Fast Track: RealtyTrac’s High Availability Solution

Published On: 2016-05-03By:

RealtyTrac® is the leading provider of comprehensive housing data and analytics for the real estate and financial services industries, Federal, state and local governments, academic institutions, and the media. Their data is aggregated from parcel-level records of more than 130 million U.S. residential and commercial properties and delivered through customizable products including bulk file licensing, APIs and custom reports.

Higlights

  • Migrated to SQL Server 2016 while still in beta
  • Reduced Data Warehouse Load Times by 5x
  • Reduced Data Extract to customers run times by 10.4x
  • AlwaysOn AG allows DR function and offloading read workload
  • Data Warehouse 12.5 TB reduced to 4.5 TB (3X) using CCI

The Challenge

A merger in the realty market offered RealtyTrac, an ecommerce company known for its consumer database of foreclosures, the opportunity to exponentially grow their business and become a major Big Data provider. The IT challenge was vast: aggregating and normalizing bulk real estate data from 3000 counties across the country.  The company’s infrastructure would need to scale from 30 million transactions to 500-700 million transactions.

Eager to accept the challenge and differentiate themselves from the competition by utilizing the finest technology on the market, the company turned to Richard Sawicky, Chief Data Officer, to redefine the existing architecture, infrastructure and network for company to achieve high availability necessary to accommodate Big Data goals.

“We were looking to take a legacy data platform and turn it into a state of the art, flagship of the business. Failure was not an option. This had to work, and they made it work.”

Richard Sawicky, Chief Data Officer

“We had to up our game in all cases if we were going to position ourselves as a technologically advanced company in a market full of legacy players. We knew we were going to need to enhance our database functionality in order to manage the national data set of tax deed and mortgage data. We were on SQL Server 2012 and needed to upgrade, we also needed integration with the cloud, plus our hopes to find an in-house database administrator to help with the architecting, getting the availability groups online, and taking the data warehouse platform to the next level were sorely disappointed. We went through several hires before we realized they didn’t have the capability.

At that point, the time was running out.”

The Solution

Richard contacted Denny Cherry and Associates Consulting (DCAC) for help. “I felt it was important to engage someone at a Microsoft MVP level. I already knew Denny – I have actually been in the SQL Server community for longer than I would like to admit. I and another employee had actually worked with him before he became a consultant, and continued to follow his story online. It was so great to see him become so well published and highly regarded in the SQL Server community. Having that direct knowledge of the reputation of the individual was vital in our choice.”

DCAC responded immediately, reviewing their needs and comparing them with their goals.  Their proposal included a bold decision: upgrading to SQL Server 2016 on HP DL360 with 16 cores/768GB RAM SSD…while SQL Server 2016 was still in beta.

“Joey came onsite for an extended period of time to understand the scenario and suggest some options and because of the nature of our data, he felt that we would get a lot of advantage out of the readable secondaries with the clustered columnstore functionality that is only in 2016. Having the readable secondary gave us the ability to scale out.  We decided to go with that.”

“It was stressful, but DCAC’s knowledge gives you peace of mind. For God’s sake at one point, Joey was literally traveling in Europe and he was going through his Surface doing stuff for us in a migration! It didn’t faze him at all. There are very few people that have that level of knowledge and the confidence to execute something like that.”

“Anyway they got us through it. We were running a parallel scenario, and that is probably a large part of the reason that we signed up for this.  We maintained our current data warehouse environment and had the 2016 platform brought online in parallel. So at any time we could just move a customer back to the old platform should things become problematic.”

The Results

RealtyTrac obtained a highly available, scalable environment capable of managing their new business model and defining them as a technological leader. Richard summarizes, “We migrated to a stronger server platform and much stronger storage sub system. With the clustered columnstore we saw huge savings in the storage space required because of the compression. The high availability offered on the 2016 platform and the readable secondary, that was another big piece because we have a lot of read-data loads, applications that are doing heavy reads, being able to use that secondary was a huge plus. We are now taking advantage of some of the newer functionalities, have plenty of bandwidth and our processing time is greatly reduced from our legacy platform.”

And the experience with Denny and Joey at DCAC?

Richard is categorical. “They are knowledgeable, reliable, and innovative. We were looking to take a legacy data platform and turn it into a state of the art, flagship of the business, and failure was not an option.  This had to work, and they made it work. They are well suited to it. You can just tell when talking with them, compared to other professionals in the domain, that their depth of knowledge is really impressive. It is in their DNA. And to me, that depth of knowledge is something that just buys peace of mind.  You always look to partner with somebody to build a platform that is going to come out in front of other solutions and stay in front.”

“Joey and Denny are also really good about knowledge transfers — showing and educating — and that is huge.  They are really not just a force multiplier by having them as external resources but by the knowledge that they disseminate when they engage with our engineers.  Denny Cherry and Associates Consulting is just what we needed.”

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