The Troposphere

Aug 28 2012   4:39PM GMT

Seven minutes of terror in cloud performance testing

LaspeTT Profile: LaspeTT

 

Millions of viewers tuned in to NASA’s website to watch streamed live coverage of its ‘Curiosity’ rover landing on the surface of Mars earlier this month and though it all went off without a hitch, a server outage or a website blip could have done some serious damage to NASA’s reputation.

It was an ambitious project to say the least, and NASA knew its site would be hit with possibly its highest amount of website traffic for those seven, nail biting minutes. So how did it ensure everything ran smoothly with so much at stake? The space program turned to SOASTA‘s cloud testing software.

The NASA and SOASTA collaboration came about as a referral, of sorts, from folks at Amazon Web Services (AWS), a SOASTA technology partner. And with an already hefty bill of $25 million riding on the project, NASA wanted an audience and wanted to guarantee that audience saw an uninterrupted stream of the landing.

Often, a company’s reputation and the contents of its wallet are at stake.

“When Knight Capital crashed, it caused them to lose $16 million per minute just because they were down,” said Tom Lounibos, CEO of SOASTA. “If Twitter is down, it costs advertisers $25 million per minute.”

It really is about anticipating failure — imagining worst-case scenarios — so that when the actual moment comes, companies are ready to face adversity and deal with it. SOASTA used its predictive analysis software, GlobalTest, to imitate traffic conditions on NASA’s website three days before the Curiosity rover launch.

Predictive analysis allows you to understand when something could fail and why that happened. “We are in the business of adding more intelligence to the process,” Lounibos said. “We go through a lot of what if situations with predictive analysis.”

Some what-if situations in the NASA project consisted of load testing to help understand what might happen if there is an unexpected spike in traffic, or when back-end services require more capacity. By doing simulations and observing data, SOASTA can predict the effects on infrastructure, a Web application and the database, so that companies can optimize a website or applications to accommodate these changes.

NASA’s biggest issue was it could not predict how many people were going to watch the landing, Lounibos said. “We were able to help predict how much server capacity NASA would need,” he added.

SOASTA also helped NASA prepare for a failure scenario by simulating an outage on a portion of Web servers and proving that failover plans were indeed effective.

“When you’re streaming for millions of people you can’t afford to have failure because there is only one first,” Lounibos concluded.

Fernanda Laspe is the editorial assistant for SearchCloudComputing.com.

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