The IT Grinch: Online Holiday Shopping Network Outages
Tuesday November 22 2016
Avoiding instability of major e-commerce platforms over the holidays (Part 1)
That special time of year is upon us again — the holiday season, a.k.a. shopping season. I used to hate this time of year because I would spend hours at the mall, overwhelmed by crowds of aggressive shoppers with a strict agenda, while I aimlessly wandered the less crowded stores to end up coming home with something like mittens for my sibling’s kitten (Kitten Mittens).
I don’t have that problem anymore. Today, like most people, I sit in my living room and order everything I could ever want online from a huge selection of e-commerce sites. The holiday season is when e-commerce businesses do the bulk of their annual business. According to a report by RJMetrics from 2015, November and December drive 30% more e-commerce revenue than non-holiday months. Additionally, the time between Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) through Christmas pulls in 50-100% more revenue than the rest of the days of the year.
For large E-commerce business this all means one thing: Don’t go down.
The enterprise CIO and all underlying operations teams are measured on their ability to keep the lights on, especially during peak shopping periods where service quality and availability matters most.
Last year, to the surprise of most, online shoppers were greeted with error messages as they went to some of their favorite e-commerce sites, including Target.com, Neiman Marcus, and Groupon, and even experienced service disruptions from PayPal.
High Web-Traffic = Chaos and Instability
Every year, e-commerce sites experience record levels of web traffic during popular shopping days and are unable to anticipate the volume and the impact of that traffic ahead of time. On Cyber Monday of 2015, Target.com experienced their highest web traffic in history.
At the time, a statement from Target read: “As we experience spikes in traffic, our systems place guests in a queue and prompts them to access the site later.” This was an effort to avoid poor experiences when customers were trying to access the site during peak hours; however, a massive number of customers were unable to access the site altogether.
According to David Jones of Dynatrace, “The shopping traffic surges are colliding with retailers’ ever-more complicated e-commerce software and applications, and shoppers’ growing use of mobile devices to shop online.”
Without a doubt, 2016 has been a year when E-commerce businesses have introduced even more complexity to their infrastructures. In response to increasing IT incidents and outages, investment in IT monitoring tools has grown dramatically. But will service quality be impacted as a result?
In IT Monitoring — Humans are the Bottleneck
Despite the sophistication of your monitoring environment and the increased visibility the tools are providing, they are ultimately dependent on configuration and management by humans. They rely on humans to ask the right questions and effectively analyze the results. However, IT environments are highly unpredictable, meaning that you likely don’t even know they questions that you should be asking. Further, it’s not physically possible for a team of 50-100 people to analyze the millions of metrics and events that are produced each day in large environments.
(Check out our upcoming Webinar on avoiding avoiding the bottleneck — Keeping IT Real: Cutting Through the BS to Create a Real Digital Enterprise, on Thursday December 8th at 10am PT / 1pm ET.)
I’ll circle back after Cyber Monday with another blog post, and recap on quality of service at leading E-commerce sites. Additionally, we’ll offer a recommendation on how major outages can be avoided. Stay tuned, and happy shopping!
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