AKF Partners

Abbott, Keeven & Fisher PartnersPartners In Hyper Growth

RAC Rant

We’ve written about trying to use vendor features to scale but given how often we run across companies that have been convinced by vendors to rely on them, this topic is worth revisiting. To state it as directly as possible, every major SaaS company that has relied on a vendor, software or hardware, to scale them through hyper-growth has failed and had to solve the scale problem themselves.

Since Oracle World took place recently I’ve decided to use Oracle RDBMS as an example of failing to scale with vendor features. We have nothing against using Oracle as an RDBMS, even though there are open source options that can scale just as well, but let’s use one of their scalability features, Real Application Clusters (RAC), as an example. In Oracle’s own words RAC “…enables a single database to run across a cluster of servers, providing unbeatable fault tolerance, performance, and scalability with no application changes necessary.” A nice concept – to scale with “no application changes” – but this isn’t realistic with hyper-growth companies. One large reason is that RAC does not scale across multiple data centers, which is a requirement for hyper-growth companies since everything fails eventually including data centers. Even with the “Extended Distance Clusters” for RAC nodes, they only extend to 25 kilometers using Dark Fiber (DWDM or CWM) technology.

The use of RAC for increased availability is fine but you should review our post on the downside of using vendor features and how to negotiate with vendors. In particular you should be aware that by using this feature you have weakened your position during renewal negotiations. If you think your sales person is being nice by throwing in the RAC feature for a low price, think again. As soon as you start using this feature they have the upper hand in negotiations.

Enough of the RAC rant, especially since this is just one example of many that are out there. Hardware vendors, both servers and storage, are just as guilty of trying to convince SaaS companies to rely on them for scalability. Keep your destiny in your own hands and resist relying on short term solutions to long term problems.