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Determining number of servers needed for large member site

Database servers needed for a site with thousands of users can vary depending on a number of factors, including your necessary level of load application as detailed by SQL Server 2005 expert Adam Machanic.

I would like to know the number of servers needed for a large member site? I am aware that a number of problems can arise when a site has a huge number of members, but an insufficient number of servers where users simultaneously search through the MySQL database for other members' profiles. Problems include down time, slow server performance, slow script and even outages to users.
Do you have an idea how many servers are needed to handle 100,000 concurrent users of a member site?
It is impossible to predict how many servers your site will need without understanding the nature of the applications running on the servers, the users using the applications, and the servers' specifications. In addition, there are questions of what high-availability tactics you'll want to employ, if any.
Some factors you should look at include:

  • How are the applications architected from a scalability point of view? Is there a middle tier that does data caching in order to take load off of the database servers? Can the data be partitioned in order to support a scale-out strategy, or must scale-up be employed if you need to support more concurrent load? Are the applications' interfaces into the data chatty (i.e. do they make a lot of requests for data)?

  • How often do users log in? What do users do while they're on the site, and how much traffic will they generate? How many simultaneous users will the application have to support in peak load times?

    Once you've considered these factors, take the data you've collected and create stress tests to validate the load requirements. Only by testing can you determine how much load the application can handle, and whether you'll be able to scale it by adding more servers.

  • This was last published in July 2006

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