Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Or you could pick of the telephone and call someone...

Om Malik chimed in on the topic of Twitter outages with Twit This: Fame Increased Twitter Downtime.

The key topic is that the rise in popularity of Twitter coincides with the increased number of outage.

This initially caught my attention because of the recent conversation on Premature Scalaculation.

While pondering Twitter's predicament of success, I was struck by an interesting observation.

Few people seem to be bothered by the outages. While I use twitter on a regular basis, the outages were mere inconveniences. While I have no doubt a serious degradation in the service would cause me to migrate elsewhere, I have no issues with the fact that the service is somewhat flaky. In fact, the associated outage screens seem to humanize the experience. No service? No problem - we're presented with a cute little graphic to acknowledge the fact.

The network wires around the problem. What did I do while Twitter was down? In some cases I used other communication channels. In other cases I simply did without. This is easier dealt with when the producers and consumers are humans. Having said this, it reminds me of the dialog I had with users when doing interviews for disaster recovery planning several years ago.

While there are many mission critical services deserve a sophisticated level of availability baked into the architecture, there are times when the most appropriate solution might be a system of post-it notes and telephones.

Heresy? Only sometimes.


Bob Warfield said...

It's true that having Twitter down wasn't the end of the world, but I can't help but wonder (also in light of "premature scalaculation") whether there isn't a lesson to other startups going forward.

One reads about how the Twitter guys toiled on the latest to move their datacenter only to find a switch was giving them trouble at the end and they wouldn't even be able to complete the transition.

It just seems to me that services like Amazon's give you a lot more flexibility to deal with these things. If nothing else, it is economically viable to create a temporary duplicate of your infrastructure to try out a new release and still be able to fall back on the old instantly if it doesn't work out.

More on my blog:

Aloof Schipperke said...

There's definitely a lesson in this for startups.

You have a good point regarding Amazon's service. Perhaps the economic viability of Amazon's services will provide enough of a catalyst to increase the number of implementations designed to use the technique from day one.

123 said...

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