Inside the box
The Schooner Appliances come in two flavors: Schooner Appliance for Memcached and Schooner Appliance for MySQL Enterprise. Under the hood, each is equipped with a dual quad-core Intel Xeon 5500 Nehalem processor, which delivers high performance and energy efficiency. Each also comes with optimized 512GB Intel X25-E enterprise class flash memory, employing highly parallel flash controllers. The inclusion of flash memory is indeed notable. The technology has 100-fold faster access than hard drives, as well as greater reliability and lower power consumption, thanks to the absence of moving parts. Each appliance also has a 64GB DRAM content-caching tier that provides rapid access to frequently viewed data. Finally, they provide high-speed 1/10Gb Ethernet interconnectivity.
MySQL on steroids
MySQL likely requires no introduction -- it's the most popular open source database on the market and the database of choice in the Web 2.0 world. But like any database, MySQL is ultimately hindered by the speed of the hard drives that hold its data files. MySQL shops typically boost performance by striping the data across many 15,000-rpm drives, says Busch, but "even then they must place data on the outer regions of the platter in order to minimize head movement and access time." In short, servers running MySQL are bottlenecked by hard drives, and processor utilization is very low.
Further, scaling MySQL to handle enterprise-class workloads, according to Schooner, involves extensive data partitioning and application modifications. Application query mixes, for example, must be carefully controlled due to the effect that queries such as table scans can have on performance, Busch notes. Optimizing MySQL entails the complex task of tuning data block sizes according to the workload and changing user and application patterns so that the working set fits in the buffer pool effectively.
The Schooner Appliance for MySQL Enterprise is groomed to overcome these and other debilitating obstacles by fully exploiting the Nehalem multicore processor with hyperthreading, which, along with high-capacity storage, helps boost scalability. It also reduces or eliminates the need for database sharding or horizontal partitioning. The machine's 512GB of parallel NAND flash memory speeds up transactions considerably. Moreover, the appliance is optimized for OLTP (read-write intensive workloads) and OLAP (read mostly workloads). Finally, it incorporates highly optimized InnoDB 1.0.3.
The payoff: One of these appliances, according to Schooner, can do the work of up to eight legacy servers, which translates to a dramatic reduction in energy consumption and an increase in floor space. There's also the important benefit of having fewer machines to manage.