Brown University

Brown University Enhances Campus Database Services
with MySQL Enterprise Edition

"With MySQL Enterprise we significantly increased database availability using MySQL InnoDB Cluster, which is a game changer for us. We also enhanced security, improved monitoring and auditing, and brought about standardization. Plus, we now have the scalability for the university’s growing data needs."

Christopher Gordon
Manager, Database Services
Brown University

The Ivy League university upgraded to MySQL Enterprise 8.0 to boost availability, security, and scalability of databases supporting library apps and department websites.

Introduction & Background

Founded in 1764, Brown University—a leading research university home to world-renowned faculty—is an innovative educational institution where the curiosity, creativity, and intellectual joy of students drive academic excellence.

Brown University offers more than 2,000 undergraduate courses each year, as well as 31 master’s degree programs and 50 doctoral programs. It has over 10,000 students, and a 6:1 student-to-faculty member ratio.

Business Challenges & Goals

While Brown University has traditionally had a mixed database landscape—including Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, and others—many of the institution’s end users began to adopt MySQL Community edition as their preferred database.

MySQL use grew rapidly over time, and although the university’s UNIX team would spin up new databases for end users and provide limited support, it was not centrally managed or fully supported by the database team. This led to operational issues and security concerns, which led to a decision to begin managing and supporting the MySQL Community environment.

There had been little standardization in the previously user-managed databases. As database sizes and complexity continued to grow at a rapid pace, it soon became increasingly challenging for Brown’s database team to manage the large MySQL Community footprint.

Monitoring was limited, there was no auditing capability, and regular DBA tasks such as security management, database replication, and issue resolution were lengthy and laborious.

Brown University also needed to increase database availability with a more robust and resilient system in order to gain scalability to support the increasing data requirements of students, faculty, and staff.

Business Results & Metrics

Brown University significantly improved database availability, security, manageability, and support by implementing MySQL Enterprise Edition. The deployment and subsequent upgrade to MySQL Enterprise Edition 8.0 ensured that the IT team delivered more robust database services, and now has the scalability to meet the growing needs of Brown’s diverse user community.

Using MySQL Enterprise Edition, the database team was able to achieve standardization for the multitude of disparate user-managed databases it inherited—including those underpinning university department websites and library applications. This greatly enhanced database efficiency, development, and auditing.

To achieve database high availability, Brown University is in the process of deploying its MySQL InnoDB Cluster with MySQL Router. Testing has already demonstrated far superior fault tolerance compared to its legacy replication setup on MySQL Enterprise 5.7.

MySQL InnoDB Cluster are making it easier to set up and administer Brown’s database environments. Previously, replication setup took at least a day, whereas administrators can now put together a cluster in approximately an hour using MySQL Shell. MySQL InnoDB Cluster will also reduce the effort required to resolve storage and VM issues that the university has experienced.

"Previously, setting up replication environments was a long, laborious process, taking at least a day. But with MySQL Shell, I can knock together a MySQL InnoDB Cluster within an hour," said Bruce Kane, Lead Database Administrator.

Brown’s upgrade to MySQL Enterprise 8.0 has enhanced security and simplified its administration. For instance, DBAs no longer need to grant access privileges to users on an individual basis, and instead simply assign each user to a particular security role within the system. Thanks to LDAP authentication, the database team has eliminated time previously spent on password management. The database upgrade has also facilitated Brown’s operating system upgrade to RedHat 8, ensuring it is on the latest supported versions for security and compliance purposes.

The university gained a more complete picture of its entire environment—including the performance and availability of its MySQL instances and the applications they support—by using MySQL Enterprise Monitor. The transparency has made database management much easier—for example, administrators no longer need to manually write scripts to determine which is the master database and where to direct traffic.

The MySQL Enterprise implementation enabled Brown University to establish auditing of all SQL statements or errors. The upgrade to release 8.0 further strengthened its audit capability by enabling database administrators to filter for specific SQL statements of interest. With the new MySQL Enterprise Audit plugin, the university is now able to collect more auditing data for upload to its third-party cloud analytics platform, where it can query and analyze the data to acquire more insights.

Brown ensured a smooth transition to MySQL Enterprise and upgrade to 8.0 by leveraging Oracle Premier Support. The close consultative support was particularly valuable during the proof of concept phase for MySQL InnoDB Cluster, and for ensuring their setup according to the university’s needs. Brown’s database team members also advanced their technical knowledge and skills by attending a full-day offsite training at MySQL Days.

Why MySQL Enterprise Edition

Brown University upgraded from MySQL Community to MySQL Enterprise Edition to deliver a better solution for its end users, for whom MySQL is the preferred database. It was particularly interested in the features of the commercial version that would improve the database service it provides—for example MySQL Enterprise Audit, MySQL Enterprise Monitoring, and MySQL Enterprise Authentication. A key driving factor was also the technical support offered to the university’s database team members who, until then, had had only minimal or no previous experience with MySQL.

"The support that Oracle provides with MySQL Enterprise Edition was very appealing to us. The MySQL team has been extremely helpful, frequently contacting me to check in, and the level of support has been excellent across the board. Even the tickets have been answered rapidly and completely, always giving full answers to our questions.

This highly responsive support has enabled us to adopt MySQL Enterprise much faster, and in turn to better support our end users," Christopher Gordon said.

Next Steps

Having recently finalized the architecture design for its production systems and completed development and QA testing, Brown’s next major step will be the migration of all production databases to the MySQL InnoDB Cluster, which it anticipates accomplishing within the next few months.

The university will also be exploring the capabilities of MySQL Enterprise Backup, including hot backup and recovery, with a view to accelerating backup processes and reducing the risk of data loss.