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When You Need to Scale

June 16, 2010 6:34:16.870

I'm a big fan of only adding scaling to a system when you need it - but there are times when you know that you are going to need it. Like, say, yesterday, with the Apple/At&T iPhone pre-ordering system:

They're just using some web interface, not the exact same customers are using online, but not much better. It's probably the same servers. Basically, they were getting one pre-order thru every 20 minutes. They said the problem was system wide. Here's how it worked: They just kept mashing on the 'submit' button and getting error after error. On the umpteenth try, it'd go through and then the next step, whatever that was, would get error after error. After a long time, it would finally go through. What's worse is that the first step of the process reups your 2 year contract, so you can't walk away if you get fed up. I had to stick around until it went through, or i'd have a new contract but no subsidized phone.

I ran into that myself - and the error message from the Apple site probably confused some people. The site told me that there was an error at the point where I entered my Apple ID. That made me wonder, so I pulled out my existing iPhone and asked it to update a bunch of apps - just to get prompted for my password. I hadn't entered anything wrong; it was just the servers having problems.

This isn't a new thing, either - you would think that Apple and A&T would be ready for this by now.

Update: Well, it seems that AT&T didn't bother to test the new system:

As the iPhone 4 preorder disaster worsens by the minute, the blame looks to fall squarely on AT&T's shoulders as we learn more about what went wrong. The most damaging of these may be an source close to the carrier which now claims the system which AT&T was not tested before the launch.


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posted by James Robertson

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