The Kentucky Derby — coming up this weekend — is more than an event. It’s an experience. The hats worn by spectators alone make the derby a spectacle to behold, not to mention the impressively fast racehorses that have trained long and hard for the day, as well as the jockeys working to beat the competition. The Kentucky Derby is often called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” and it surely lives up to this moniker.
Leading up to and on the day of the event, search queries skyrocket for terms in connection with the race. Back in 2013, this considerable spike in traffic caused Churchill Downs, Inc. to take another look at their website capabilities, and turn to SOASTA for ongoing performance testing solutions that continue to support their site today.
Ready, set, go: Testing to ensure performance
CDI and SOASTA discovered that not only were Kentucky Derby-related terms the top-searched keywords on Google, they also found that the next most popular word was outranked by the event by a staggering 3,900 percent. Because the race was a concentrated, short-term event, CDI wanted to ensure that the website, KentuckyDerby.com, would be able to handle the unprecedented number of requests while still performing at its best. The organization connected with SOASTA to test the performance of the website before race day to guarantee its readiness.
“CDI wanted to ensure that KentuckyDerby.com would be able to handle the unprecedented number of requests while still performing at its best.”
CDI needed a way to not only test performance, but to test the operability of new caching features in order to guarantee that the estimated 12,000 HTTP hits per second wouldn’t impact the functionality of the platform. Although CDI had access to their own internal testing tools, they couldn’t match the options and capabilities offered by SOASTA CloudTest.
With CloudTest, CDI would be able to test the site from outside the firewall, both with and without caching enabled to determine just how the new caching investments were operating. In addition, the solution also offered the ability to test from multiple locations at scale. With CloudTest in place, CDI and SOASTA were able to create specialized trials based on real-time website traffic to view how the platform would function in these different user scenarios.
From these tests, the team learned that the average visitor to KentuckyDerby.com views six pages, mainly hitting the home page and pages related to the top race contenders and celebrities participating in the event. SOASTA was also able to conduct a series of performance tests with different metrics, discovering the changes and adjustments CDI needed to make to its website throughout the process. After multiple rounds of testing and necessary tweaks, the website was able to handle over 10 times the throughput seen in the first runs, enabling CDI to reach its goal of serving 25,000 users simultaneously.
Finish line in sight: Successful performance testing
“After several rounds of testing, SOASTA and CDI were able to achieve the level of performance needed to support increasing traffic and user requests before, during and after the race.”
After several rounds of testing, SOASTA and CDI were able to achieve the level of performance needed to support increasing traffic and user requests before, during and after the race. The final test, which included a 25,000 user load, yielded average responsive times of less than a second, enabling more than 100 GB of data to be transferred in a single hour.
“Keeping our site up and running during a live event where instant load spikes can occur is a testament to the need for rigorous website load testing,” said Eric Eatherly, Churchill Downs, Inc. senior director of web properties. “Having the confidence that our website will perform is essential at CDI, and the only way we know how to do this is to performance test with CloudTest.”
This will be the third year since the initial tests took place, and CDI has partnered with SOASTA to test and update its website to ensure support and the proper functionality of new website features, including an interactive infographic. Each time, tests enabled CDI to make adjustments and guarantee support for the 25,000 concurrent users that would flood the site on race day.
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