Saturday, March 14, 2009

I don't get Building 43

I don't get the point of Building 43. Well, I get that it is a video outlet for Robert Scoble, but what I really don't get is what Rackspace gets from it. I mean, they get a popular blogger/web video guy promoting their brand, to some degree, but is it really going to drive new business for them? Rackspace's big thing is their awesome support, which comes at a price. Will watching a video of Scoble interview some guy from marketing at Random Dotcom, Inc make anyone decide they really do need the fanatical support that Rackspace brings?

Maybe I would better get it if there was actual content on the site. Yeah, another vaporware soft-launch. This is to me the big sign there isn't quite yet a there there and that the endeavor is more about hype and buzz than real content. Why get the blogosphere in a big tizzy before you have real content to go with the name?

And wow, the name. Doesn't Rackspace have some interesting name they could use rather than steal a name from Google? What is it really supposed to mean? Ignoring the N thousand mildly amused Google employees who might get the name (many of whom won't really associate anything special with building 43), and a handful of visitors, it pretty much will always need to be explained.

So, I don't get it. It just doesn't work at any level for me. But hey, good luck, Robert and Rackspace. Hopefully something cool will come from it. But I suspect it will either be boring or just blatant advertising, and that's a shame.

(oh yeah, this blog isn't dead... it's just been resting, pining for the fjords and all that)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How well does your MySQL survive power loss?

The huge power outage at 365, affecting such sites as craigslist.org and Yelp, brings to mind some important thoughts about redundancy and infrastructure. Of the many sites at 365, including both new, interesting startups and more mature sites, how many survived the power outage well? More importantly, did they lose power on their databases, and then did they lose any data?

It's easy to believe in your provider when they assure you of uptime, redundant power, excellent cooling, and whatever else they promise to get your business. But you really shouldn't, and this is an example of why. You must have multiple sites! Preferably geographically diverse (nothing hurts like an earthquake or hurricane taking out your main data center and your redundant data center at the same time).

MySQL, sadly, is not a durable database when it comes to power outages. I've heard from more than one person affected by the 365 incident and, consistent with my own experience, MySQL does not handle sudden power outages well. Even with state of the art SCSI controllers with expensive battery-backed write buffering, MySQL can toss it all to the wind, especially when replication is involved. Innodb itself is fairly hardened, but when, for instance, replication state does not match innodb's state (because, sadly, MySQL stores replication information non-transactionally in a separate file), you may have to skip statements. Or maybe you use myisam -- now you have to repair your tables, which takes time. Even innodb can take time to come back from a crash, particularly if you use a large buffer.

So, how well will your database handle a power outage? The 365 outage sucked, but in the grand scheme of things, it could have been a lot worse. If your primary data center lost power for 72+ hours, how well would your business function? Plan ahead! Get those backups and replicas off-site.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

iPhone Experience

So, I got myself an iPhone. Pretty predictable to anyone who knows me or reads this rarely updated blog. I had pretty high expectations going into it, and a pretty good idea of what to expect, and I wasn't disappointed. I'll leave it to other bloggers, posters, and websites to detail owning and using the actual device.

I'm more interested in the experience around the launch. I admit, I was lame and had a feeling supplies wouldn't be scarce, so I waited til around 9PM to go to the Palo Alto "flagship" Apple retail store and, sure enough, spent 30 minutes finding parking and 10 minutes in line and purchasing the actual device. So, nothing really exciting there. I did enjoy talking with coworkers who were online whilst inline (not much to do when you're in line at an Apple store, really, except email, IM, and browse the web), and there was quite a bit of email on the topic on enthusiast mailing lists at work, but somehow I just didn't get swept up into the experience itself. I did enjoy watching it, though.

Some people think of it as the coming of a new age of cell phones (admittedly, I do think this will change the industry). Others think of it as a crass demonstration of the worst aspects of capitalism (admittedly, there is some ugliness when you think about just how spoiled this shows some parts of the world are compared to those parts that are much worse off). In the end, though, I think it's just people doing what people do and pursuing the things that matter to them and that give them joy.

One thing that did strike me was Robert Scoble at the Palo Alto store and his impressive 36 hour campout. It paid off -- he got to be first in line, had some nice publicity (even making the cover of the San Jose Mercury News). What really struck me was that he did it with his son, and that they had the opportunity to meet some great people like Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, and other Silicon Valley luminaries who also visited to get their own iPhones. Most striking was that he did it with his son, Patrick; sounds like they had a great time, and I'm sure both will look back on it fondly years from now, long after the iPhone is a relic of the first step out of the seemingly prehistoric time of cell phones. Their experience is a nice reminder of some of the human aspect of this spectacle. It isn't just about the iPhone, it's also about the people.