Schooner Serves Up Faster Web 2.0 Caches

Aiming to cash in on the booming growth in Web 2.0, Schooner Information Technology emerged from stealth mode today to launch its Schooner Appliance for MySQL Enterprise and Schooner Appliance for Memcached, two dedicated servers that act as high-speed caches for Web 2.0 technologies.

Cache servers sit between a database and Web server and act much in the same was as the L2 and L3 cache in a CPU in that they retain frequently accessed data for faster retrieval.

A site like Yahoo or Facebook would use cache servers to retain Web page pieces and objects that every user would see, or their most frequently displayed elements. That way, the Web server doesn’t have to keep going back to the database server, reducing latency and improving the user experience.

The Schooner offerings are 2U appliances that comes with two Intel Xeon 5560 processors based on the chipmaker’s Nehalem technology, 64GB of memory and half a terabyte of storage via Intel’s X25E solid-state drives. The only spinning media in the box is a hard drive for logging purposes.

The real secret sauce is the revisions to serving using MySQL and Memcached — an open, distributed system for caching content. Schooner said it essentially rewrote Memcached to support the Xeon 5560’s multithreading, giving it almost linear scaling per thread.

The result is an eight-fold improvement over traditional Memcached servers while requiring one-eighth the power and space and a 60 percent reduction in TCO, according to Michael Pray, vice president of marketing for the startup.

Schooner went for the X25e drives to support write-intensive workloads. “They’ve done good work with wear leveling and write amplification,” Pray said. The estimated meat time before failure on the drives is nine years, but there is also a console monitoring system that will warn of an impending drive failure, so if one is on the verge of failure, it can be removed without taking the server down.

For MySQL databases, the Schooner servers are identical in hardware specs to the Memcached servers but optimized for OLTP and OLAP functions with fast replication and failover support. Thanks to using the SSD drives, the Schooner MySQL cache is nine to 10 times faster than a traditional hard disk-based server, claims Dr. John Busch, CEO and co-founder.

Schooner claims that a site with a 5TB workload can cut its cache server farm from 102 servers to just 13 Schooner appliances, resulting in a 62 percent reduction in operating expenses over three years.

“You want to go green? This is how to go green,” Pray said.

One area Schooner is not targeting is the hottest market out there, however: virtualized servers. “Databases and caching need the whole machine and can’t be virtualized, and because they don’t scale well, they need all the memory available and all the disk space for the database,” Busch said.

At a starting MSRP of $45,000, these servers are not cheap, but they pay for themselves over time, he added. “If you look at capex [capital expenses] from a legacy basis, do provide some capex savings but most savings are in opex [operating expenses]. Also, we think there’s a longer lifespan than compared to servers of yesterday.”

Jim Handy, president of Objective Analysis, said he thinks Schooner has found itself a good niche in which to operate merely from targeting MySQL alone, since there are more than 100 million MySQL installs.

“It’s awful good for a startup coming out of the chute to offer a compelling advantage for that kind of an audience,” he told

Handy felt the Schooner systems would be better suited for new datacenters starting from scratch, but existing datacenters could also benefit.

“I know a lot of datacenters are interested in increasing what they can get out of their existing infrastructure,” he said. “That’s why VMware is so popular. What the guys at Schooner are going to have to sell people on is if they reduce the amount of servers they use, is there’s another use for that equipment? If they free up servers for caching, can those servers be used in other purposes.”

The Schooner Information Appliances will begin shipping in May.

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