Online matchmaker won't settle down with one BI tool

eHarmony is polygamous when it comes to software

While eHarmony.com's mission is to help its 20 million members get married or settle into long-term relationships, the online matchmaking company is a bit of a commitment-phobe when it comes to business intelligence technology.

The system that powers eHarmony's matchmaking operation relies on four products: Oracle's database, the open-source MySQL database, an open-source data-crunching application called Hadoop, and Netezza data warehousing appliances.

For some IT managers, managing four such disparate products wouldn't be worth the trouble. But it's OK with Joseph Essas, vice president of engineering and operations at eHarmony in Pasadena, California. "We always use multiple vendors for different things," Essas said at Computerworld 's recent Business Intelligence Perspectives conference in Chicago.

Like a flirt who keeps several suitors at arm's length, Essas said that he enjoys the leverage eHarmony gets from "playing multiple people against each other". Settling down with one vendor might initially seem like a bargain, he said, but it would eventually cause eHarmony to financially "bleed to death in years two to five."

Essas' philosophy is remarkable because it runs counter to the website's goal of producing long-term, exclusive relationships. According to the company, 236 of its 20 million members get married every day.

That's just one of "hundreds of metrics" that eHarmony "deeply cares about," Essas said. Producing and tracking all of those metrics is critical, because eHarmony must produce good matches for its members as soon as they fill out their profiles, lest it lose customers to rival dating sites. "Their attention span with us is very short," Essas said, "so we need to get it right on the first try."

EHarmony uses Oracle's database software to do much of the initial matching. But for hard-core data processing, the company relies on a speedy 50-node Hadoop cluster. Speed is important, because eHarmony updates the scores of its relationship matches whenever new members sign up, as well as when existing members update their profiles.

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