For many companies, moving their web-application servers to the cloud is an attractive option, since cloud-computing services can offer economies of scale, extensive technical support and easy accommodation of demand fluctuations. But for applications that depend heavily on database queries, cloud hosting can pose as many problems as it solves. Cloud services often partition their servers into “virtual machines,” each of which gets so many operations per second on a server’s central processing unit, so much space in memory, and the like. That makes cloud servers easier to manage, but for database-intensive applications, it can result in the allocation of about 20 times as much hardware as should be necessary. And the cost of that over-provisioning gets passed on to customers. MIT researchers are developing a new system called DBSeer that should help solve this problem and others, such as the pricing of cloud services and the diagnosis of application slowdowns. At the recent Biennial Conference on Innovative Data Systems Research, the researchers laid out their vision for DBSeer. And in June, at the annual meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Management of Data (SIGMOD), they will unveil the algorithms at the heart of DBSeer, which use…
Cloud computing can also open new technology horizons in current multi-stores:
Customers walking into a store in Waco, Texas, will find a deal on Gabriel shocks which they won’t find at most other AutoZone stores. In Minneapolis, they can find a discount on Reese towing equipment. And in Mulberry, Fla., there’s a special on a bug deflector. The targeted deals are part of AutoZone Inc.’s strategy to customize its global supply chain at the store level, reducing the chances that customers will leave without making a purchase. To do this, the auto parts retailer is using new software that helps it adjust inventory at some of its 5,000 stores based on information gleaned from a variety of databases, such as the types of cars driven by people living around those retail outlets. The new software, from startup NuoDB Inc., is one of a number of new database options that are giving companies a faster and more efficient approach to data.
More importantly, the handling of increased data-base extra-load demand is becoming a challenging task:
Barzan Mozafari, a postdoc professor in the MIT’s lab of electrical engineering and computer science Samuel Madden and lead author on both new papers, explains that, with virtual machines, server resources must be allocated according to an application’s peak demand. “You’re not going to hit your peak load all the time,” Mozafari says. “So that means that these resources are going to be underutilized most of the time.” Moreover, Mozafari says, the provisioning for peak demand is largely guesswork. “It’s very counterintuitive,” Mozafari says, “but you might take on certain types of extra load that might help your overall performance.” Increased demand means that a database server will store more of its frequently used data in its high-speed memory, which can help it process requests more quickly. On the other hand, a slight increase in demand could cause the system to slow down precipitously — if, for instance, too many requests require modification of the same pieces of data, which need to be updated on multiple servers. “It’s extremely nonlinear,” Mozafari says.
But are you ready for cloud computing?
Most Canadians know something about cloud computing – our Gmail, Yahoo! or Hotmail accounts are all sitting on a virtual server somewhere – but businesses have been slow to adopt this technology. A 2012 Bank of Montreal report found that half of all business owners weren’t familiar with cloud computing, while only 10 per cent of companies planned to use it. Wayne Ingram, managing director of technology for Accenture Canada, says it’s only a matter of time until those numbers tick upward. Storing information on a virtual server, rather than on servers stored in the office basement, is cheaper and more efficient. And with people working on multiple devices and from disparate locations, logging on to a network with a VPN key, or encryption key, isn’t practical any more. Mr. Ingram told us how companies can adopt cloud-based software, what’s holding people back and where this technology will go in the future.
Finally, it is clear that virtual servers are the future in storing information at multiple levels. This is the central idea of meeting the information technology’s challenge of cloud computing…