Speed Trumps Scale In Two Oracle Exadata Deployments - InformationWeek

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3/1/2011
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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.

LinkShare's Upgrade

An upgrade was inevitable, as LinkShare wanted to do for its advertisers what it already done for publishing clients: provide a self-service dashboard, in this case for spotting top-producing sites by product category, campaign and offer.

After considering half a dozen vendors in late 2009, LinkShare settled on three candidates including its incumbent database. Oracle joined the fray "at the eleventh hour," as Levine describes it, when it was preparing to announce Exadata Version 2.

LinkShare settled on Exadata in part because it promised the ability to support continuous loading without bringing the database offline. LinkShare took delivery of the first of two half-rack clusters last March and it was operational by July (in a four-month deployment including a month of optimization work). The second half-rack was delivered in June and went live in September (a faster, three-month deployment).

LinkShare's ETL jobs still take about an hour to complete, but they can be done while this system is still online with thousands of customers actively querying the system. In fact, LinkShare has since launched a self-service dashboard for Advertisers, which has pushed the user base over 4,000 worldwide. Nonetheless, data is now typically no more than one hour old, whereas it ran a day or two behind in the previous system.

Query performance has also improved, according to Levine. The old target was to have 98% of queries returned within eight seconds, but the company was not consistently meeting that goal. Exadata met that benchmark out of the gate, so LinkShare set a new target of returning 98% of queries within four seconds. In January LinkShare reported that 96% of queries had met the four-second target and the company was optimizing to meet the 98% goal.

"The new level of performance we're delivering is quite important to our advertisers and publishers because four seconds is about the attention-span breaking point," Levine concludes. "It's now a much more interactive experience, which encourages people to ask a lot more questions and they're much more engaged with the application."

WealthEngine Builds A 'Data Factory'

Speed is as important to WealthEngine as it is to LinkShare, but for this data provider it's about quickly aggregating data from more than 35 different sources to help marketers and non-profit fundraisers find rich people. The two largest sources are state business registration records and a 180-million-household marketing list. To this, WealthEngine adds real estate records, donation databases, SEC records, boar registrations, social security information and lists from Dun & Bradstreet and other sources.

WealthEngine has more than 2,500 customer firms, and that figure is expected to grow by more than 50% this year. Customers buy data three different ways: they can use the WealthEngine Web site to look up names and addresses one at a time, or they can download targeted lists of up to 6,000 names. Larger lists with 100,000 to 5 million records are transmitted to direct marketers and advertisers.

The one thing all these customers want is fresh data, but that was getting to be a problem with WealthEngine's conventional Oracle 10g database deployment. According to Silas Matteson, senior vice president of products and IT, there were two catalysts of the new deployment: rapid data growth, with a doubling of the company's data store to 2.5 terabytes in 2010, and a desire to upgrade the company's services.

"We wanted to deliver a new user interface offering more aggregation and analysis of the data, but the old setup couldn't get us there," Matteson explains.

Daily updates, entailing both overwrites and appends to the database, were taking as long as 12 hours. But in tests of Exadata conducted at an Oracle facility in Reston, VA., WealthEngine found it could execute the updates in less than three minutes. (Oracle generally avoids on-site proof-of-concept tests, preferring to do lab-based benchmarks at one of nine test sites internationally.)

WealthEngine has yet to move into production and prove actual performance, but Matteson says he's satisfied with the test results.

"We used a copy of our production database, loaded a state business registration list and did joins and ad-hoc queries on two of our largest tables," he says.

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