Bonnier's rapid expansion created multiple challenges for its IT department, which was processing content for 40% more publications while striving to make the Web content more interactive and engaging.
"We're creating new ways of getting content to our audiences … with more forums and blogs, photos and videos," said Scott Baker, the manager of database administration. "For example, sport divers can use Google Maps to select a location and add a dive site, with descriptions, dive profiles and a buddy finder."
The expansion required moving from a cramped data center to an off-site facility with additional capacity, tripling the number of Linux-based servers from 11 to 35 (most of which run on Ubuntu) and increasing the interactive development team from six to 38 in a year. Bonnier also increased the number of Oracle database servers from two to three, with an extra production server required to stream content to and from Web sites. The remaining Oracle database server is used for development.
Total Oracle overhaul
At the time, the Oracle database servers ran RHEL on Dell machines but Bonnier decided to switch to Oracle Enterprise Linux, which is based on RHEL, plus Oracle Unbreakable Linux support. In the process, Bonnier also upgraded its Oracle databases from standard to enterprise edition to handle the additional traffic and to take advantage of additional features like partitioning, bitmap indexing and materialized views, Baker said.
Bonnier's primary motive in moving from Red Hat to Oracle Enterprise Linux was to simplify problem solving by working with a single vendor to address issues with either the database or the operating system, Baker said.
A bonus for Bonnier was the reduced cost of the Oracle Linux operating system. As it did with Red Hat, Bonnier opted for minimal support, because the staff can readily handle installs, support and patching and needs only occasional help with problems, he said. And the tab for software purchase and basic support services from Oracle was about a third the cost of Red Hat, he said.
So the question is, Did Bonnier get a bargain because Oracle wants to make inroads into Red Hat's overwhelming market share? Since he wasn't in charge of the negotiations, Baker couldn't comment on anything other than the bottom line.
"Linux is already a very low cost option, and we made further financial gains by going with Oracle," Baker said.
To date, Bonnier has had no problems migrating from Red Hat to Oracle or running its Oracle database on top of Oracle Linux Enterprise, he said. And Oracle Streams, a data replication feature included with the Oracle database, enabled Bonnier to move Web sites a few at a time between its two centers, checking as it went, before transferring additional sites to the new facility, Baker said.
As for performance, Oracle "can make a case" that tweaking the stable Linux kernel specifically to run its databases makes it easier for staff to manage these databases and operating system, Baker said. But Bonnier installed faster processors and more memory when it switched from Red Hat to Oracle Enterprise Linux, so it's impossible to pinpoint how much of the improvement is attributable to the optimized operating system, he said.
"We're happy we switched to Oracle Linux and will continue to standardize running our database servers on Oracle Linux going forward," Baker said. "It's more cost-effective and easier to have one vendor for the operating system and the database server. We have one place for support.