Is that really true? RAM is dirt cheap compared to everything else that goes into a server.
And then later under "Lessons Learned" we have: "Put it all on one box if you can. If you don’t need a distributed system then don’t build one. They are complicated and expensive to build."
We had a quartet of legacy-ish databases with sharded customer data (had some interconnection, but we sharded in the application-layer, so the database didn't have to move any data internally). It was a bitch to maintain, but it performed OK, by throwing fairly beefy machines at it.
We began a quest to replace the database with MongoDB/HDFS/Riak/CouchBase/Cassandra/whatever. We wrote a script that converted our data to JSON for easier ingestion and began hammering away. Until we discovered that by converting it to JSON (and simplifying some parts of the data-model), our dataset had actually become small enough to fit on a single server in memory (still ~100GB).
So we ditched the cluster-thingie and moved everything to CouchDB. Pricy hardware, but the saved man-hours recouped that within a month or two.
(And in half a year's time, the database will have outgrown whatever hardware we can reasonably throw at it, so then we'll have to start over for real...)
I expect that slimming down the data model was the main factor, or you simply didn't want to use SQL at all (or your data wasn't really structured enough).
You need a rdbms. Field names won't be repeated for each query and you will push later the time to 'start over'.
Getting to 1TB would certainly require 32GB sticks and would be the point where multiple machines gets cheaper.
If you're renting servers or virtual servers (VPS/cloud), then the physical cost of RAM is irrelevant. Virtually all hosting companies use configured RAM as a proxy for their costs (the more RAM you need, the more likely you are to be using more CPU which means more electric, more disk IO, more bandwidth, and generally putting more wear-and-tear on the hardware which will need replacing sooner).
An 8GB stick of ECC RAM might cost you less than $99 to purchase outright, but Softlayer (the #1 most used bare metal server company by YC startups) will charge $88/month for it ($11/GB/mo to add 8GB to one of their base configurations).
I never understood this. I started and sold a hosting company in the early 2000's. I've run managed hosting divisions for Fortune 500 companies. Hosting is STUPID profitable (>30% margins). Why doesn't Y Combinator grab 10-20 racks in a cheap colo center, buy $100K-$200K worth of equipment, and provision that to YC startups similar to Rackspace's OnMetal offering?
I do DevOps now, but colo is still not as hard as everyone makes it out to be.
It's an interesting question whether there's a market for an investment firm that does do this. One of the things that appealed to me about Google under Eric Schmidt was that it basically functioned as a venture capital firm that had shared technology infrastructure, server maintenance, legal, PR, etc. but let you choose what to work on and come up with your own product ideas, with the one caveat that Google would own any business you built. It'd be very interesting to see a VC firm that did the same - cover all the functional roles so that entrepreneurs could focus on pure product development. I hear a16z is sorta shooting for that, but they cover more of the human-capital stuff like recruitment, executive search, etc. rather than the technical stuff.
An Amazon m3.large with 7.5GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD costs $64 per month if I reserve a year in advance. (And why wouldn't I, given that the proposed alternative is to buy hardware?)
If I wave the magic wand and save 30% on the cost of each m3.large, I save $19 per month per instance.
If my company runs the equivalent of twenty m3.large instances per programmer, 24 hours a day, for a whole year, my magic-wand-powered savings will add up to six additional programmer workdays - about $4600 per programmer. If I start out on January 1 with a year of runway, I'll go broke on January 9 of next year instead of January 1.
So, even if I were to believe in the existence of magic wands, they wouldn't make much of a difference.
I am aware of many companies where advertising, conferences (throwing their own), laptops/mice/etc, rent, general office overhead, credit card processing, and about five other things I'm forgetting are still higher than infrastructure/hardware, in addition to direct costs of employment. (Obviously, less true if you run Dropbox, but COGS is looooooooooow in most SaaS companies for a reason.)
Let's say a 1GB module costs $25 and a 4GB one is $40. (Just picking some random Corsair ones of compatible specs and disregarding things like using matched pairs of lesser capacity instead of single modules. For simplicity.)
Two of those 1GB modules would already cost more than one 4GB one. And that's to say nothing of the rest of the hardware, which you can entirely avoid if you have a single system instead of four.
The only place it makes sense is VMs through a cloud provider, where memory is often one of the big pricing metrics. It's possible there could be savings through some of those providers.
I don't know enough about how "realtime" Bitly is. Handling 6 Billion writes a month of "raw" data from a user as a serialized string would not be that hard.
2300 clicks and there for analytic writes per second average for the month is likely based on the 80/20 rule about 10k Clicks per second peak.
Now, if we assume that you write a Serialized Write immediately with all the data from a users, and then do a chasing analysis, so that you don't have to do all the work at Peak Price... and that each user is then 20 writes.
We end up with 10k peak Serial, and 5x that in chasing writes. So we need 60k writes per second.
On DynamoDB that would cost $90k upfront and $7.71 an hour. ($99,500 a month)
That is "a lot" but it isn't huge.
Doing this on Google AppEngine would likely be about the same since you pay fixed fee per write, not based on your throughput. Depending on the amount of indexing you would pay $1.80 - $2.40 per 100k clicks based on the above math so $108k - $144K per month.
I am not familiar enough with Azure to quote a price.
I know there would be other costs. This is just the database portion. But as I expect this to be the majority of the price, I thought it was the part most worth discussing if you were building a Bitly on a Cloud Platform.
With chasing writes you do it in slow periods between traffic bursts since you're basically just pulling them off a queue to process so you don't need to count that in with your peak burst numbers.
Your costs seem really high too. The above system was ~$10K/month on GoGrid including 2 DB servers that were on dedicated servers(not really impressive ones either I think they were ~$500/month each), a load balancer on a dedicated server, 2 dozen webservers or so, a few support servers(admin panels, client interfaces, puppet, etc), and a small hadoop cluster.
Redis would receive the raw data, the DB stored the rolled up data and the raw data/logs would be compressed and go onto a small hadoop cluster in case we needed to process it for a new type or report or look for something specific.
An ad network is another great example of where this would be tiny numbers.
And with Ads more than Analytics you have to be aware of Race Conditions, and have to do more management of reads and writes so that you don't over or under serve a campaign.
But our bottleneck is MySQL, and are moving to Riak. Our DB is the only part of our stack that isn't inherently horizontally scalable - which seems to be the case for a lot of services that are hitting that 500 rps rate (maybe 750 qps or so).
> Put it all on one box if you can. If you don’t need a distributed system then don’t build one. They are complicated and expensive to build.
For most businesses that aren't about massive scaling, your time is probably better spent on marketing, new features and so on.
Interesting for me: they are, or were, users of Tcl.
Most business should care about distributed systems because they (often) need some form of high availability. Sure, you're not scaling to Google or New York Times levels here, but if you want to survive any of the random crap that can happen to you, you can't have a single host per role.
Yes, sure, you may not be worried about concurrent writes to multiple replicas, but what about reads from multiple replicas, or a read to a slave after a write to a master (lets say master just died in a horrible manner, and slave is now being hit with reads and writes)?
PS: TCL is awesome.
I'd guess that, in reality, many don't really need high availability. I mean, it's not going to hurt if they have it, but if it comes at a cost of not doing other things with their limited resources, it may not be the best thing to be doing.
BTW, it's Tcl, not TCL!
Anyway, it's a gradient. Sure, most places don't need 99.9999% availability, but most places also can't afford to be down for a few hours to a day, especially during their peak season.
So, do you need automatic failover and promotion? Probably not. Do you need contingency plans (with may/should include accounts with multiple vendors (even if something like a LiNode account with no boxes)) and have practiced brining everything up (or if you're e.g. a small retail shop, how to checkout), yes, most defiantly.
Even if your distributed system isn't "moving" you still need to plan for things. Like I said, if your database server becomes unavailable, you need to know how much data hasn't made it to the spare, otherwise you need to ask "How much will I loose if I restore from my last backup". Things of that nature need to be planned around and known, even if the code doesn't need t care.
Furthermore, these are just click events. It's okay to lose a few, so the design doesn't have to be especially good at making sure events aren't lost, as far as I can tell.
A good design is as much about what is left out as what is left in, which is the lesson between the lines here in my opinion.
This is the equivalent of (as per my example) yelling out "I hear ya! Coming..." and then take 15mins to reach the door. I never said that low latency implies anything about the level of availability; I merely meant that arguing about the availability of systems is incomplete without a thorough discussion of latency.
In the case of Bitly, I'm just curoius about the systems that are highly available but "require" low latency vs systems that don't require it. As ryanjshaw points out, the system may have a degree of tolerance for lossy click events. If you have a heterogeneous mix of systems with different tolerance levels, that surely affects the architecture does it not?
Whenever I visit my stats page at https://bitly.com/a/stats it shows me the stats from the last time I visit, and I have to do a hard-refresh with Ctrl-F5 to get the latest version.
Or possibly this is part of how you scale - only retrieving the latest versions of stats when you need them. And not with any accuracy (clicking on a given day pretty much never gives me numbers of clicks that add up to the total for that day).
My initial idea was that it would be possible to store data to be written at RAM at first, and periodically flush to hard drive / DB. But then on other hand, OS does that already by using cache and flushing it, just at much lower level. Some DBs are probably doing it too.
So the question is, is it worth implementing strategies like that (home made cache), or it is a better idea to trust OS/DB by default?
And here's a Key-Value db you can use in your own programs that reuses the same idea, ie ask the OS for some space, trust it for RAM/Disk allocation; it turns out it is excellent at what it does thanks to careful design:
Sure, but you lose anything that isn't written to disk. IIRC you can set up Mongo and Redis to do this (I'm not familiar with many of the other options). At this point you're no longer an ACID database.
Most DBs will cache as much as they possibly can in memory. Often index's will take priority, but rows that are being accessed fairly frequently will also be in their cache. Obviously the details are different per db and configuration, but in general, it gets cached.
Also, when you fwrite your data actually sits in RAM for a bit before being written to disk. Databases and other applications that actually require data to be on the disk right now need to call fsync.
(Aside, even then you're disk can and will store writes in it's own internal buffer before it can be written to disk. The OS doesn't have much control over this.)
A lot of people will, to avoid having to spin up db replicas, cache rows in redis or memcache and use those for reads whenever possible. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but for pk-based reads you can decrease the number of operations your DB needs to do at once (allowing it, for example, to focus on writes.
The OS usually does a pretty good job, but remember it's designed to be generic not for a specific use case. When you really care about performance of a database you tend to bypass what the OS does, and take control bypassing things like the scheduler, cache, etc.
And AFAIK, InnoDB (then to MySQL) does as well.
Some commenters here are missing the point.
But yes, there is some interesting work being done on building network applications directly against the hardware.
2. It's obviously more than 2.3k sustained; there will almost certainly be variance, maybe up to about 10k per second.
3. It does seem rather unlikely that you were serving 2300 clicks per second in 1995, given the minuscule scope of the web at that time. That said, if you were, I'm sure many of us would be interested in hearing about it. It would probably be more productive than bitching.
The guy's got a valid point. Bitly's using way overcomplicated tech and employs way more engineers than you need to host a trivial amount of traffic for a large scale site. This is a textbook case of over-engineering.
Hipster-irrelevant engineering context is generally underappreciated around here (unless it's that one story about "Mel"). Especially when presented with condescension, swift downvotes result.