Online Ticket Vendor Set to Scale with Oracle on Linux

Case study: Cutting-edge and growing "extremely fast," StubHub switches to two parallel Oracle RAC nodes running Oracle's 9i database-with high availability as its key advantage for the moment.

Online ticket vendor StubHub Inc. fits the description of a typical company thats running its Oracle database on Linux: Its cutting-edge, it doesnt want to be married to a single hardware vendor, and it expects to scale like mad.

"Our companys growing extremely fast," said CEO Jeff Fluhr, in San Francisco. "Theres blockbuster growth demand for our services, especially in the past 12 months. With that type of growth, our requirements to scale and handle thousands and thousands of transactions every day is dependent on a system that can handle that type of scale and availability and scope."

To address that growth spurt, StubHub migrated from a single-node Oracle 8i database running on Sun Microsystems Inc. Solaris boxes to its current setup of two parallel Oracle RAC (Real Application Clusters) nodes running Oracles 9i database on a pair of IBM x445 servers. The migration took three to four months, and the site went live on 9i in February.

Since then, vice president of technology Shawn Kernes estimated that transaction response times are 25 to 50 percent faster. As far as other advantages go, scalability is a pleasant thing to think about—somewhere down the road—but at the moment, its high availability thats the key advantage to running RAC, Kernes said.

"It gives us better ability to roll out changes, in a cautious and more measured way," he said. "We can roll out changes to one node, take it offline, and test it before rolling it out to both. Or experiment with one node running one set of scenarios at any given time.

"Another thing is it gives us more reliability. If one goes down, we have the site still up. In the old world, we only had one database node. If that node went down, our site was down."

All of that makes StubHub a prototypical RAC customer, analysts say. Since the launch of Oracle Database 10g, Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison has plugged the use of 10g on RAC to consolidate low-cost commodity equipment into enterprise grids, thereby driving down the overall cost of computing. But high availability is almost invariably what RAC is now being used for.

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"I think theres some increase in the use of [RAC] for scalability," conceded Carl Olofson, an analyst for IDC, in Framingham, Mass. "Certainly more than before. I think 10g makes it easier to do that. [But] with 9i, you have to be very clever with knowledge of networking, connecting storage to server clusters, things like that."

Next Page: Leveraging the true value of RAC.