Posts Tagged 'Internet Scale'

October 8, 2012

Don't Let Your Success Bring You Down

Last week, I got an email from a huge technology conference about their new website, exciting new speaker line up and the availability of early-bird tickets. I clicked on a link from that email, and I find that their fancy new website was down. After giving up on getting my early-bird discount, I surfed over to Facebook, and I noticed a post from one of my favorite blogs, Dutch Cowboys, about another company's interesting new product release. I clicked the link to check out the product, and THAT site was down, too. It's painfully common for some of the world's most popular sites and applications buckle under the strain of their own success ... Just think back to when Diablo III was launched: Demand crushed their servers on release day, and the gamers who waited patiently to get online with their copy turned to the world of social media to express their visceral anger about not being able to play the game.

The question everyone asks is why this kind of thing still happens. To a certain extent, the reality is that most entrepreneurs don't know what they don't know. I spoke with an woman who was going to be featured on BBC's Dragons' Den, and she said that the traffic from the show's viewers crippled most (if not all) of the businesses that were presented on the program. She needed to safeguard from that happening to her site, and she didn't know how to do that.

Fortunately, it's pretty easy to keep sites and applications online with on-demand infrastructure and auto-scaling tools. Unfortunately, most business owners don't know how easy it is, so they don't take advantage of the resources available to them. Preparing a website, game or application for its own success doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming. With pay-for-what-you-use pricing and "off the shelf" cloud management solutions, traffic-caused outages do NOT have to happen.

First impressions are extremely valuable, and if I wasn't really interested in that conference or the new product Dutch Cowboys blogged about, I'd probably never go back to those sites. Most Internet visitors would not. I cringe to think about the potential customers lost.

Businesses spend a lot of time and energy on user experience and design, and they don't think to devote the same level of energy on their infrastructure. In the 90's, sites crashing or slowing was somewhat acceptable since the interwebs were exploding beyond available infrastructure's capabilities. Now, there's no excuse.

If you're launching a new site, product or application, how do you get started?

The first thing you need to do is understand what resources you need and where the potential bottlenecks are when hundreds, thousands or even millions of people want to what you're launching. You don't need to invest in infrastructure to accommodate all of that traffic, but you need to know how you can add that infrastructure when you need it.

One of the easiest ways to prepare for your own success without getting bogged down by the bits and bytes is to take advantage of resources from some of our technology partners (and friends). If you have a PHP, Ruby on Rails or Node.js applications, Engine Yard will help you deploy and manage a specialized hosting environment. When you need a little more flexibility, RightScale's cloud management product lets you easily manage your environment in "a single integrated solution for extreme efficiency, speed and control." If your biggest concern is your database's performance and scalability, Cloudant has an excellent cloud database management service.

Invest a little time in getting ready for your success, and you won't need to play catch-up when that success comes to you. Given how easy it is to prepare and protect your hosting environment these days, outages should go the way of the 8-track player.

-@jpwisler

May 15, 2012

Addicted to SoftLayer ... And SoftLayer Customers

Chris Gardner (of The Pursuit of Happyness fame) said, "Find something that you love. Something that gets you so excited you can't wait to get out of bed in the morning. Forget about money. Be happy." Now I can't honestly tell you I'm able to "forget about money" or that I'm much of a morning person, but I'm quick to tell people that I love what I do. If you click through a few of the "Culture" posts on this blog, you'll read that I'm not alone. This week, I realized how many non-work interests SoftLayer plays a role in.

Beyond my closet-full of black and red shirts (many of which are visible in Tech Partner Spotlight video interviews on YouTube), even when I'm out of the office I find myself "checking on customers' servers" quite a bit ... I use quotes in there because that the justification I give myself for spending time (that I'd probably spend anyway) on platforms that leverage SoftLayer's infrastructure.

Because SoftLayer operates with an "Innovate or Die" mentality, we tend to attract customers that innovate in their own businesses. Whether that trend is intentional or not, it makes sense: Why would a fast-moving platform or application with massive growth and scaling needs be hosted with a provider taking "enterprise" time to provision a solution that ends up being "enterprise" only in name? "Enterprise Class" is not the same as "Internet Scale," and that distinction is pretty significant when a business might have one visitor on Monday and a million visitors on Tuesday. Platforms and applications that grow like that usually operate with a high level of what I like to call "awesomeness," so when they choose SoftLayer as a hosting provider, I feel like I need to investigate their awesomeness personally ... And that's how I've become a die-hard user of many of SoftLayer's customers.

One of my favorite customers to "check on" is Tumblr. If you aren't familiar with Tumblr, I recommend that you go to their site right now and immerse yourself in their community. I actually remember the day Tumblr signed on as a customer; I was genuinely excited that they'd be hosting on our platform. Even if that excitement was because I could justify having my Tumblr dashboard open in the background at work. I don't think anyone could have expected the platform to grow so phenomenally in a few years, but Tumblr's numbers are pretty staggering these days: 16.7 billion (yes, with a "B") monthly pageviews of 55.7 million blogs with 23.1 billion posts. I wasn't one of the first accounts on Tumblr, but I tell myself I have some kind of Tumblr cred ... And I use my "limited-edition" black background and Japanese dashboard logo to prove it:

Tumblr Dashboard

Another SoftLayer customer who's gotten a lot of press over the past month or two is OMGPOP. OMGPOP scaled "Draw Something" to tens of millions of users on SoftLayer's infrastructure (which you probably know), but what you probably didn't know is that as "Draw Something" started growing in the market, it was also spreading virally in our office. You'd be amazed at how many SLayers caught the bug. Here's one of Steve Kinman's works of art from a recent game:

Draw Something

While Tumblr and OMGPOP manage to snag a good amount of my free time, my most recent obsession has been playing NomNom Combo from Eastside Game Studios. I had a chance to meet a few of the guys from Eastside Games at GDC this year, and George Karidis told me that I should download NomNom Combo to check it out before I went to the launch party we sponsored for them in San Francisco. As it turns out, he created a monster ... By the time the party rolled around, I had to tear myself away from strategizing the best way to move up the game's all-time "Top Score" leader board. Two months later, I can say that all of my efforts have been validated:

Draw Something

I guess if I had to make a long story short, if you have an addictive app or game that you want to move to the SoftLayer platform, it would be brilliant move from a growth and scaling perspective. One request I'd have is that you warn me, though. I want to have time to bury my head in the sand so I don't get hooked on more SoftLayer-powered goodness ... I'm running out of "free time."

-@khazard

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