SoftLayer fires up MongoDB database service

Eyes Cassandra, Hadoop, your money


Privately held hosting and cloudy infrastructure peddler SoftLayer is tag-teaming with 10gen, the creator of the MongoDB NoSQL data store, to sell preconfigured MongoDB setups to park your big data on its 100,000-server data centers.

The addition of a MongoDB service is just the latest in a line of infrastructure and platform services that SoftLayer has rolled out for its cloud, which is run using its own proprietary cloud control freak – although SoftLayer did start selling virtual private clouds last summer using CloudPlatform from Citrix Systems, which is the commercial-grade version of the Apache CloudStack control freak.

SoftLayer VP of innovation Marc Jones tells El Reg that SoftLayer is committed to using its own tools to run its cloud, and even CloudStack takes its marching orders from the SoftLayer control freak.

Jones says that having absolute control over its own management tools is one of the reasons why it can manage so many machines. Its pool of boxes, which run in thirteen data centers around the world, is considerably larger than the installed base of servers that cross-state rival Rackspace Hosting has. But Rackspace is closing in, with over 89,000 machines in the third quarter.

Rackspace has an annual run rate in excess of $1bn at this point, too, compared to around $400m for SoftLayer. What is important for privately held SoftLayer is that revenues are up around 21 per cent from $330m last year, and that its approach is working, even with all of the hype around the OpenStack cloud control freak being championed by Rackspace.

SoftLayer is simply sticking to its knitting and offering more services from which it can extract more money. The one coming out this week is a MongoDB setup, which comes in three sizes and which SoftLayer can have up and running on bare metal in under two hours.

That bare metal is an issue, says Jones, because the majority of MongoDB installations are on virtualized public clouds, and at some point, as companies gather and sift through more data, they find performance issues with virty machines.

With expertise in quick provisioning of bare-metal clusters, customers were coming to SoftLayer for custom engagements and then utility-style pricing for MongoDB. The two companies decided to fire up cloud capacity to run MongoDB and also introduce a new monthly pricing scheme for the supported version of the NoSQL data store from 10gen. These are called MongoDB Cloud Subscriptions, and for the moment at least, you can only get them on SoftLayer's cloud.

MongoDB is organized in server clusters that span up to a dozen machines; these are called replica sets. To go beyond this scalability, 10gen has add-ons that allow you to share and replicate your databases. For now, SoftLayer is only supporting plain vanilla replica sets, but Jones says that in early 2013 the service will have automagic configuration and sharding of MongoDB when you bust out of the dozen-server cluster size.

The MongoDB replica sets on the SoftLayer cloud are based on three different machines, which come in small, medium, and large T-shirt sizes.

The small server size for MongoDB is a single-socket 1U machine based on Intel's Xeon E3-1270 processor, and has 8GB of main memory (upgradable to 32GB) with two 500GB SATA drives that are mirrored with a RAID controller. You can have up to four drives in this MongoDB node, and shift to 1TB drives if you need more capacity. This server costs $359 per month, and a MongoDB gold support contract for this box costs $300 per month.

The medium MongoDB machine in the SoftLayer cloud is based on a two-socket server using Xeon 5670 processors, and sports 32GB of memory (expandable to 128GB). The base node has four 300GB SAS drives spinning at 15K RPM plus two 64GB solid state drives for storing the operating system and MongoDB journals. This box has a total of 12 drive bays, with two of them used by the SSDs. You can upgrade to 400GB SSDs or 600GB SAS 15K RPM drives. The base configuration of this MongoDB machine costs $1,419 per month, and the MongoDB license costs $400 per month.

The large configuration running the NoSQL data store is based on a 4U server that has a total of 36 drive bays, and is based on the latest Xeon E5-2620 processors. This large node comes with 128GB of memory (which can be expanded as far as 256GB) and comes with six 600GB 15K RPM SAS drives and two 400GB SSDs. This big boy will run you $3,449 per month for the server and another $600 for the subscription to MongoDB support for the node.

All of the MongoDB cloud servers are configured with CentOS because SoftLayer knows most of us are cheap bastards.

Jones says that SoftLayer is looking at other big data stores, such as the Cassandra system created by Facebook and the Hadoop Distributed File System that underpins the Hadoop big data muncher created by Yahoo!. Jones is making no promises, but if enough of you ask for something, history suggests SoftLayer will do it. ®


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