Emics Clustering Middleware Jumps into Java

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-07-23

Emics Clustering Middleware Jumps into Java

Emic Networks is unleashing an update to its MySQL database and Apache server clustering middleware that brings Java-based servers into the picture, the company will announce at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, on Aug. 2 in San Francisco.

Emic Application Cluster 2.5 will support JBoss Inc.s JBoss application server, thus enabling customers to cluster Java-based servers for high availability and scalability.

EAC 2.5 is also picking up support for 64-bit computing to enable customers to get even greater speed and efficiency than plain vanilla clustering would deliver.

Also new is a dispatcher-based load balancer that supports full redundancy for the clusters dispatcher node, designed to reduce single point of failures. Company officials said the new load balancer will make installation easier, as it allows EAC to transparently integrate into environments without forcing reconfiguration of routers and switches.

EAC 2.5 also will introduce manual deferred standby mode for cluster nodes. That mode allows a node to keep receiving updates but defers the actual update process so that users can first attend to whatever maintenance task is at hand, such as table reorganization or index rebuilding.

The update is also designed so that clusters can be more easily expanded. Thats made doable by the new ability to install EAC on one node and add new nodes with little effort, a feature Emic officials refer to as auto-discovery-based installation.

Other new features include controls and mechanisms that give system status information, designed to make it easier to manage clusters. Finally, support for additional data types and functions should help users avoid the need to modify applications to run on clusters.

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Of all the enhancements, the addition of the middlewares support for the application layer JBoss will bring is the biggest news, technology-evolution-wise. Whereas Emics EAC middleware has supported the open-source LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl) platform for a few years, the addition of the application layer brings it into alignment with what enterprises are requesting from their open-source environments, according to Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif.

"[Emic is] definitely making the right move," Yuhanna said. "Emic is going beyond just being a database clustering solution company and becoming an application-focused clustering solution. Theyre definitely going up the chain to offer more integration between the elements of this stack. This is very essential, especially in the open-source arena, where questions about availability and scalability are always on the minds of CIOs."

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Joe Dennick, director of IS operations at Securities America Financial Corp., says hallelujah to that. Dennick is running MySQL databases and Apache on EAC 2.0-enabled clusters. Availability is crucial, given that the financial firm—an independent broker/dealer firm in Omaha, Neb.—keeps customers Web log-in account information in MySQL databases.

Dennick said his Apache Web servers, which run the cluster, provide much higher availability and performance than he was used to getting on bigger Sun Microsystems Inc. servers.

How did he come to be running all of this open-source software? Dennick said that back when his group was building an authentication program, they looked around and saw that MySQL was the fastest, cheapest database.

"Its fast, its light, it runs on compact hardware," he said. The nodes run about $6,000 each, Dennick said—a pittance compared with comparable Sun boxes that he said cost about $50,000 apiece.

Next page: JBoss is a welcome addition, users say.

Welcome Addition

Dennick said hes pleased that Emic is adding JBoss to the stack. Thats because his company recently installed a third-party Java application that allows brokers to plan portfolios based on historical data. If your objective is to save $1 million by the age of 50, for example, the application will offer an allocation of assets to meet that goal, all in a Java-based format.

"The current Apache cluster can handle it, so I can kill the server its currently on and gain extra availability by running it on a cluster," he said. "Its a win-win for me."

Securities America runs Sybase Inc.s ASE (Adaptive System Enterprise) enterprise databases for other purposes, but Dennick said he preferred to cluster with Emic and MySQL/Apache because Sybase clusters would fail over instead of load-balancing.

"Thats a downside," he said. "I have two big servers. Ones taking a load, the others waiting for the first one to fail. Data sits on one storage device. Node A is up and running, accessing the single-storage system. Node B accesses the same database if Node A fails. If data is corrupt [on Node A], you get into trouble."

The only slight drawback hes experienced with the setup so far is that some vendors on which he relies for support—surprisingly large ones, Dennick said, although he declined to name them—still havent figured out the load-balancing paradigm.

"I think whats common is a lot of companies … rely on support from vendors who say, You need to buy this equipment and do this to meet your objectives. Our company prides itself on hiring smart technology people and making the decisions and then looking for a vendor to sell them the equipment, as opposed to letting the vendor make the solution," which means that Securities America can tend to be a bit ahead of vendors with such things as clustering.

Next up for Emics EAC 3.0, due out early next year, is support for multistatement transactions, according to Emic CEO Eero Teerikorpi. That support would allow for the bundling of multiple SQL statements that are then executed as one.

An example of how this would be applicable is a person going to an ATM machine. Shed check her account balance, and then shed make a withdrawal or deposit. Thats a multistatement transaction that could have its steps combined into one command. The trick, Teerikorpi said, will be to have rollback capability, in case, for example, the customer changed her mind and canceled the transaction.

Emic, based in San Jose, Calif., will ship EAC 2.5 in the fourth quarter. It is based on a per-server and per-CPU basis, starting at $1,495.

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