Multi-Site Servers - Get it Right

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Summary:

I've been involved in database development for 30 years and CM development for over a quarter century. I'm confused. Why is it so difficult to get working multi-site solutions? The specification is clear, to start off anyway: I want to see the same thing whether my client is connected to the London server or the New York server.

Why do some CM tools make me split off branches to specific sites and merge them back? How do I get a consistent back-up if my data's not all in one place?

Sure, there are restrictions:

  • If my network link between London and New York disappears, it's hard to have the same thing in both places, but that's less of an issue every day.
  • If I'm sending 4GB files back and forth regularly, I'll expect some hiccups.
  • If I've installed two different versions of my CM software at the different sites, inevitably it'll catch up to me.
  • If I run out of disk space at one site, I know I'll have to intervene.

These are things I have control over. Tell me I'm restricted to one 4GB file a year. Tell me to upgrade my CM software at each site at the same time. Tell me to keep an eye on my disk space and spend an extra $500 for an extra Terabyte of space. I'll live with that.

Is it the database technology the tools are using? I would expect databases to be at the fore-front of multi-site technology. What's the issue?

I want multi-site technology that works to the spec.  I need to see the same thing in London or New York, in China or Italy. I'll put up with reasonable delays, because it does take a few seconds to send a Megabyte half way around the world. It's not rocket science. Or maybe it is more difficult than rocket science? I've not done much of that.

Maybe I've got the spec wrong. Maybe it good to separate only bits of information from the main site. Maybe replication of data is bad. After all:

  • I don't want my corporate assets on my sub-contractor's site
  • If it's in multiple places, security is going to be more difficult
  • CM managers want control over what data goes where

That's fine. That's your spec. I'll put a layer on top of the multi-site to restrict it to data subsets when I'm using contractors. I'll use 128-bit, or 4096-bit, encryption to ensure that security remains high. I'll also be happy to free up a task from my CM managers.

When my development team is a multi-national or multi-city, team, though, I just want to say, "Add L.A. to my site list and boom (maybe a big initial boom), my L.A. server is up and running and looks just like all the other sites."

But with high bandwidth around the world, I can just plug everyone into a single server site and all is well.

Well, as long as I don't try to compare my workspace to my current context view. And as long as there aren't too many queries bogging down my central server in my 500-developer global shop. As long as my central server is not the target of some disaster. Join the rant... tell me what you think!

About the author

Joe Farah's picture Joe Farah

Joe Farah is the President and CEO of Neuma Technology and is a regular contributor to the CM Journal. Prior to co-founding Neuma in 1990 and directing the development of CM+, Joe was Director of Software Architecture and Technology at Mitel, and in the 1970s a Development Manager at Nortel (Bell-Northern Research) where he developed the Program Library System (PLS) still heavily in use by Nortel's largest projects. A software developer since the late 1960s, Joe holds a B.A.Sc. degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto. You can contact Joe at farah@neuma.com

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