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RamSan Success Stories: LuLu, Inc.

The Challenge: Enable Higher Customer Traffic

"Worst-case latency in the new system is 0.07% that of the worst case latency of the old system,"
Bill Montgomery, Director of IT, Lulu, Inc.


Lulu's e-marketplace for independently published content is growing rapidly. Lulu provides independent publishers with free access to on-demand publishing tools for books, e-books, music, images, calendars and more. Already, the Lulu.com marketplace contains over 20,000 books along with thousands of independently published images, music, and calendars. Publishing on Lulu is free, creators retain their copyright, and creators have the option of setting their own royalties on products. Materials purchased on Lulu are printed on demand.

Lulu has developed its extensive suite of publishing tools and a sophisticated e-marketplace engine on a PostgreSQL database on top of Red Hat Linux. The database was maintained on a conventional RAID5 storage subsystem, with content on networked attached storage.

Lulu's fast growth was putting pressure on the website and infrastructure to keep pace and meet spikes in demand where large volumes of orders were being placed simultaneously. Good press, although welcome, sometimes drove high customer traffic to the website. The existing database server and RAID were not performing and scaling to match Lulu's growing popularity. "In particular, we were experiencing really high I/O wait times with our storage", said Bill Montgomery, Director of IT at Lulu.

Unwilling to tolerate further customer timeouts due to I/O wait time, Lulu set out to revamp their database hardware and software to support higher loads and activity, thereby enabling higher customer traffic. Deploying higher performance servers and upgrading software would increase the CPU capabilities and provide application scalability, but would not solve the I/O wait time problem Lulu was experiencing with its existing storage devices.

Lulu set out to replace their direct attached RAID5 storage with a storage system that would handle spikes in activity that would be up to 10 times their average daily peaks in activity, typically experienced between noon and 3pm Eastern time. Internet activity levels tend to fluctuate widely, and Lulu already knew first hand how fast-traveling online news could drive its website traffic and demand for its services. Finding a storage system that could meet the expected high activity burst rate of random I/O generated by such high system usage would allow Lulu to provide faster response times and support higher volumes of customer traffic. Finding the right solution was critical to Lulu's continued growth and success.

The Solution: High Performance RamSan-320 Solid State Disk
Lulu looked at a high performance RAID storage subsystem from IBM as well as Solid State Disk in order to solve their I/O challenge. Lulu had not used SSD before, but contacted Texas Memory Systems because of TMS' leadership in high performance solid state disk technology. Lulu was pleasantly surprised to find that the two systems were similarly priced, so they were in a position to choose the better solution and still stay within budget.

The RamSan-320 from Texas Memory Systems delivers over 250,000 random I/Os per second and 1500MB/s random sustained external throughput. The raw performance capabilities and price-performance made RamSan the clear choice for Lulu.

The RamSan also proved simple to install and configure. The RamSan presents itself as a fibre channel attached device with an intuitive interface that makes it simple to create LUNs and connect to the hosts. Lulu created 2 16GB LUNs and directly connected their 32GB RamSan-320 to their two IBM P-series database servers via Qlogic 2342 host bus adapters with multipathing.

Lulu continues to use networked attached storage for content, and uses the RamSan solid state disk for the database files, which only store content meta-data and e-commerce data. Initial benchmarks show astounding performance potential. "Worst-case latency in the new system is 0.07% that of the worst case latency of the old system," said Montgomery.

The Result: 4x Higher Customer Traffic With Room To Grow
"The core functionality of the RamSan has worked beautifully from day one," according to Bill Montgomery. Increasing traffic of their web-based customer application has been handled easily by the new database server/RamSan combination. Lulu now experiences over 4x (300%) its previous website traffic volume and yet has only used a fraction of the performance potential of their RamSan-320. As business grows, the RamSan will continue to scale and provide the performance required to ensure rapid response for independent publishers on Lulu. Increased traffic and additional servers can easily be accommodated. At some future point, as the database grows, the capacity of the RamSan may also be expanded if desired.

Beyond being satisfied with their RamSan and their application performance, Lulu was impressed by Texas Memory Systems as a vendor company. "Our sales rep has been extremely helpful and knowledgeable, " said Bill Montgomery. "He's given us a level of attention that a customer of our size does not get from larger vendors."

The RamSan enables higher customer traffic, faster response times, and room to grow for Lulu. As the word spreads about Lulu's e-marketplace for independently published content, and demand for its free, on-demand publishing tools expands, the growing pains of storage I/O wait time are past.

About Lulu:
The latest endeavor of Red Hat co-founder Bob Young, Lulu (www.lulu.com) is a web site that allows people to publish and sell their own books, e-books, images, multimedia and music. Lulu provides the creators and owners of content businesses, educators, artists, musicians, and others with control over how they use and share their work. The Lulu brand is derived from the concept of a "lulu," which is an old-fashioned term for a remarkable person, object or idea. The enterprise is driven by Young's strong belief that improving access to information creates a firmer foundation for knowledge advancement, whether in education, computer code, or other realms. Lulu was founded at the end of 2002. For more information, please visit www.lulu.com

Contact sales@superssd.com or request a price quote online.

RamSan and "the World's Fastest Storage" are trademarks of Texas Memory Systems, Inc. All other trademarks belong to their respective companies. ©Copyright 2005 Texas Memory Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of Texas Memory Systems is strictly forbidden. Texas Memory Systems cannot be responsible for errors in typography or photography. Information in this document is subject to change without notice.

Facts at a Glance



Industry/Segment:
E-commerce platform for independent publishing on demand

Applications:
Custom web application and PostgreSQL database

Environment:
IBM P-Series servers running Red Hat Linux, Qlogic 2342 host bus adapters (HBAs) with multi-pathing

Solution:
RamSan-320
3 GB/s random sustained bandwidth

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