Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rockies Make the First Error in World Series

I can’t resist a blog posting on the World Series since my beloved Red Sox made it to the big show once again. I’ve written about the correlation between baseball’s Sabermetrics and web analytics in the past, but yesterday’s news of the site crash and unavailable tickets caused me to think about proper site planning and the repercussions of poor performance on the customer experience.

During the first 90 minutes of online ticket sales, 8.5 million page requests caused the Rockies ticket system to fail. A spokesman for the Colorado Rockies blamed the crash on an “external malicious attack”. Although automated bots present a significant problem for the online ticket industry, poor load balancing and insufficient server capacity is more likely the true cause of yesterday’s failure. Most eager fans received DNS errors, but slow-loading pages and cookie blocking also contributed to the problem. Both the RedSox.com and the ColoradoRockies.com sites are hosted and maintained by MLB.com, which was expected to handle the increased load. Yet, the Rockies failed to understand that their traffic was redirected to evenue.net severs managed by their external ticket vendor, Paciolan who also manages ticket sales for the Padres and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Sites that offer sales exclusively through the online channel have justifiable cause for decreasing costs and maximizing efficiencies, yet the infrastructure must handle the task. Performance monitoring and load balancing services from companies like Keynote and Gomez alleviate many of these issues, but still don’t account for advanced preparation and a complete understanding of system operations and partner capabilities.

I won’t go so far as to say that the Rockies ticket error is a harbinger for things to come in this 2007 World Series, but it should serve as a wake up call for retailers or any site operators anticipating increased load on their pages this holiday season.

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