Clustering, Sharding or simple Partition / Replication

We have created a Facebook application and it got a lot of virality. The problem is that our database started getting REALLY FULL (some tables have more than 25 million rows now). It got to the point that the app just stopped working because there was a queue of thousands and thousands of writes to be made.

I need to implement a solution for scaling this app QUICKLY but I’m not sure if I should pursue Sharding or Clustering since I’m not sure what are the pro’s and con’s of each of them and I was thinking of doing a Partition / Replication approach but I think that doesn’t help if the load is on the writes?


Well, to understand that, you need to understand how MySQL handles clustering. There are 2 main ways to do it. You can either do Master-Master replication, or NDB (Network Database) clustering.

Master-Master replication won’t help with write loads, since both masters need to replay every single write issued (so you’re not gaining anything).

NDB clustering will work very well for you if and only if you are doing mostly primary key lookups (since only with PK lookups can NDB operate more efficient than a regular master-master setup). All data is automatically partitioned among many servers. Like I said, I would only consider this if the vast majority of your queries are nothing more than PK lookups.

So that leaves two more options. Sharding and moving away from MySQL.

Sharding is a good option for handling a situation like this. However, to take full advantage of sharding, the application needs to be fully aware of it. So you would need to go back and rewrite all the database accessing code to pick the right server to talk to for each query. And depending on how your system is currently setup, it may not be possible to effectively shard…

But another option which I think may suit your needs best is switching away from MySQL. Since you’re going to need to rewrite your DB access code anyway, it shouldn’t be too hard to switch to a NoSQL database (again, depending on your current setup). There are tons of NoSQL servers out there, but I like MongoDB. It should be able to withstand your write load without worry. Just beware that you really need a 64 bit server to use it properly (with your data volume).