on Monday announced that eHarmony, a leading online dating and match-making service, is now using the Oracle 10g database to play Cupid to more than 17 million love-starved users.
While the actual transition from Microsoft’s SQL Server database software only took an uneventful three hours, the planning, testing and installation took more than 14 months, according to Mark Douglas, eHarmony’s vice president of technology.
But the days and weeks preceding those fateful three hours were every bit as nerve-wracking as those awkward, hesitant seconds leading up to a couple’s first kiss.
“It went flawlessly, but a lot of our IT people were nervous,” Douglas said in an interview with internetnews.com. “Some said they didn’t know a lot about databases but it sounded risky. We’re a 24/7 business. We can’t just shut our database down for the weekend.”
To make it happen, Douglas and his five-person IT crew embarked on the tedious task of scripting custom code that would allow eHarmony to seamlessly transfer data from the SQL Server database to Oracle 10g without any downtime.
The eHarmony site handles more than 400 million page views a month and processes between 400 and 1,200 transactions per second. Douglas wouldn’t comment on exactly how much revenue would be lost if the site went down but said it would “a lot more” than a $1,000 a minute.
“The analogy I like to use is that is was like transferring packages from one plane to another while both are in flight,” he said. “We had to write a really significant amount of code.”
eHarmony, along with competitors such as Yahoo Personals, Match.com, JDate and dozens of other more specialized sites, allows subscribers to build personal profiles, view other subscribers’ profiles and access an array of dating services, including a match-making system that connects would-be lovers with others based on their dating preferences. eHarmony, based in Pasadena, Calif., charges $59 a month for the service but does offer long-term contracts at a lower monthly rate.
In the past year, eHarmony’s registered user base has surged from around 11 million to more than 17 million, adding an average of 15,000 new daters each day. That kind of growth, Douglas said, couldn’t be accommodated on SQL Server.
“There’s nothing particularly wrong with SQL,” he said. “We just needed functionality that Microsoft doesn’t provide and didn’t want to write it all ourselves.”
Leading up to the live launch, eHarmony tested migrating more than five terabytes of its precious data every day for 100 days in a row. It uses more than 400 servers to process changes to customer profiles, queries for potential matches, searches and new customer orders.
Douglas said the total cost to move eHarmony to Oracle 10g was in the vicinity of $1.5 million. The site’s perceived response time—essentially how fast individual pages load—has improved by about 30 percent and the IT department no longer has to schedule planned site outages to perform service operations on the system as it did with the SQL Server software.
According to a study conducted by the Online Publishers Association and comScore Networks, Americans in 2005 spent more than $500 million on online personals and dating sites.
For the record, Douglas is married, didn’t meet his wife on eHarmony and said the company prohibits employees from using the service.