DataSurge: When Performance Matters


Gaydar and GaydarGirls are the biggest and busiest gay and lesbian dating websites in the UK and Australia. Every day, Gaydar attracts over 50,000 users within a 20 minute window, making it one of the busiest dating sites in the world!

Behind this phenomenal success lies Qsoft Consulting, the creators of this and other sites serving gay and lesbian communities. Acting pro-actively, Qsoft engaged DataSurge to analyse their existing database design and create a new database design that would offer them increased scalability and performance on Microsoft's new SQL Server 2005 database platform.

Having redesigned the new database, Qsoft then wanted to implement a new, more powerful database server. We advised in the specification process, selecting a 64 bit architecture. We then configured the new server, optimising the vast disk arrays to tweak the very last ounce of performance out of them, while fully documenting the entire build process.

We then ensured that the migration process to the new server went as smoothly as possible, scripting the entire database migration so that the rollout was as fully automated as possible.

Following the rollout, we were asked to write a new image upload process that would automatically check users' uploaded file types, then manipulate the image to size the image to the site specifications and scale/crop the image to produce thumbnails. We wrote this in a few days utilising Microsoft's ASP.NET 2.0 framework: In contrast to their previous image manipulation tool written in Java, our process used negligible amounts of processor time and has proved robust and highly scalable despite the massive load being placed upon it.

QSoft wanted to bring out a Japanese language version of the website. We advised on the implementation of Japanese to ensure that not only did the website appear correctly in Japanese, but that the data was stored correctly inside the underlying SQL Server database.

Qsoft also required us to rewrite the windows utility they currently use for dealing with support queries. This time our tool of choice was Microsoft Windows Forms for .NET 2.0. This program was built using our proprietary data access components, enabling a fully object-oriented business tier to be built in a minimal time period, without the performance overhead normally associated with object-relational mapping frameworks.

In October 2009, the main Gaydar site was experiencing a problem with a newly introduced feature, resulting in periodic refreshes of "who's online in your area" taking 30 seconds, causing HTTP 500 errors on web servers.

Gaydar called us in to fix the problem: As a result of our query plan analysis, we created additional indexes, performed some modification of existing indexes and modified the query to cut the time from 30 seconds to 0.176 of a second (170 times faster). Impressive as the figures are, there's no better reference from that of the client himself:

"We called DataSurge in at short notice to help us with some performance issues. They were very quickly able to produce a large improvement in our systems."

-- Andrew Withey, Technical Director, Qsoft Consulting Ltd