Friday, September 17, 2010

ScaleDB Cache Accelerator Server (CAS): A Game Changer for Clustered Databases

ScaleDB and Oracle RAC are both clustered databases that use a shared-disk architecture. As I have mentioned previously, they both actually share data via a shared cache, so it might be more appropriate to call them shared-cache databases.

Whether it is called shared-disk or shared-cache, these databases must orchestrate the sharing of a single set of data amongst multiple nodes. This introduces two challenges: the physical sharing of the data and the logical sharing of the data.

Physical Sharing:
Raw storage is meant to work on a 1:1 basis with a single server. In order to share that data amongst multiple servers, you need either a Network File System (NFS), which shares whole files, or a Cluster File System (CFS), which shares data blocks.

Logical Sharing:
This is specific to databases. A database may request a single block of data from the storage and then it may coordinate multiple sequential changes to that block, with only the final results being written back to the storage. The database can also discriminate between reading the data and writing the data, to facilitate parallelizing these actions.

Databases must control the logical sharing of data, in order to ensure that the database doesn’t become corrupted or inconsistent, and to ensure that it provides good performance. Because logical sharing is very specific to the database, it is something that clustered databases must handle themselves. This function is addressed by a lock manager.

Physical sharing of data requires less integration with the database logic. As such, you can use a general-purpose NFS or a CFS to provide the physical file sharing capabilities. This is what Oracle RAC does, they rely upon Oracle Cluster File System 2 (OCFS2) to provide generic physical file sharing. OCFS2 then relies upon a SAN or NAS that supports multi-attach, since all of the database nodes must share the same physical files. The NAS or SAN then handles the data duplication for high availability and other services like back-up and more.

ScaleDB takes a different approach. ScaleDB not only handles the logical data sharing—with its lock manager—but it also handles the physical data sharing with its Cache Accelerator Server (CAS). CAS connects directly to the storage and handles the sharing of that data among the database nodes. Because CAS is purpose-built for the ScaleDB database it does not need services such as membership management, which create complexity and overhead in a general purpose CFS. Furthermore, ScaleDB is able to tune the CAS, in conjunction with the lock manager, to extract superior performance.

CAS also offers additional benefits. It provides a scalable shared-cache that enables the database nodes to share via the cache, which is much faster than sharing via the disk. Furthermore, since it eliminates the need for an NFS or CFS, it enables you to work with any storage. You can choose to use local storage—inside the CAS—cloud storage, or a SAN or NAS. Many in the MySQL community balk at the high cost of SAN storage with fiber channel and switches and high-cost storage. CAS supports low-cost local storage, while providing a seamless path to high-end storage as needed. Furthermore, the CAS are deployed in pairs, so the data is mirrored. Because the data is mirrored, you have redundant storage, even when using local storage inside the servers running CAS. Because it can operate on commodity hardware and because it works with any storage, CAS is ideal for cloud computing.

In summary, clustered databases like Oracle RAC and ScaleDB must implement their own lock managers to manage the logical sharing of data amongst the database nodes. Providing a purpose-built solution for the physical sharing of the data, while not required, does provide some significant advantages over using a general purpose NFS or CFS.

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