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20 Key High Availability Design Principles
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#7: Design for Growth
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A gas will expand to fill all available space. The definition of a gas Computer utilization will expand to fill all available space. The definition of a gas, applied to IT (Evan Marcus)
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Experience tells us that system use always expands to fill system capacity. Whether it s CPU, memory, I/O, or disk space, it will all get consumed. This means that the 2TB of disk you just bought for that server will be all used up in a few months. That s just the way of the world. If you go into the design of a computer system with this experience in mind, you will build systems with room for easy growth and expansion. If you need 8 CPUs in your server, buy a 16-CPU server, and only put 8 CPUs in it. If you buy and fill an 8-CPU server, when it s time to add more CPUs, you may have to purchase a whole new server, or at least additional system boards (if there is room for them) to obtain the additional capacity. Some system vendors will even put the extra 8 CPUs in your server and leave them disabled until you need them. When you need them, the vendor will activate them and charge you for them then. (Beware of this practice: You may be buying hardware that will be outmoded by the time you actually need it.) If you buy a large disk array completely full of disks, when it is time to expand your disk capacity, even by a single disk, you will need to buy another array. If you find that you don t have enough I/O slots in the server, you re in trouble. The industry buzzword for this is scalability. Make sure that your system will scale as your requirements for those systems scale. The incremental cost of rolling in a new systems or storage frame is considerable. The downtime implications for adding new frames or adding boards to the backplane will also be significant. By spending the extra money up front for the additional capacity, you can save yourself both downtime and cost when you need to grow the systems.
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5
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#6: Choose Mature Software
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A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows where the dirt is. Unknown
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Let s say that you have a choice between two relational database management systems (RDBMSs); for our purposes, we ll say the choices are the current release of Oracle and Joe s Database v1.0, from Joe s Database and Storm Door Company of Ypsilanti, Michigan. (We are not endorsing Oracle; the same rules would apply to any mature software product. As far as we know, Joe has not yet released a database.) Joe s product has a couple of features that make it a little easier to use, and it comes in a lot cheaper than Oracle does. You like Oracle, but Joe s sales rep got you courtside seats for the NCAA finals last year. No offense to Joe or his sales rep, but in the end, you will almost certainly be better served by going with the product from a large company like Oracle (or Sybase, IBM, or Microsoft). The large-company products have benefits that you simply cannot get from a small-company product like Joe s. Established RDBMSs have 24 7 telephone support, fly-to-site support, informative web sites, user groups, user conferences, magazines, and other mature services. A small company like Joe s is unlikely to have any of those things. Established support structures make it easier to get help from many different sources. You can find users with whom you can discuss various implementation options, performance optimization, problems you may have encountered, and all sorts of other interesting issues, real and imagined. You can also more easily find reference sites that are willing to show you what they have accomplished with their product. Mature software has been tested by its customers (and internal testers) for a long time, and problems that newer software, written by less experienced developers, may run into have probably been taken care of. In some cases, more mature software will have availability features written right into it. Oracle s RAC features are one example of such a feature. However, like so many other good rules, this one does not apply universally. Just because a product has achieved wide acceptance, that does not ensure that it is high quality. All wide acceptance ensures is that a lot of people use it. Wide acceptance is an excellent first qualifier when examining your choices in a given marketplace, but it should never be the only factor that gets consideration. When designing for availability, sometimes you ll have to sacrifice the latest-and-greatest technology for something established because you know you ll have to fix it when it breaks, and because cutting-edge products are not generally as reliable as the tried-and-true.
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