The Performance Beacon

The web performance, analytics, and optimization blog

The MJ Effect…Is Your Web Site Ready for 1M Hits?

Yesterday, several news and social networking web sites experienced significant performance melt downs on the rumor and final validation of Michael Jackson’s unexpected death. As millions of MJ’s fans flocked to sites like Twitter, Facebook, CNN, and the LA Times looking for verification, the load exceeded the capacity of these sites and caused each to slow to a crawl or, in at least one case, actually crash. Performance anxiety makes for some great headlines in the tech world, but what if it’s your own web site that crashes under unexpected load.  TaTa Motors spent years developing a low cost, efficient car, and then spent millions of dollars on an ad campaign to launch it.  Unfortunately no one tested their website.  Over 40 Million people hit the website as the marketing campaign launched, yet only 1,000 potential customer got in, as their site crashed under the unexpected demand.

The fact is,  the tech world has been masking a dirty little secret for years: that we rarely  do any form of Load or Performance testing of our web applications and sites before they are launched.   The reason …cost!    It has become virtually impossible for even the largest corporations to afford hardware to simulate real world web traffic, let alone unexpected loads.  So what are leading edge customer service companies doing differently to preserve their web sites performance?  After all, our web sites have become the single most important interface we have to our prospects and customers. Which means if your site is down, you are probably losing money.

One company, Intuit, having experienced several well documented website Performance issues in the past decided to do things differently this year.   They started by looking to the Clouds (Cloud Computing) to find a creative solution to their past Performance issues.  They found their solution with SOASTA’s CloudTest an On-Demand service that met all its needs. Intuit chose SOASTA because its CloudTest On-Demand service provided  the ability to quickly and precisely replicate anticipated user load for the TurboTax site; without having to buy thousands of expensive servers and have them installed inside their test labs.

Each Tax season, millions of Tax Filers flock to TurboTax to file on-line. This past year a record 18.76 million taxpayers used TurboTax, up 11 percent from 2008. And, Intuit took proactive measures to uncover potential reliability and performance problems well before April 15. “Site performance and stability is critical to us throughout tax season, but even more so on April 14th and 15th when traffic volumes spike as customers rush to meet the deadline,” said Dan Bartow, Senior Manager, Performance Engineering, Intuit. “Tax time is stressful enough for our customers, so our site reliability is essential in making the filing process as easy and fluid as possible for them.”

To that end, Intuit set quality and performance goals for the site and decided to test steadily increasing user loads, with the ultimate goal of testing at least 200% of their anticipated peak of concurrent users on tax day. But to achieve this goal, Intuit would have had to buy over 2,500 new servers to simulate that kind of traffic and test their software and environment. That option was just too expensive!

SOASTA CloudTest,  realistically simulates a variety of unconstrained user scenarios, accurately measures site performance from load generated via the cloud, and provides granular, real-time analysis and reporting to help pinpoint and address potential issues. Unlike other solutions, SOASTA’s cloud testing experts leverage the cloud to quickly and affordably simulate the real Web environment and its unique characteristics. “SOASTA literally became a part of our team and had us up and testing within days,” added Bartow. “Through CloudTest we were able to quickly and efficiently gauge both performance and availability, and find and fix errors and bottlenecks that we would never have uncovered in our own test lab or with any other solution.”

Having exceeded the scope of last years test by 75 times, for the first time in five years the TurboTax site performed perfectly on tax day.  Perhaps even more important to Dan and his team was the fact that in the days leading up to April 15th they were extremely confident in how well their site would perform.   “It was the most confident that we have ever been in an Intuit Application” said Dan.   So, if you are asking yourself  the question “are you ready?”…but do not think you can afford to test because of the cost of hardware….you might want to look into Leveraging Cloud Computing to test your web sites.

Tom Lounibos

About the Author

Tom Lounibos

As CEO of SOASTA, Tom brings more than 30 years of experience building early stage software companies, leading two companies to successful IPOs. Tom is a regular speaker at both cloud and testing events, and has become a leading advocate in using the cloud to empower individuals and accelerate changes in how applications are built, tested and deployed. Most recently, Tom served as President and CEO of Kenamea. Prior to Kenamea, he was CEO of Dorado Corp., a financial services software provider. Previous to Dorado, he was EVP of Sagent Technology through its 1999 IPO, entrepreneur-in-residence at Crosspoint Venture Partners, and held executive positions at Digitalk Corp., Knowledgeware (KWI) and Encore Financial Services. Tom also serves on several boards in the Silicon Valley.