, scale up your ambition, and go for VC money. Please see Joel's blog post for the details, but here's when to go VC:

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    The Amazing Collective Compute Power of the Ambient Cloud

    This is an excerpt from my article Building Super Scalable Systems: Blade Runner Meets Autonomic Computing in the Ambient Cloud.

    Earlier we talked about how a single botnet could harness more compute power than our largest super computers. Well, that's just the start of it. The amount of computer power available to the Ambient Cloud will be truly astounding.

    2 Billion Personal Computers

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    Hot Scalability Links for February 12, 2010

    1. My Life With Hbase by Lars George. The hardscabble tale of Hbase's growth from infancy to maturity. A very good introduction and overview of Hbase.
    2. NoSQL Alternatives -- Common Principles and Patterns for Building Scalable Applications. Explore the common principles behind the major NOSQL alternatives and how they compared with traditional database approach in terms of consistency, transaction and query semantics. We will also explore how we can make the transition between the two models smoothers through the support of standard interfaces such as JPA.
    3. Moore’s Law: The Future of Cloud Computing from the Bottom Up. Will Intel's 48 mega core chip change the world or be just another Spruce Goose?
    4. Rent or Own: Amazon EC2 vs. Colocation Comparison for Hadoop Clusters. It's much cheaper to own when you have a large relatively fixed size cluster and can find really cheap labor to maintain it all.
    5. A cloud in a plug - brilliant. A tiny, low-power, low-cost home server and NAS device powered by Tonido software that allows you to access your apps, files, music and media from anywhere.
    6. Seeking A Database That Doesn't Suck by Pixy Misa. Quick recap of databases that suck - or at least, suck for my purposes - and some that I'm still investigating.

    Click to read more ...