Using IrisBG with an Internet hosted database

This post was published October 1st 2011 and the content is now outdated. Please read instead our up-to-date article: IrisBG internet hosted database service

An “IrisBG” system consists of a Windows Client and a database. The Windows Client can be installed on any PC running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. The database is installed according to your preferences regarding database platform and operating system. This document outlines some of the technical details regarding the use of IrisBG with an internet hosted database. With this setup, IrisBG can be used in a multi-user environment from different locations without the need of a local network. The database is supplied as a service via internet and is managed by Botanical Software Ltd.

The database service

The supplied database is hosted by Microsoft Corporation and managed by Botanical Software Ltd.

The database, known as Microsoft® SQL Azure™, is a cloud-based relational database service. It provides a highly available, scalable, multi-tenant database service. More information is available at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/sqlazure/.

Security model

The database has a dedicated firewall allowing access only from predefined locations/addresses. The database connection uses enforced encryption, which secures all the data traffic.

Data protection and disaster recovery

The service uses a built-in failover to protect the data. This means that the data is protected from loss of data due to machine hardware failure. The data is replicated three times in the storage system. In addition, the data is replicated across at least two geographic datacentres. There is also optional support for clone and/or continuous backup, which can be used in special cases of data loss due to user failure. The optional backup service will come at an additional fee.

IrisBG has many operational features to prevent the user from removing large amounts of data accidently, so we do not expect a high demand for this feature.

Availability

The service is guaranteed with a 99.95% availability (less than an hour downtime per annum). In practical terms, other parts of the infrastructure, such as broadband connection and local computer hardware, are much more likely to affect availability.

Data storage capacity

On a local network database, the storage capacity is only limited by available disk space. With the internet hosted service, we do offer databases sizes up 50GB. As a standard, the service is available with up to 1GB of data storage. Larger storage is available at an additional charge.

An average IrisBG database of 10.000 accessions/20.000 taxa without images will consume approximately 20MB of data storage. For the remaining 980MB there is available space for:

  • 400+, 10 Megapixel 24bit jpeg images.
  • 600+, 6 Megapixel 24bit jpeg images.
  • 950+, 3 Megapixel 24bit jpeg images.

Please also note that large images will upload slower on a low bandwidth. IrisBG does support automatic downscaling of large images.

Performance and end user experience

IrisBG has been tested from two different locations with the following configurations:

Hardware/Operating system Connectivity* LAN
1 Laptop With Windows 7 ADSL 1.3MB/0.3MB WiFi
2 Desktop with Windows XP Cable 5MB/1MB Cabled

* The connectivity was measured by www.speedtest.net, or equivalent.

Test scenarios and results

Operation (1) (2)
Search and display 7.000 accessions 6 sec 3 sec
Search and display 16.000 taxa 10 sec 5 sec
Retrieve an accession
Save an accession
Open 6MP image

Conclusion of test results

All common operations will perform satisfactorily even with very lower bandwidth.

End user experience

Overall, the system will behave and feel similar to the more common setup of a database in the local high speed network.

By stress testing the system, we have managed in a very few cases to create situations where the connection has failed. Connection failure is related to the quality of the broadband service, and/or if you leave the program/PC idle for a longer period. We have only managed to recreate this issue in relation to report processing, and the problem is easily resolved by retrying the operation. There are no long delays relating to this issue.

Local PC and broadband requirements

To run IrisBG with an internet hosted database, you will need:

  • A local PC running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7.
  • Internet broadband connection with dedicated IP address1 and measured broadband speed of recommended minimum of 1MB/0.25MB2. Higher bandwidth will increase the user experience.
  • Depending on local conditions, it may be necessary to create a local firewall exception for TCP port 1433.

1 The dedicated database firewall is managed by Botanical Software Ltd.
2 IrisBG will also operate under very low bandwidths, but the user experience will degrade accordingly.

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