Many of you may have read Robert M. Pirsig’s ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values’. If you haven’t I highly suggest picking up a copy. The book is based on two motorcycle riders, representing two very different personalities — sort of the yin-yang of motorcycling.
“What does this have to do with server maintenance?” you may ask. Before I get to that, I want to tell you about my commute to work this morning. I witnessed a horrible accident involving a motorcycle rider that was riding right in front of me. I was hanging back at quite distance as I had recently washed my car and a semi-truck up ahead was kicking up lots of dust. As the rider entered into a turn his rear tire started smoking, and then lifted off the ground. The rider was thrown from his bike over the handlebars, and then his bike rolled over him several times. I quickly got out of the car, called 911, and assisted the rider, who is alive. I had been thinking quite a bit about purchasing a motorcycle recently, but after seeing this accident I am suddenly no longer interested.
“You never gain something but that you lose something” can be found in Chapter 29 of Pirsig’s book. As I had been considering the purchase of a motorcycle for myself, I was focusing solely on what I would gain — the thrill of high speed and high manueverability, or the sense of freedom you get by riding along in the open air. Upon witnessing this accident, however, the details of what I would lose were made instantly clear — the safety of a roof and doors, or the stability of four wheels and a seatbelt.
The same kind of trade-offs occur in hosting technology. In server configuration we often utilize technology called ‘Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks’ (RAID) to provide benefits to both performance and stability. In the case of some of our lower end products, we have opted for a technology called RAID0. RAID0 allows us to split block by block what disk will be accessed. This spreads the load out between the two disks. RAID0 gives us great performance at an extremely low cost, but we lose some reliability. Inherent to RAID0 is double the risk of data loss. Please note, that we do keep backups so there is never really a chance of complete data loss, but a lengthy recovery period is often required if we ever need to use that backup. I see this very much like a motorcycle versus a car.
The moral of the story…Spry will be phasing out RAID0 on all of our product lines as quickly as possible. This won’t happen over night, and will cause some short periods of downtime for some users. We hope you realize that this is in a long term effort to limit the impact of any crashes that may happen.
The Spry Hosting team would like to express our deep concern for the motorcyclist and his family. While the rider is alive, I am certain his recovery will be long. I don’t want to minimize the severity of his injuries or appear to be capitalizing on what is certain to be a difficult time for them. At the same time, the profound impact of witnessing such an accident will remain with me for a long time to come. It has helped me to reassess not only my purchase of a motorcycle, but also the importance of maintaining safeguards for all our systems.