Nouvola Blog

Talking cloud: If it can happen to Apple… (another cautionary tale)

Posted by Paola Moretto on Oct 2, 2014 10:21:00 PM
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If you were among the masses of people awaiting Apple’s latest product launch, if you work in high-tech, or if you’re someone who just follows the news, then my headline likely speaks for itself. It’s been a very rough month for the seemingly unstoppable Apple.

On September 9, the entire technology industry – and much of the rest of the world – was eagerly awaiting the launch of the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus and the Smartwatch. And because Apple has a very long history of hosting flawless and riveting product launch events, people were not just waiting, they were watching over what was supposed to be a routine live stream.

If it can happen to Apple..Instead, those Apple fans and followers saw was what’s been described as a disaster from start to finish. First, the live stream didn’t load, and when it did, the audio was garbled and the video was more than a little fuzzy. Many users reported that the supposedly live stream also stopped abruptly and started playing again from the start. Others heard a Chinese language commentary in the background, overriding the English language presentation that was to have been the main event. Then, to make matters even worse, the Apple Store crashed under heavy demand.

It’s complicated for even expert performance engineers to piece together what went wrong. As StreamingMedia.com outlines, the performance problems were created by a combination of a new Javascript code, JSON data, uncacheable data by CDN, storage structure on S3 and probably more.

But what will be even harder for Apple is making the memory of this disaster go away. In short, this is the sort of failure that just wasn’t supposed to happen to a consumer and high-tech darling like Apple. When it did, the critics came out in force and their commentary was scathing.

The Twitter universe had a field day, even spawning a new hashtag #ThingsBetterThanAppleLive (“Streaming a full HD film on dial-up,” is better than Apple Live responded one tweet.) And serious critics raised serious concerns. On ZDNet, Jason Perlow, said the high-profile failure called into question Apple’s entire enterprise capability, leaving the perception that “the idea of Apple doing anything that could be remotely considered enterprise-grade is laughable.”

“Unfortunately for this industry, in the eyes of the consumer and for any company's customers, perception is reality, regardless of the technical details,” Perlow wrote. “Based on the events of the last two weeks, I’m certainly not confident that the company knows how to run an enterprise-grade cloud….”

I write about Apple’s rough month here not to jump on the bandwagon of criticisms but to highlight two important facts. First, that even the best among us can fail if we don’t adequately test performance continuously. And second, when that failure occurs, it can leave a lasting memory in the minds of your customers. For Apple, what was to have been the biggest day of the year, turned out to be a PR disaster. Rather than basking in the glow of yet another successful product launch, it had to answer some tough questions about its general proficiency. And if a company like Apple, with essentially unlimited access to resources and top tech talent, can fail to predict how its complex and spidery application stack is going to perform well under high traffic, well, what does that mean for your average midsized enterprise?

The answer to that hypothetical question need not be daunting. The answer is that all businesses, from Apple to the run-of-the-mill enterprise have to be prepared. And in order to be prepared, they need to test performance, and do so proactively with a trusted state-of-the-art performance testing solution. And in order to test proactively, they need to test every day, and integrate performance testing with the development flow so it happens seamlessly. Avoiding disasters really can be as simple as preparing ahead of time.

This is my personal mantra and it’s Nouvola’s mission.

Don’t hesitate to contact me directly with your comments and inputs via paola.moretto@nouvola.com. You can find me on Twitter at @paolamoretto3 or @nouvolatech.

 

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