Community Blog Cloud-Native Databases: Alibaba Cloud Databases Ensured the Stability of Online Education Platforms

Cloud-Native Databases: Alibaba Cloud Databases Ensured the Stability of Online Education Platforms

The scaling demand of Alibaba Cloud's customers in the education field increased rapidly, especially for databases.

Three Reasons Why Businesses Should Consider Cloud-Native Databases

Databases play a vital role in our digitized economy. From e-commerce to banking, they are important in keeping the wheels of commerce turning and connecting communities the world over.

Research reveals that 75 percent of all databases will be on a cloud platform by 2023 [1].

The shift from on-premise to cloud databases is inevitable for businesses that need to scale up their operations to ensure real-time data delivery and continuity of service to their global customers. But what does cloud-native mean?

Cloud-native databases provide a cross-domain service that integrates traditional relational databases with cloud environments, serving applications better in the cloud environment. Traditional databases are much slower, less efficient and more costly with their underlying structure – leading to an array of problems.

In this blog, we'll show you three common reasons why businesses should consider the cloud-native option.

How PolarDB Produced Scores for 1.2 Million Online Test Takers in 10 Minutes

The coronavirus outbreak has led to innovation in every sector, such as healthcare, education, and telecommunications. Many schools and higher education institutions have resorted to online learning platforms to conduct lessons and host exams, in order to keep students engaged.

However, because of the sudden increase of demand, many online education platforms are struggling to cope with sudden traffic peaks. On the first day of class, online education platforms, including Xuexitong and IMOOC, encountered freezing and system crashes. "Xuexitong has crashed" became a hot search on Weibo.

Alibaba Cloud databases

At the same time, the scaling demand of Alibaba Cloud's customers in the education field increased rapidly, especially for databases. The minute-level scaling capability of Alibaba Cloud databases has ensured the stability of many online education platforms, such as Hujiang, Yuanfudao, VIPKID, and Onion Academy, which helps build a firewall that prevents the epidemic from affecting students' education.

Yuanfudao is a well-known online tutoring platform in China. It has five core online education Apps: Yuanfudao, Yuantiku, Xiaoyuansouti, Xiaoyuankousuan, and ZebraEnglish. Yuanfudao provides students and parents with intelligent education services including online tutoring, answers to questions searched through photos, intelligent question banks, and automatic correction of school assignments.

Self-built Solutions Are Insufficient Due to Latency, Freezing, and High Costs

The online education industry has massive data storage requirements, such as question banks, audio and video answer materials, user data, and logs. These needs impose strict requirements for Yuanfudao's background data storage and processing capabilities.

Yuanfudao had previously used a self-built database solution. On weekends or during online practice testing, the number of people who were online concurrently would abruptly and instantly increase, and the original self-built database solution had difficulty coping with such peaks. This led to about one-third of the students being unable to access online tests. The delay in the response also increased from within 1 second under normal circumstances to an average of 5 seconds, causing an abrupt decline in the question-answering experience of student users.

At the same time, the number of users of Yuanfudao was increasing by leaps and bounds each year, and the CPU utilization of the self-built MySQL database had already exceeded 70%. In addition, Yuanfudao used to make the O&M personnel as part-time DBAs. In the case of complicated database management tasks, the part-time DBAs were unable handle the DBA tasks. It is estimated that hiring professional DBA staff would cost at least 1 million RMB. To summarize, the self-built database solution had trouble coping with visit peaks and satisfying the high-speed development needs of the business. In addition, management was difficult, which increased labor costs. These were all huge challenges to Yuanfudao's rapid growth.

How ApsaraDB for PolarDB Helped Yuanfudao Handle Business Peaks during the Epidemic

To confront the various challenges described above, Yuanfudao implemented a new database solution based on Alibaba Cloud ApsaraDB for PolarDB. Yuanfudao decided to use Alibaba Cloud ApsaraDB for PolarDB because it offers relatively high performance and can achieve 100% compatibility for MySQL. In addition, Yuanfudao values the elastic scaling capability and the maximum storage space of 100 TB, which ApsaraDB for PolarDB can provide.

After Yuanfudao migrated data to Alibaba Cloud ApsaraDB for PolarDB, during business peaks, it was able to support a large number of students studying online concurrently, and the business did not feel any pressure. When coping with a business peak, it only needs to make preparations one hour in advance to temporarily upgrade the business capability to a level that can cope with 1 million concurrent student visits.

Moreover, because ApsaraDB for PolarDB database resources can be scaled elastically on demand, after Yuanfudao migrated from MySQL to ApsaraDB for PolarDB, it cut the excess capacity of 5 read-only databases, reducing database costs by almost 70%. In addition, it is able to reduce the effort involved in online database management by 95%, making hiring a senior professional DBA unnecessary and greatly reducing the labor costs for database maintenance. Finally, from the business standpoint, Yuanfudao's migration to ApsaraDB for PolarDB has significantly improved the user experience.

Since the epidemic began, Alibaba Cloud has helped nearly 180 million primary and secondary school students in China attend classes at home by supporting DingTalk, Youku, national Internet cloud platforms for primary and secondary schools, and various social teaching organizations, making it the largest online education technology service platform.

Related Products

ApsaraDB for PolarDB

ApsaraDB for PolarDB is a cloud-native relational database compatible with MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle. ApsaraDB for PolarDB provides the performance and availability of traditional enterprise databases and the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of open-source databases.

ApsaraDB for PolarDB is designed for business-critical database applications that require fast performance, high concurrency, and automatic scaling. You can scale up to millions of queries per second and 100 TB per database cluster with 15 low latency read replicas. ApsaraDB for PolarDB is six times faster than standard MySQL databases, and delivers the security, reliability, and availability of traditional commercial databases at 1/10 the cost. ApsaraDB for PolarDB embodies the proven database technology and best practices honed over the last decade that supported hyper-scale events such as the Alibaba Double 11 Global Shopping Festival.

Related Documentation

Create a PolarDB for MySQL cluster

This topic describes how to create a PolarDB for MySQL cluster in the PolarDB console.


  1. PolarDB supports virtual private clouds (VPCs). VPC is an isolated network on Alibaba Cloud. It provides extra protection and is more secure than a classic network.
  2. To optimize the performance of PolarDB, PolarDB clusters need to be deployed in the same internal network with Alibaba Cloud products. We recommend that you deploy PolarDB clusters and Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instances in the same VPC to ensure the optimal performance of PolarDB. If your ECS instance is deployed in a classic network, you must migrate the instance to a VPC.

Configure a whitelist for a cluster

After you create a PolarDB for MySQL cluster, you must add IP addresses to the whitelist of the cluster and create an initial account of the cluster to access and use the cluster.

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