Wednesday May 22, 2013

Just Add Water

When it comes to web browsing, I have little patience with amateurish sites and won’t hesitate to point out problems and flaws to the webmaster—if I can find a link to them, that is. Have you ever had this experience: you are on a web site trying to buy something and it is so slow and unresponsive that you decide to forget it: it isn’t worth the trouble or you just don’t have time? Chalk that up as one lost sale! This is—or at least should be—the web team’s nightmare.

Sure, the Web is the ultimate source of free information. But, ultimately something needs to pay the bills. Since the Web has become the universal marketplace, you would think every business would want to maximize their return by optimizing their web commerce infrastructure…

Do you remember Sea Monkeys? Just add water and soon you would have your own little amusing zoo. “Sea Monkeys” (actually dried brine shrimp) have been around since I was a kid. Advertisements were a staple of comic books. I see their purveyor, Transcience Corporation, is still in existence and taking orders!

Where is this leading? I would like to think of Oracle ATG Web Commerce as the sea monkeys of web commerce: just add Oracle’s SPARC SuperCluster. “Sure,” you are thinking to yourself, “he is paid to say that.” I can’t deny that, but my entire career in the computer industry has swirled around the dream of reusable components. We now have them: software and hardware. My enthusiasm is both justified and sincere.

A proof is in one of the best articles to cross my screen in some time: “How to Optimize Your Web Commerce Infrastructure By Tuning Oracle ATG Web Commerce Applications on SPARC SuperCluster”. This dissertation is surprisingly compact for the amount of information behind it. As the authors put it:

The objective of deploying an internet storefront or what is commonly called an e-commerce Website is to produce revenue through product offerings and subsequent purchases at the Website while at the same time “learning” about customers and their preferences. Ultimately, the goal is to make it easy for customers to research and purchase items on the site while encouraging customers to purchase related products and services. … Delivering a positive user experience also requires fast response time.

The article discussed the architecture used for testing. To get there, they had to figure out what an optimal test workload would look like and then how to simulate it. They then ask the really important question, “can this workload scale on a bigger system?”

In this study the authors developed a number of best practices, tweaks to make things run better, which they share:

  • Configuring Oracle SPARC SuperCluster with Oracle VM Server for SPARC
  • Setting Up the Oracle WebLogic Server Zone
  • Setting Up the Oracle ATG Web Commerce Zone
  • Modifying the General Purpose Domain
  • Modifying the Oracle ATG Web Commerce Environment
  • Modifying the Oracle WebLogic Server Environment
  • Modifying the Database Server

For example, because the Web server will generate a lot of concurrent processes, all accessing the database, you will want increase these in the database configuration. If you think about it, this is a meager list of tweaks for such a complex system.

Response time metrics as Oracle ATG Web Commerce workload was incrementally increased
Response time metrics as Oracle ATG Web Commerce workload was incrementally increased

This article is a great read. At the very least, it gives you an approach and methodology to testing. More importantly, it demonstrates how easy it is to create a stable and scalable solution today. Just add water.

—Kemer

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Kemer Thomson
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