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3/1/2011
09:24 AM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Speed Trumps Scale In Two Oracle Exadata Deployments

LinkShare and WealthEngine are among the latest customers to embrace Oracle's appliance. Continuous loading and fast data aggregation are their critical requirements.

With their data stores of 6 terabytes and 2.5 terabytes, respectively, LinkShare and Wealth Engine aren't going to win any big-data prizes. What these two marketing firms, among the latest customers to choose Oracle's Exadata Database Machine, need most is quick loading and fast querying.

Size isn't everything, and given that some 90% of enterprise data warehouses hold less than 10 terabytes of information, most practitioners are more concerned about requirements other than the ultimate in scalability.

In many marketing scenarios, for example, speed is everything. Marketers need to load and analyze data as quickly as possible so the insight can be quickly applied to identify new segments and lists and to improve the targeting or creative content for the next campaign. If you know what's working sooner, you won't waste money on segments, data or marketing appeals that aren't fruitful.

LinkShare Tracks the Clicks

LinkShare provides search, lead generation and affiliate marketing services to two constituencies: publishers of the sites that are registered to its network and the advertisers who make use of that network. Advertisers on the network typically pay publishers on a percent-of-completed-sale or cost-per-action basis, with retail merchandise and credit card offers being typical.

To help these constituents discover what's working, LinkShare has been moving toward self-service access to information. That initiative began in 2007 when the company upgraded its dashboard for the thousands of top publishers that are the biggest traffic drivers on its network. The dashboard lets analysts look for trends among top-producing advertisers on their sites, top link types, and high-performing campaigns.

By 2009, LinkShare's data warehouse had reached 4.5 terabytes of usable data, it was adding tens of gigabytes of new clickstream data per day, and it was encountering serious performance problems.

"We were getting to end-of-life stage on our incumbent data warehouse," says Johnathan Levine, chief operating officer and vice chief technology officer. "We had twice-a-week meetings just for tuning and we were spending huge amounts of time on tuning and [data] denormalization."

Levine wouldn't identify the incumbent database, but he says it had been in use for about six years. A Google search of past LinkShare coverage turned up several article references to a conventional DB2 database deployment in a clustered Linux environment.

If LinkShare's team of three DBAs and four ETL specialists could schedule downtime, they could load new data in about an hour. But if customers were online, querying the system, loads took as long as six hours, Levine says. LinkShare has large customer bases in both North America and in Japan, where its parent company, Rakuten, is headquartered. That global footprint made it difficult to schedule any downtime.

"We were trying to feed the data warehouse continuously because there was so much data that if we didn't load, we couldn't catch up," Levine says.

Industry performance benchmarks have also been raised, making low-latency insight a competitive expectation. "Five years ago it was okay to give people yesterday's data, but that's not good enough any longer," Levine says.

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