How the Other Half Does Online Bookselling

By Derrick Harris

August 18, 2008

As shocking as it might seem, there is more than one place to go for your online book-buying needs (kind of; see below). What’s even more shocking, though (from an IT perspective, at least), is that online retailers don’t always need to build mega-infrastructures stocked with homegrown tools in order to stay in business.

Such is the case with AbeBooks.com, an online marketplace for new and used books, including rare and collector’s editions, which is utilizing Oracle’s Coherence data grid solution in order to improve the online shopping experience, as well as to ease backend operations. Online since 1996, AbeBooks has been a Coherence user since mid-2006, initially putting its in-memory capabilities to use on the site’s shopping cart module. According to Leith Painter, manager of development at AbeBooks, the goal was to persist critical information for customers without having to read and write from the company’s main database, thus reducing the load on that database and “improving the buyer experience on our Web site.” AbeBooks has eight sites serving the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and the Spanish-speaking world, respectively.

However, stopping constant calls to the database isn’t the only benefit AbeBooks has realized from its data grid implementation. Painter says the company has experienced noticeable performance gains, and he loves Coherence’s “stateless behavior.” “Our online site is [stateless,] so, basically, it doesn’t persist information, it gets load balanced through hardware,” he explained. And because Coherence is not totally reliant on the database, it doesn’t have to come down when AbeBooks rolls out new software every three weeks, which means the site stays up and running.

Painter says Coherence is a marked improvement over the legacy methods — cookies, big cache tables in Java memory, and more frequent database calls — and although the gains would be easily quantifiable, AbeBooks was simply concerned with the business benefits and didn’t feel the need to measure things like performance or ROI.

Cameron Purdy, Oracle’s vice president of Fusion Middleware, says AbeBooks story is not uncommon in the e-commerce world. “If you look at the types of features that are added over time to e-commerce applications, they generally start with very simple and obvious things — add something to a shopping cart and check out, that was easy — but then you add something to a shopping cart and it says, ‘Oh, by the way, based on based on some statistical analysis I’ve done, if you bought that, chances are I can also get you to buy something else,’” he explains. “Each one of these features represents more and more information that has to be accessed in real time.” Real-time access is critical in the e-commerce world, says Purdy, because “if you slow down the page going back to the consumer … you lose.”

Another commonality of customers processing this volume of transactions, what many call “extreme transaction processing,” or XTP, is that they often select Coherence because it allows them to address unknown scalability concerns upfront. Purdy says this was the case with AbeBooks, as well, who used Coherence as “a huge insurance policy” in case they needed to scale due to either consumer demand or adoption of new functionalities.

Both reasons probably are true in the case of AbeBooks, but the latter definitely is. AbeBooks’ Painter says the bookseller has “a lot of big strategies revolving around Coherence,” including sharing information between backend services like APIs and batch application, and sharing that information with the Web site without a tight coupling to the database. “We’d like to reduce our tightly couple dependency on our centralized database, so with a service-oriented architecture strategy, we can start developing backend services that can manage cache information independently without being tightly coupled to a database, and hopefully matures along the whole service-oriented architecture strategy,” says Painter.

Currently, the Coherence tier is coupled with the Web site, but AbeBooks also would like to separate the Coherence implementation into its own physical tier that will allow the company’s Coherence clusters at its two datacenters — located in Victoria, British Columbia, and Calgary — to communicate with one another. AbeBooks sometimes has to do hard outages for two to three minutes, which can result in having to bring down a cluster, as well. “We’d like [our Coherence clusters] to communicate with one another, so when we do roll in software changes, we don’t have to bring our Coherence cluster down at all and impact our users or our buyers,” says Painter.

AbeBooks’ inventory includes more than 110 million books from about 13,500 sellers, and processes up to 30,000 orders per day. The company also handles millions of inventory updates every day — including prices changes, quantities and other related information — that must be delivered to the customer front-end systems in near real time. Aside from Coherence (which AbeBooks actually originally adopted as a Tangosol product before that company was acquired by Oracle), AbeBooks manages this data using a collection of other Oracle products, as well. A four-node Oracle RAC cluster spans the Victoria and Calgary datacenters, real-time replication is handled by Oracle Data Guard, and the company just went through a PCI compliance project using Oracle Streams to replicate a standalone, secure database implementation, Painter says.

About that Other Bookseller …

Earlier this month, plans for an Amazon acquisition of AbeBooks were announced. Still subject to closing conditions, the sale should be finalized around the end of the year, says Richard Davis, PR manager at AbeBooks, who also noted that part of the agreement is that AbeBooks remain a standalone company, keeping its same Web site, staff, etc. As a result, it doesn’t presently look like there will be a technological effect, but, says Davis, “it’s just too early to say how we’re going to work together.”

Although Oracle’s Purdy can’t yet comment on how the Amazon acquisition might affect AbeBooks technologically (Editor’s note: Purdy was asked about the possibility of AbeBooks running on Amazon’s internal infrastructure), he did note that Coherence is a good fit with Amazon’s EC2 service, the publicly available incarnation of its internal computing infrastructure. He doesn’t know whether customers are using the combination in production, but they have used EC2 to test applications leveraging Coherence “because that architecture is very conducive for being able to grab some hardware, roll something out for testing real quickly, and then scrap it when you’re done,” says Purdy. Oracle even has published information on how to make the two work together. (Read more about Purdy’s take on the Coherence-EC2 relationship here.)

E-Commerce and XTP

Purdy believes that data grid architectures, especially those of the in-memory variety, are ideal in situations like e-commerce where there are “large amounts of information and a large volume of access of that information.” Coherence, he says, is “extremely appropriate” for sites trying to do customized searches, real-time notification of changes and acceptance of incoming data streams, or create buffers across multiple datacenters or servers.

Speaking about AbeBooks, Purdy says, “From the outside, it doesn’t necessarily look like information is changing that fast, but on the inside, when they get a chunk of information about what a particular bookstore, for example, has available, they have to back through all the other information they have and reconcile that information. So, it actually can be quite a data-intensive operation, even if, from the consumer point of view, it’s a relatively stable marketplace.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Hyperion: AI-driven HPC Industry Continues to Push Growth Projections

November 21, 2019

Three major forces – AI, cloud and exascale – are combining to raise the HPC industry to heights exceeding expectations. According to market study results released this week by Hyperion Research at SC19 in Denver, Read more…

By Doug Black

At SC19: Bespoke Supercomputing for Climate and Weather

November 20, 2019

Weather and climate applications are some of the most important uses of HPC – a good model can save lives, as well as billions of dollars. But many weather and climate models struggle to run efficiently in their HPC en Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Microsoft, Nvidia Launch Cloud HPC Service

November 20, 2019

Nvidia and Microsoft have joined forces to offer a cloud HPC capability based on the GPU vendor’s V100 Tensor Core chips linked via an InfiniBand network scaling up to 800 graphics processors. The partners announced Read more…

By George Leopold

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Not Known

November 20, 2019

Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Government Group, is retiring after more than 24 years at the company. At this writing, his successor is unknown. An earlier story on... Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU-accelerated computing. In recent years, AI has joined the s Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Data Management – The Key to a Successful AI Project

 

Five characteristics of an awesome AI data infrastructure

[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

AI is powered by data

While neural networks seem to get all the glory, data is the unsung hero of AI projects – data lies at the heart of everything from model training to tuning to selection to validation. Read more…

SC19 Student Cluster Competition: Know Your Teams

November 19, 2019

I’m typing this live from Denver, the location of the 2019 Student Cluster Competition… and, oh yeah, the annual SC conference too. The attendance this year should be north of 13,000 people, with the majority attende Read more…

By Dan Olds

Hyperion: AI-driven HPC Industry Continues to Push Growth Projections

November 21, 2019

Three major forces – AI, cloud and exascale – are combining to raise the HPC industry to heights exceeding expectations. According to market study results r Read more…

By Doug Black

At SC19: Bespoke Supercomputing for Climate and Weather

November 20, 2019

Weather and climate applications are some of the most important uses of HPC – a good model can save lives, as well as billions of dollars. But many weather an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Not Known

November 20, 2019

Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Government Group, is retiring after more than 24 years at the company. At this writing, his successor is unknown. An earlier story on... Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ScaleMatrix and Nvidia Launch ‘Deploy Anywhere’ DGX HPC and AI in a Controlled Enclosure

November 18, 2019

HPC and AI in a phone booth: ScaleMatrix and Nvidia announced today at the SC19 conference in Denver a joint offering that puts up to 13 petaflops of Nvidia DGX Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This