BACKGROUND: iPrint.com is a two-year-old company that lets customers specify, design and order custom-printed material, especially the basics, such as business cards, letterhead and envelopes, over the Internet. iPrint.com customers go to our World Wide Web site, quickly specify the custom design that they want, review an instant online color proof and place their order.
PLATFORMS: Multiple Pentium IIs, 400 MHz servers with 256MB to 1GB of RAM.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Our biggest challenge has been maintaining rapid response, especially with a growth rate of about 30 percent a month. Our site gets tens of thousands of visitors a day; and when we have promotions, we get hundreds of thousands of visitors. As the number of users rises, all of our servers get loaded and queue times go up to milliseconds and eventually to full seconds. On the Web, if people have to wait too long, they click off. That directly affects revenue. The most obvious solution to I/O bottlenecks is to add servers, but that is labor-intensive and expensive. We were looking for a way to handle more traffic with fewer servers.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Before iPrint.com installed the Rushmore SSD, each server would go to its own local hard drive for the next access. We set up the system so that instead of going to their local disk, all the servers went to the SSD in other words, the SSD became the shared drive for the whole system. The Rushmore is a SCSI device. It has the same form factor as a hard disk and installs like a hard disk, so installation is very easy. The server treats it like a hard disk, so there is nothing complex about getting it to run. Rushmore SSD was doing its job as soon as we turned the system on. The next step is to look at the possible impact of SSD technology on the performance of our database server. Currently, calls to the database are pulled into a RAM cache. We want to know if we will have a major improvement in performance if we pull database calls into SSD instead.
STRENGTHS: In addition to its speed and ease of use, the Rushmore provides a good return on investment. Plugging in the Rushmore made an immediate, order-of-magnitude difference. In fact, we just put the drive in the server, put the server back online and queue times immediately fell by 95 percent. That enables us to handle an additional 10,000 visitors a day with the same hardware. With SSD, we are able to get the fastest performance possible out of standard SCSI-bus devices. Before we put in SSD, we were at the end of the road for the performance we could get out of our system. Now, with SSD installed, we are not even close to maxing out the performance of our system.
WEAKNESSES: Like many people, we thought SSD did not have enough capacity and was too expensive. But the new generation of products has a capacity of 3.2GB and a cost of $16/MB which addresses those issues. Our evaluation determined SSDs were better than hard disks, cache or rewriting code for high-volume, e-commerce applications.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We needed performance. Normal hard drives were not fast enough, so we had to look at different technology. We did not evaluate Rushmore against any other solid state disk.
DELIVERABLES: The output is orders for printed office material and the graphic files for that material, but most of the work that the Rushmore handles is processing hits to our Web site.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Quantum's pre-sale support was excellent. When we asked for an additional unit to evaluate, Quantum loaned us one until our own drive was delivered. We have not needed any post-sale support.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is straightforward and easy to use. The Rushmore installs like a hard drive, so the installation instructions are just a page or two long and easy to follow. Because it works like a standard hard drive, we could easily operate from the documentation alone.
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