DbCharmer – Rails Can Scale!
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16 Apr2010

Back in November 2009 I was working on a project to port Scribd.com code base to Rails 2.2 and noticed that some old plugins we were using in 2.1 were abandoned by their authors. Some of them were just removed from the code base, but one needed a replacement – that was an old plugin called acts_as_readonlyable that helped us to distribute our queries among a cluster of MySQL slaves. There were some alternatives but we didn’t like them for one or another reasons so we’ve decided to go with creating our own ActiveRecord plugin, that would help us scale our databases out. That’s the story behind the first release of DbCharmer.

Today, six months after the first release of the gem and we’ve moved it to gemcutter (which is now the official gems hosting) and we’re already at version 1.6.11. The gem was downloaded more than 2000 times. There are (at least) 10+ large users that rely on this gem to scale their products out. And (this is the most exciting) we’ve added tons of new features to the product.

Here are the main features added since the first release:

  • Much better multi-database migrations support including default migrations connection changing.
  • We’ve added ActiveRecord associations preload support that makes it possible to move eager loading queries to the same connection where your finder queries go to.
  • We’ve improved ActiveRecord’s query logging feature and now you can see what connections your queries executed on (and yes, all those improvements are colorized :-)).
  • We’ve added an ability to temporary remap any ActiveRecord connections to any other connections for a block of code (really useful when you need to make sure all your queries would go to some non-default slave and you do not want to mess with all your models).
  • The most interesting change: we’ve implemented some basic sharding functionality in ActiveRecord which currently is being used in production in our application.

As you can see now DbCharmer helps you to do three major scalability tasks in your Rails projects:

  1. Master-Slave clusters to scale out your Rails models reads.
  2. Vertical sharding by moving some of your models to a separate (maybe even dedicated) servers and still keep using AR associations
  3. Horizontal sharding by slicing your models data to pieces and placing those pieces into different databases and/or servers.

So, If you didn’t check DbCharmer out yet and you’re working on some large rails project that is (or going to be) facing scalability problems, go read the docs, download/install the gem and prove them that Rails CAN scale!