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Big changes under the hood

Earlier today we successfully completed a significant upgrade to Xero’s underlying hosting infrastructure. These changes represent the next major step in the scaling of Xero’s database platform and the switch to an even faster underlying storage layer, ensuring we have the headroom to continue to accommodate the growth we are seeing right across the platform.

For the more technically inclined, these latest changes involved upgrading our main database cluster from Active/Passive to a new Active/Active/Passive SQL Server cluster, which is operating over our new dedicated Storage Area Network with disk configuration further optimized for our specific database requirements.

While, unlike one of our software releases, this upgrade hasn’t resulted in any visible changes for customers it was a very complex project that has required weeks of preparation by our IT Operations team. The changes in involved shifting nearly 2TB of production databases and switching 154 instances of over 40 applications to now run over the new database server cluster. All the careful planning paid off and the upgrade went very smoothly, meaning we can now start work on the next steps in ensuring we can grow our platform as fast as we’re adding customers!

 

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10 comments

Simon
19 September 2011 #

Great work on a smooth migration. Groundwork really does pay off nicely in these types of upgrades.

Jerry Zhao
19 September 2011 #

Well done Xero.

Just one question from ODBC side. I normally use my Excel mining my data base at SQL server. Very simple to pull out a report by using SQL query .

would that be possible for Xero’s SQL? or it is to risky at a public domain?

Thanks

Ronan Quirke
19 September 2011 #

@Jerry it is hard to see us ever providing direct SQL access. The Xero API (http://developer.xero.com) should provide the required data, though there is a technology hurdle which prevents it being practical to use it for your purposes at the moment.

It would be great if we could get to a point where an ODBC driver or Excel plugin for the Xero API was developed, and there may be some options in the works. We have an issue open in our API forum: http://xero.uservoice.com/forums/28866-integration-with-other-products/suggestions/2143205-develop-module-to-import-from-excel – if you subscribe to updates on there, I will update that with any news.

Fred Blauer
20 September 2011 #

I agree with Jerry. I also feel that it is important to be able to have a local backup of our data. Would it be possible to do that with the API?

Jerry Zhao
20 September 2011 #

yes @Fred! I was thinking about back up, too…

Ronan Quirke
21 September 2011 #

@Fred @Jerry – the Xero API is not quite designed to do so, thought it would provide most of the data in your account (some things like opening balances etc are not available via the API), so we would need to do further work to fully support this.

We are certainly open to a potential integration that does so, and I have spoken briefly to one or two who have inquired about this, but to date, nothing has been developed.

A key challenge for any backup is what exactly would be done with this data – should it be kept in it’s raw XML form, should a tool be developed to restore it to a Xero account, other formats etc.

I am keen to track interest on this so if you want to vote for this on our forum you will receive any updates I make with news: http://xero.uservoice.com/forums/28866-integration-with-other-products/suggestions/2262330-backup-a-xero-account-via-the-api

Jon R.
21 September 2011 #

I can’t log on to my account. I’m in New York and it is 6:42PM. Is Xero having an outage?

Ronan Quirke
21 September 2011 #

@Jon – there are no issues with Xero at the moment. Please email support@xero.com and we will see if we can find out why you cannot log on.
Actually I see you have contacted us already – I’ve asked our team to jump on it and see what we can do to help.

Rhys
23 September 2011 #

Is there any chance xero will get to the point where software upgrades and hardware upgrades will incur 0 downtime? Google apps and their mail system seems to be able to upgrade their system on the fly and has 99.9% uptime. How do they achieve this and will xero be like that eventually?

Martin.Wildash
23 September 2011 #

@Rhys,

We’re always sensitive to the impact of scheduled downtime on Xero customers, and welcome the chance to explain how we work operationally.

Xero already releases minor changes with zero downtime and we evaluate any app change before deciding on the most appropriate release strategy. Compared to some apps and online services, an accounting system is potentially very sensitive to code changes during customer use – what if we’re modifying the underlying accounting logic while someone is in the middle of processing an invoice? So there are changes which will require some downtime to be released safely. We are working to further reduce the need for downtime by enabling options such as ‘rolling releases’ across the platform.

Also, our underlying production hardware configuration is not sitting still, we’re adding banks of hypervisors, storage, and other capacity all the time. Again, some of these changes can be done seamlessly, while others still require downtime during at least some point in the process of being brought online into the production environment. Of course, no change, even for the biggest service providers, is without some risk, and we are always careful balance any inconvenience of a scheduled outage with the risk of unscheduled downtime.

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