Sony's story of success with Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP & Pegasos

Sony International (Europe) switched from a proprietary Windows-based Content Management System to the proven LAMP stack and uses a Pegasos server to grant external access to their electronic emissions test database.
PPCNUX interviewed Gunnar von Boehn about the features of the first recognized Pegasos Server in a commercial environment.

Mr von Boehn set up the Pegasos at Sony and is currently working at MySQL.

Technical Environment
Hardware: Genesi Pegasos
OS: Debian GNU Linux
CPU: PowerPC [1]
RAM: 512 MB
Database: MySQL Server
Web Server: Apache
Language: PHP, Visual Basic, C
Database Size: 1 GB / 70,000 records

PPCNUX: What was Sony's reason to choose PPC in general and the Pegasos server in the special case at hand?

GvB: Well, the PowerPC/Pegasos is at least as good as any other server.
In fact it has some advantages over *normal* x86 servers.


  • Serial console

  • The serial console of the Pegasos is very nice for remote debugging.
    Good servers often come with this feature.
  • Open firmware

  • It's nice and similar to what we are used from our Suns.
  • Low cooling requirements

  • Usually there are three main causes of servers failures:

    • hard disk

    • fan/cooling failure

    • power supply


    Thanks to the low cooling requirements of the Pegasos we didn't had
    to fear fan/cooling failures

PPCNUX: ...which brings us to the question of which HW monitoring features does
Pegasos support. The Apple Xserve has lots of sensors and diagnosis systems,
my x86 board allows to monitor the voltages, fan speeds, temperatures with
an alarm function. Does Pegasos have any of these?

GvB: Good question: Actually I don't know, maybe Genesi can answer this
question.

To be honest, I don't think that in this case, fan speed or temperature
warnings would provide a real advantage for us.
The Pegasos doesn't really need a fan and
Sony's server rooms are of course fully climate controlled and
monitored.
The general server status (uptime/raid/load) of the Pegasos
is monitored by Sony's normal network monitoring tools (Nagios).

GvB: (continued)


  • Worms/Attacks

  • The server can be accessed from the internet - so security was
    important of course.
    Linux is a safe operating system. Nevertheless from time to time
    a new security hole is found and needs to be patched.
    All automated attacks and worms are usually designed to break into
    x86 systems.
    Even if you patch your system always in time, it gives you a much
    nicer
    feeling to know that your system is kind of immune by design.

PPCNUX: For what kind of datasets is the Pegasos SQL server configuration sufficient and how far would it scale?

GvB: The Pegasos is quite powerful. We did not hit any limits.
I can imagine that one Pegasos server is able to serve millions of
pages per day.

PPCNUX: I see the database size is twice that of the available system RAM. Would it not be better to keep everything in RAM and if not possible,
is there a possibility for a RAID subsystem to accelerate (and secure) data access?

GvB: Raid is always a good idea.
Hard disk failures are generally one of the most frequent server
problems.
As we did not need to store big amounts of data, a raid subsystem was not
needed.
We've used a simple Raid-1 mirroring for higher reliability.

Database and Memory.
Adding main memory is often the easiest way to improve server
performance.
But this was not needed in this case.
Databases like MySQL are optimised to handle data which is bigger than the main
memory.
MySQL performs well with databases of sizes of hundreds of GigaBytes or
TeraBytes.
To achieve more than 1,000 transactions per second, more memory than
database size is often mandatory.

If the server would have been under a very high load with many hundreds
of simultaneous users then adding more memory would have been needed.

PPCNUX: Are there plans to have it connected to a SAN/NAS topology?

GvB: No, this was never planned.
The Pegasos server with its mirrored disk gave a nice standalone system
and was exactly what we needed.

PPCNUX: Does an upgrade path for the CPU (e.g. SMP) exist and what is the memory size limit?

GvB: I think the current memory limit is 2 GB.
I think, the CPU module question is better answered by Genesi.

PPCNUX: Do you use ECC Ram and could it be beneficial for the server?
Is there a list of certified ECC modules and/or memory modules that work in pairs?

GvB: Yes we use ECC ram. ECC is nice but I don't think that a server needs it in general.

PPCNUX: Does the system work isolated or is it connected to the company's network?
How good is the I/O (e.g. integrated Gigabit) performance?

GvB: The system is placed in a DMZ. It is separated from the company network by a firewall.
The server is connected to the Internet through a 20 Mbit line.
The DMZ uses 100 Mbit switches - so we did not use the Gigabit NIC.
I did not test the Gigabit NIC but I heard that it performs very good.

Sony was looking for an inexpensive entry server which is immune to
common worm attacks. The Pegasos perfectly matched our requirements and is performance wise
comparable to similar priced x86 servers.

I've heard that Genesi will offer pre-installed and pre-configured
Pegasos webservers. This sounds like a great idea to me and will allow more people to have
worms resistant webservers.

PPCNUX: Thanks for your reply, it is greatly appreciated.

The switch to the OpenSource solution which Sony completed in a record time of three man-months marked the
abandonment of paper based records towards an easily accessible electronic workorder system at the same time.

MySQL made it possible to reduce database licensing costs by over 90%, cutting systems downtime by 60%, lowering hardware
expenditure by 70% and reducing administration, engineering and support costs by 50%.
Sony International Europe Casestudy
Genesi Pegasos II Server
[1] G3 - passively cooled