Rightmove Rolls Out Replication

Property portal makes outages a thing of the past with three new data centers

March 22, 2006

3 Min Read
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U.K. property portal Rightmove has deployed replication software from BakBone to boost reliability in its data centers and cut the number of outages on its corporate Website. (See BakBone Makes Rightmove.)

Mike Scott, head of technology operations at Rightmove, told Byte and Switch that the firm's reputation rests on site availability. Launched in 2000, the Website publicizes more than 60 percent of the properties for sale in the U.K. and attracts over nine million visits each month, recording in excess of 2.6 billion page views per year.

But up until 18 months ago, Rightmove was running its systems out of a single, co-located data center in London, and was prone to major outages. This prompted the firm to spread its operations across three co-location sites in the London area, in an effort to improve disaster recovery.

"Until the [additional] sites were set up, we had occasional outages when the Internet feed went out at a single site. The longest we had was two hours," explained Scott, adding that the cause of the two-hour glitch was a failure on the co-location partner's systems. He would not divulge the partner's identity.

Scott deployed BakBone's NetVault Replicator software in late 2004, about the same time that the firm was shifting its 60 Sun Solaris Web servers to the multiple data centers. "We used it to improve reliability, resilience, and performance," he says, explaining that data is now constantly replicated among its three sites. "If there's a failure in one data center, we keep operating out of the other two."A number of vendors, including EMC, Microsoft, and Symantec, are making moves in the replication space, and Scott told Byte and Switch that he looked at them all before opting for BakBone. This decision was prompted by NetVault's ability to shift data backwards and forwards. "There were lots of products that could do replication in a single direction, but none that could do it bi-directionally," he explains.

Scott would not say how much he paid for the NetVault replication product. Although he did confirm that the software is running on a total of three Solaris servers, one in each data center. The list price for the Unix version of NetVault Replicator is around $6,000 per node. And Scott said that Rightmove doesn't measure ROI in strictly financial terms -- there are intangibles like efficiency that also enter into the equation.

For example, Scott says that data can now be replicated among the three sites in a matter of minutes, via 100-Mbit/s links, resulting in no significant outages over the last 18 months.

The firm can also change Website files more quickly. That may sound gratuitous till you consider that Rightmove, which describes itself as the U.K.'s 12th largest Website, makes lots of daily changes. "The total number of files is in the hundreds of thousands of Gbytes."

Prior to deploying NetVault, the firm relied on the Rsync open source Unix tool to make file changes. "We had it scheduled to run once a day, and it took an hour or two," says Scott. "Now, we can run the three sites simultaneously," he adds, enabling Rightmove to make its file changes in a matter of seconds.The next major data center project for Rightmove, however, is not disaster-recovery related. According to Scott, with the realtor's business growing, the plan is to grow the server footprint. "The next thing we will be doing will be increasing capacity within each data center."

That ought to make Rightmove's data center a hot property for hot properties.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • BakBone Software Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Symantec Corp.

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