REVIEWER: David Smith, CTO for ServiceU.

BACKGROUND: ServiceU helps organizations from small churches to Fortune 500 companies manage concerts, conferences and other events with its online event management software, including box office management, ticket sales, event registration, and facility and resource scheduling.

HARDWARE PLATFORMS: SQL Server 2005 on Dell PowerEdge 2850 servers with dual processors and 2GB of RAM for presentation and application tiers. Dell PowerEdge 2850 servers with dual processors and 8GB of RAM for the database tier.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We needed to deploy a mirror of our database as part of our commitment to ensuring high availability. The solution needed to have geographic redundancy to help ensure that our worldwide customers would always be able to access their ServiceU solution, scalability to support growth, online indexing to reduce impact on users during database maintenance, transparent upgrades to enable use of existing stored procedures and enhanced developer productivity as we create our own applications. We wanted a single-vendor solution to remove finger pointing if something went wrong. Our production system is our livelihood. We must protect the interests of our customers and don't have room for ongoing issues. With that in mind, we developed our solution.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: In SQL Server databases, data changes are recorded in the transaction log before any changes to actual data pages. The transaction log records are placed in a database's log buffer in memory and then flushed to disk. In database mirroring, as the principal server writes the database's log buffer to disk, it sends that block of log records to the mirror instance. The latency between our Memphis facility and our Atlanta facility is only 10 milliseconds - even with our triple DES encryption. This allows us to use asynchronous mirroring and commit the data to the Atlanta facility extremely quickly.

STRENGTHS: With SQL Server 2005 online indexing, index-related maintenance and downtime problems went away. Online indexing is crucial to our efforts to reduce scheduled downtime. SQL Server 2005 database mirroring provides geographic redundancy for disaster recovery of data. Also, scalability was enhanced, as the move to SQL Server 2005 helped reduce CPU utilization. We are a level-one PCI service provider, the highest level of compliance. This audited security compliance has rigorous requirements. In order to bring our systems online at a different facility after a disaster, we must show that we have implemented all of the level-one PCI security precautions. By implementing database mirroring and keeping both sites compliant, we can quickly make the Atlanta data center the primary facility if something happens to our Memphis facility. This saves us what could be days or even weeks to restore from tape and implement the numerous safeguards required by the payment card industry. Database mirroring is essential to this process, as it allows us to have the entire geographically redundant site functional, compliant and ready at a moment's notice.

WEAKNESSES: In order to (re)create the mirror, it is necessary to copy a full backup file to the remote location. That works for principals and mirrors that are in close proximity, but when they are across the country, it becomes more difficult. The second issue is in moving the principal to the primary or secondary site. When there are interrelated databases, it would be nice to have a "database groups" feature, enabling dependent databases to always be at either one site or the other.

SELECTION CRITERIA: With SQL Server database mirroring, we saw the opportunity to save the $100,000 that a hardware solution would have cost, while avoiding potential integration problems posed by third-party software.

DELIVERABLES: The geographic redundancy we get provides us with a tremendous strategic advantage. We know that significant downtime would not only cause our customers an inconvenience, it would have a serious business impact on us. We now view our network's reliability and redundancy as a major strategic factor for marketing our services. We compete against extremely large service providers. With database mirroring, network load balancing and our other precautions, we have trumped the technical capabilities of our competition.

VENDOR SUPPORT: With our desire for a one-vendor solution and our high expectations for service in mind, the level of technical support we get with SQL Server 2005 is what we expect working with Microsoft.

DOCUMENTATION: The level of product documentation is as we expected.

SQL Server 2005
1 Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052
(425) 882-8080

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