One of the very cool things that I find in technology is that I learn new things constantly, usually from other people. In this case, I heard about a new site from my employer, Red Gate, that is designed to talk about the challenges and solutions of working in a cloud computing environment. It's called A Cloudy Place, and it's slowly getting moving as we develop new tools to work with cloud services.
I was reading an interview with our main administrator, Simon, who also manages the SQLServerCentral servers, about the recent challenges of managing infrastructure for the DBA in Space contest. We had no idea how big the contest would be, and we knew that there might be a need to scale up rapidly to handle thousands of users accessing the site in a short period of time as new web-isodes of Brad's adventures were released.
Typically when you need to handle a large load, you set up a load balancer (hopefully clustered) and then you have a dozen or so web servers behind it to handle requests from clients. If you need to patch the web site, you typically make a change to one server (hopefully scripted), then make the change to the next server, and the next, rotating through them in order. The good administrators have some automated mechanism to do deploy changes, but those change scripts need testing, error handling, and more. It's a simple process that can end up being fairly complex in it's execution.
However Simon had a different solution. He would make the change on one machine, then clone it using the Rackspace cloud environment, deleting the old machines from his environment. That's pretty cool and a neat solution. Make changes on one machine, then clone the machine.
That's a neat idea, and it's a great example of a place where cloud computing and the rapid provisioning of resources can cause us to rethink the way we deploy changes. I'm not sure if we'll find advantages for databases, but I hope that we get people pushing the limits of cloud computing to see if there are better ways to handle database work in the cloud.
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