A hallmark of the
Information Age is the incredible amount of business data that companies have
to store and analyze. The ability to efficiently search data for important
patterns can provide an essential competitive edge.
example, an e-commerce Web site needs to be able to monitor online shopping
carts to see which products are selling quickly. A financial services company
needs to hone its equity trading strategy as it optimizes its response to
fast-changing market conditions. Businesses that face challenges like these
have turned to distributed, in-memory data grids (also called distributed
caches) to scale their ability to manage fast-changing data and comb through
data to identify patterns and trends requiring a timely response.
in-memory data grids (IMDGs) offer two key advantages. First, they store data
in memory instead of on disk for fast access, and second, they run seamlessly
across a farm of servers to scale performance. But
perhaps best of all, they provide a fast, easy to use platform for running
"what if" analyses on the data they store. By breaking the sequential
bottleneck, they can take performance to a level that stand-alone database
servers cannot match.
architects and developers often say the following. "OK, I see the advantages,
but how do I incorporate a distributed, in-memory data grid into my data
storage architecture, and how could it help me to analyze my data?"
are three simple steps for building a fast, scalable data storage and analysis
solution using a distributed, in-memory data grid.
1. Store fast-changing
business data directly in a distributed, in-memory data grid instead of a
in-memory data grids, like ScaleOut
StateServer, are designed to plug directly into the business logic of today’s
enterprise applications and services. By storing data as collections of objects
instead of relational database tables, they match the in-memory view of data
already used by business logic. This makes distributed data grids
exceptionally easy to integrate into existing applications using simple APIs,
which are available for most modern languages, like C#, Java, and C++.
distributed IMDGs run on server farms, their storage capacity and throughput
scale just by adding more grid servers. When hosted on a large server farm or
in the cloud, a distributed, in-memory data grid’s ability to store and quickly
access large volumes of data can grow well beyond that for a stand-alone
2. Integrate the distributed,
in-memory data grid with database servers as part of an overall storage
course, distributed, in-memory data grids are used to complement and not
replace database servers, which are the authoritative repositories for
transactional data and long-term storage. For example, in an ecommerce Web
site, a distributed, in-memory data grid would hold shopping carts to
efficiently handle a large workload of online shopping traffic, while a backend
database server stores completed transactions, inventory, and customer records.
The key to integrating a distributed, in-memory data grid into an enterprise
application’s overall storage strategy is to carefully separate application
code used for business logic from other code used for data access.
IMDGs naturally fit into business logic, which usually manages data as objects.
This code is also where rapid access to data is needed, and that’s where
distributed data grids provide the greatest benefit. In contrast, the data
access layer typically focuses on converting objects into a relational form (or
vice versa) for storage in database servers.
a distributed, in-memory data grid optionally can be integrated with a database
server so that it can automatically access data from the database server if
it’s missing from the distributed data grid. This is very useful for certain
types of data, such as product or customer information, which is kept in the
database server and just retrieved when needed by the application. However,
most types of fast-changing, business logic data can be kept solely in a
distributed, in-memory data grid and never written out to a database server.
3. Analyze grid-based data
using simple analysis codes and the "map/reduce" programming pattern.
collection of objects, such as a Web site’s shopping carts or a financial
company’s pool of stock histories, has been hosted in a distributed, in-memory
data grid, it’s important to be able to scan all of this data for important
patterns and trends. Over the last 25 years, researchers have developed a
powerful, two-step method, now popularly called "map/reduce,"
for analyzing large volumes of data in parallel. In the first step, each object
in the collection is analyzed for an important pattern of interest by writing
and running a simple algorithm that just looks at one object at a time. This
algorithm is run in parallel on all objects to quickly analyze all of the data.
Next, the results that were generated by running this algorithm are combined to
determine an overall result, which hopefully identifies an important trend.
example, an e-commerce developer could write a simple code which analyzes each
shopping cart to rate which product categories are generating the most
interest. This code could be run on all shopping carts several times during the
day (or perhaps after a marketing blitz on the Web site has been launched) to
identify important shopping trends.
in-memory data grids offer an ideal platform for analyzing data using this
"map/ reduce" programming pattern. Because they store data as memory-based
objects, the analysis code is very easy to write and debug as a simple
"in-memory" code. Programmers do not need to learn parallel programming
techniques or understand how the grid works. Also, distributed, in-memory data
grids provide the infrastructure needed to automatically run this analysis code
on all grid servers in parallel and then combine the results. The net result is
that by using a distributed, in-memory data grid, the application developer can
easily and quickly harness the full scalability of the grid to rapidly discover
data patterns and trends that are vital to a company’s success. An example of
built-in "map/reduce" (called Parallel Method Invocation) can be found in
ScaleOut StateServer Grid Computing
companies become ever more pressed to manage increasing data volumes and
quickly respond to changing market conditions, they are turning to distributed,
in-memory data grids to obtain the "scalability" boost they need. As clouds
become an integral part of enterprise infrastructures, distributed, in-memory
data grids should further prove their value in harnessing the power of scalable
computing to provide an essential competitive edge.
ScaleOut Software develops software products that provide scalable, highly available distributed caching for server farms. It has offices in Bellevue Washington and Beaverton, Oregon. The company was founded by Dr. William L. Bain, whose previous company, Valence Research, developed and distributed Web load-balancing software that was acquired by Microsoft Corporation and is now called Network Load Balancing within the Windows Server operating system.