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Database Performance Analyzer pumps up Bodybuilding.com's performance

Sean Scott, DBA for Bodybuilding.com, wanted a performance tool that ran like it was designed by a DBA. He chose SolarWinds DPA to handle performance and Cyber Monday peak loads.

Bodybuilding.com needed a way to get control over the load jumps caused by the sudden influx of visitors to the site on two important days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

People go to Bodybuilding.com on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to buy Christmas gifts, and on the day after New Year's to help them keep their fitness resolutions, causing overloads on those days. On top of that, Bodybuilding.com faced performance issues from a database configuration made according to a vision of the future that turned out to be inaccurate. Seeing the need for improved troubleshooting and performance management, especially on high-impact days, Bodybuilding.com's Oracle core database administrator and architect, Sean Scott, set out to find the right tool for the job and selected SolarWind's Database Performance Analyzer (DPA).

Bodybuilding.com is the largest online retailer of nutritional supplements and hosts a Facebook-style support community for health enthusiasts. The company, founded in 1999 in Boise, Idaho, has since gone from a small company run out of the founder's garage to one of the largest in Idaho. Scott, who started at Bodybuilding.com in 2012, is part of a team of 23 people who collectively cover quality assurance, systems administration, security, database systems engineering and database engineering for the company.

Bodybuilding.com uses Oracle Standard Edition 11.2.04 and Oracle ATG Web Commerce to run its online store. It also uses Oracle Real Application Clusters and an Oracle back end. Aside from Oracle, Bodybuilding.com also runs on MySQL, MongoDB and Cassandra DB, though the store itself is exclusively on Oracle.

[SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer] really freed us up as DBAs to concentrate on important things like strategic initiatives instead of doing a twice-a-week deep dive.
Sean ScottOracle core database administrator and architect at Bodybuilding.com

Since Oracle Standard Edition doesn't have the diagnostic and tuning packs that Oracle Enterprise Edition has, leaving Bodybuilding.com without an effective way to pinpoint performance problems, the Bodybuilding.com IT team was using the open source network monitoring tool Zabbix to handle performance monitoring and to fill that gap. "We needed something more dedicated and specific to Oracle," Scott said.

When it came to picking a performance monitoring tool, price was a factor, but not as much as ease of use. Scott had a very clear idea of what he wanted from the tool.

"I started out as a command line guy," he said. "I do not like GUI [graphic user interface] tools." However, he said, DPA "looks like it was designed by a DBA, not someone who thought 'this is what a DBA might want.'" He added, "DPA turns out to be really, really easy to use. It shows you, visually, information that is immediately recognizable to you."

According to Scott, using Database Performance Analyzer freed up a lot of time for DBAs. For instance, Scott explained that before implementing Database Performance Analyzer, whenever the development team made changes to the metadata and took it to production, the database team would see a big change in performance and would have to quickly run tests to find the problem and fix it. This would include going into the environment, running scripts, going over the full data and doing hand calculations. This caused some tension between the development and DBA sides of IT.

However, with DPA, the development team was able to understand the problems and troubleshoot them themselves. "It really freed us up as DBAs to concentrate on important things like strategic initiatives instead of doing a twice-a-week deep dive," Scott said, adding that implementing DPA "softened things between dev and DBA."

The implementation of Database Performance Analyzer also helped the DBA team handle the peak times on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Scott explained that he is very hands-on up until Cyber Monday, but on the actual day, is now able to be hands-off. "Our use of DPA on Cyber Monday really consists of putting [the performance report] up on the big screen and waiting for an anomaly," he said.

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This was last published in November 2016

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