Avokia Claims Most Farflung Database Cluster Ever

Updated: The user, Espressocode, is running an active, load-balanced DB2 database cluster between Toronto and San Francisco: a distance of almost 2,500 miles.

Avokia is claiming to have strung out the most farflung database cluster ever, between Toronto and San Francisco, or 2,266 miles.

Espressocode, maker of software for the freight and customs industries, is using ApLive technology, which Avokia rolled out at Demo in February, to pull IBM DB2 databases together in an active and load-balanced cluster in the multisite environment.

ApLive is a technology that provides redundancy and backup to mission-critical applications by clustering, replicating and load balancing virtualized databases.

The databases can be geographically dispersed. Oracles RAC (Real Application Clusters) can do similar work, but only on LANs. To cover geographically dispersed locations, RAC needs a helping hand from Oracles other software products, Stream and Data Guard, which provide active or passive failover between sites in a WAN.

IBM also offers a product, HADR (High Availability Disaster Recovery), that provides a high level of availability if a second node is located in the same site. It offers disaster recovery if the second node is located in a remote site. According to Alan Kriss, Avokia director of marketing, that doesnt help Espressocode with its scalability needs, since HADR is limited to two nodes and the backup node is not available for reporting purposes. "More standard replication products are also available with DB2," he said. "Those would provide offline copies of the production database useful for reporting but not for high availability or load balancing by [Espressocodes] online or production application, Exdocs."

Alan McMillan, CEO of the Toronto-based Avokia, told eWEEK that Avokia works with Espressocode to provide the middleware software, which fits in at the application layer to virtualize the database layer.

McMillan claimed that this provides 24x7 support to Espressocodes user customers.

Regarding the difference between RAC and ApLive, McMillan said that with RAC "Youll be down while Data Guard recovers."

Thats because ApLive replicates at the SQL statement level, McMillan said. "Its the write statement," he said. "When youre accessing data out of the database, youre grabbing it in the read state. Our technologys smart enough to know it only needs to replicate changes to remote databases. Its 1/1000 of the size [with which] typical replication technology works. Because its so much smaller, it can fly faster through the Internet."

This SQL statement activity compares with other replication technology that replicate the database log file between data centers that are typically located about 30 miles apart, he said.

"Disasters are often greater than 30 miles, when were talking about hurricanes, the power outage in California, or terrorist actions," McMillan said. "Now you can have live-live data centers across the country."

Active instead of passive backup data centers also means that users, in effect, get twice the work out of their data center infrastructure, McMillan said.

"Instead of having a second data center on standby, waiting to be used, ours can be used [at any time]. Its not just insurance gear waiting to be used."

Andreas Antonopoulos, senior vice president of the Nemertes Group, an analyst firm in Frankfort, Ill., said that virtualizing and load-balancing the database provides the performance benefits of clusters and the large distances and centralized load balancing of virtualized databases.

Regarding latency concerns, Antonopoulos said that any downsides are "more than compensated by the flexibility and recoverability offered by database virtualization solutions."

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However, the change-over to virtualized, load-balanced databases creates a need for solid planning in terms of physical distance and network optimization to reduce latency.

"There are significant difficulties in "extending" or synchronizing databases across great distances," he said. "Distances of more than 50-100km are often reported as the upper limit for synchronous replication of storage and data.

"Greater distances create synchronization and concurrency technology challenges," Antonopoulos added.

"IT executives are struggling to balance high demands for availability, compliance mandates for geographical separation and latency issues. Companies offering solutions that can replicate or virtualize databases over great distances are in a growing market."

One of Avokias competitors in that growing market is Continuent, formerly known as Emic Networks, which started out as a provider of clustering for MySQL databases and Apache Web servers but which now handles PostgreSQL, SQL Server, Sybase and Oracle databases.

Continuent offers what it calls a database-neutral solution, in either open-source or commercial flavor. Like Avokia, Continuent also claims that its solution eliminates single points of failure.

Editors Note: This story was corrected regarding ApLive, which runs on all operating systems. It was also updated to include information on IBM HADR and to correct the vendor of Espressocodes databases.

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