Open source MySQL database all child's play

When popular children's Web site Nickelodeon went through an upgrade and rehosting move late last year, the decision to stay with the open source MySQL database was apparent amid growing data and traffic demands.

Local Web development firm Victoria Real develops the local Nickelodeon site which is hosted by Macquarie Telecom. Victoria Real's technical director Pip Jones described MySQL as "brilliant".

"The site has a large amount of data, about 1GB, and has a lot of searching and pattern matching - particularly for the card trading game," Jones said. "It also processes complicated analysis for 'rewards' of which there are millions in the database. MySQL is doing a lot of work there."

The site runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0, MySQL version 3, PHP 4, and the fledgling new version of the world's most popular Web server, Apache 2. It processes some four million page impressions per month at an average of 12 database queries per second.

Jones said Apache 2 wasn't a real driver for the upgrade and conceded uptake has been slow as there is not an overwhelming list of features.

With the site running MySQL version 3, Jones is keen to upgrade to version 4 but is waiting for it to be approved by Red Hat.

"You get used to working with MySQL with what it can do [and] we do advanced features in the application," he said. "We sometimes don't use the advanced database features because you still have to put the user interface on top."

Jones has no worries about MySQL's scalability, saying that during a peak in one promotion the database was using a gig of RAM, and it runs well at high traffic levels.

"It's so easy to configure and that's key," he said. "That makes it easy to de-bug [therefore] we haven't had a problem with it."

Jones said Nickelodeon doesn't need a clustered database, because it manages the data by publishing it to the Web servers.

"We also bring a lot of stuff over from the US and convert JSP to PHP," he said.

On security, Jones said the Apache, MySQL, and Red Hat combination is "very secure".

"I believe in the security of open source systems," he said. "Peer review is good and I don't believe in security by obscurity. Open source is made more secure than proprietary software by this process."

Jones is also trialling commercial PHP tools from Zend Technologies which give the ability to browse Web site activity and performance so "you can drill down to database calls and step through multiple languages".

Macquarie Telecom's hosting solutions manager Glen Noble said Nickelodeon has taken advantage of its recent partnership with Red Hat for a managed hosting solution.

"Companies choose a hosted solution for security, scalability, quality, and to reduce overheads associated with patching," Noble said. "We track hits and volume so scaling is a non-issue as there is massive bandwidth available."

Noble said there are a lot of variants of Linux but for businesses and governments to embrace it they need standards like Red Hat Enterprise Server.

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