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It’s an inconvenient truth – we live in an ‘always on’ world. Consumer expectations to get what they want, exactly when they want it, has never been more evident than this year’s holiday season. 2015 has shattered records for eCommerce traffic and overall online spend. Retailers including Target and Neiman Marcus lost face and revenue when their sites were unavailable or incredibly bogged down – for nearly 40 hours in the case of Neiman Marcus. These brands will have a lot of work to do in repairing their reputation – not to mention making up for that revenue loss.
Highly concentrated selling points like Black Friday are a blessing and a curse for enterprises. It’s a blessing for companies like Sazze, whose BlackFridayFM and DealsPlus online shopping sites saw a 10-fold increase in their customer count. But these holiday traffic surges can be a curse for the technical teams that have to struggle to keep up with the demand.
The question might seem a bit obvious – given these retailers know the holiday is coming and the demand it places on their systems, why aren’t these companies more ready? Here’s the dirty little secret: The most critical piece of the technology chain – the database – is the hardest piece to prep to handle a 10x increase in traffic. They know the surge is coming, but few have the tools to make the database keep up.
Why does the database matter? Think about a simple shopping scenario – “what’s that sweater look like in black? Oh wait – let’s see the green. What does the back look like? Zoom in. Do they have it in my size? What does “medium” mean on this site? OK – we’ll put it in the cart and see what other sweaters they recommend.” In those 3 to 5 seconds, a user just hit the database dozens of times, and he or she is just one shopper. Most meltdowns you hear of, read about in the news, or even experience firsthand on Black Friday or other busy online shopping days result from database failures. Some retailers have taken the step to architect for zero app downtime at the database tier. Sazze, for example, worked with ScaleArc to deploy a database abstraction layer that shields their apps and websites, including BlackFridayFM and DealsPlus, from the impact that huge traffic spikes have on the database. Sazze considered this past Black Friday a big win – their customers were delighted with great deals, and the tech teams got to spend quality time with their families over the holiday weekend instead of troubleshooting database problems.
Make a resolution for 2016 – don’t let the database be the weakest link in your customer satisfaction chain.