Thursday, 29 November 2012

Random skills you find in pubs down my way

Picture the scene. A quiet country pub in the Cotswolds. Two men are having an offsite business meeting over lunch. The table is covered with charts and graphs. One man, the CEO of a small start-up, is wearing smart business attire. He peers perplexedly at the papers. The other, his CTO in jeans and T-Shirt, tries patiently time and again to explain his vision for the company infrastructure. He occasionally points to various diagrams to make his point.

The landlord wanders up.

"I don't want to be funny gents, but I couldn't help overhearing, and that's probably the worst place to site your slave database."

The CTO looks up. "I'm sorry?" he says defensively, astounded that a mere landlord could dare challenge his authority.

"You will be, putting your database in Australia. Probably the worst place in the world." The landlord muses for a few seconds. "Well, with the possible exception of Hong Kong, of course."

"With the greatest respect, what do you know about it?"

"Well, I expect you're getting all kind of replication problems for a start..."

The CTO bristles with indignation. "Look, thanks for your advice but it's nothing we can't sort out, and we are rather busy..."

The CEO butts in. "Wait a minute. Geoff, we're having problems?"

"Nothing we can't fix Steve, My guys are on it today in fact."

"Really?" The CEO turns to the landlord. "Excuse me sir, what do you think we should do about it?"

"Well, it's your basic TCP/IP packet size, innit. Now, back when I was charge of the biggest database infrastructure in the world, before I retired and became a landlord, we had exactly the same problems with Australia. It's all down to packet loss. The replication protocol isn't too resiliant with the level of faults you get, so you just get into an endless retry loop."

The CTO looks on, open mouthed. The landlord picks up a pen and starts sketching.

"Now, you want to try cutting down the packet size. Don't use one big fat pipe. Use lots and lots of small pipes. That way, you'll still get errors, but they will have less sigificance and you will push the replication through. Try adjusting these parameters and see how it goes."

CTO: "Um..."

CEO: "I don't suppose I can persuade you to take on a short term consultancy for us?"

A true story from my local pub.

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