Cloud computing platforms are becoming increasingly popular for e-commerce applications that can be scaled on-demand in a very cost effective way. Dynamic provisioning is used to autonomously add capacity in multi-tier cloud-based applications that see workload increases. While many solutions exist to provision tiers with little or no state in applications, the database tier remains problematic for dynamic provisioning due to the need to replicate its large disk state. In this paper, we explore virtual machine (VM) cloning techniques to spawn database replicas and address the challenges of provisioning shared-nothing replicated databases in the cloud. We argue that being able to determine state replication time is crucial for provisioning databases and show that VM cloning provides this property. We propose Dolly, a database provisioning system based on VM cloning and cost models to adapt the provisioning policy to the cloud infrastructure specifics and application requirements. We present an implementation of Dolly in a commercial-grade replication middleware and evaluate database provisioning strategies for a TPC-W workload on a private cloud and on Amazon EC2. By being aware of VM-based state replication cost, Dolly can solve the challenge of automated provisioning for replicated databases on cloud platforms
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