Spike Night

Location: Regency Ballroom Level: Novice
Average rating: ***..
(3.80, 10 ratings)

Web operations is not for the casual observer: it’s a particular kind of adrenaline junkie that’s motivated by graphs and servers spinning out of control. Jumping in, on-your-feet analysis, and experience-based-experimentation are all part of solving new problems caused by unexpected user and machine behavior, and keeping a clear head when service owners and executives are panicking is part of the job.

A core part of web operations leadership is spike management – what do you when you see a significantly larger amount of load than you’ve had before. Sometimes this is predictable months out (Amazon knows, for example, that the first or second Monday of December will be their biggest day each year), sometimes days out (Twitter knew Oprah was coming), and sometimes not at all (what we still call the Slashdot Effect). Every web ops professional deals with some kind of spike – even intranets manage paydays and employee review days – and if you’re into it, well, spikes can be fun. Of course, maybe you use EC2 Auto-Scaling, and so (in theory) don’t have to worry about it, although of course bottlenecks come in many forms.

So at Velocity this year, we’re trying out something new: Spike Night.

Spike Night is a chance to see and learn about how real, high-traffic websites deal with massive increases in load, either expected or unexpected. We’ll see real-world management of traffic increases – graphs, tools, the whole shebang.

We called up lots of people on the phone and said “can we throw massive load at your website so you can stand on stage and brag about it,” many web ops folks were excited, but then they start worrying about little things like “what if something goes wrong and everyone blogs about it” or “do I have to ask somebody in a PR department” and then calls went unreturned.

Fortunately, two parties have stepped up, and we can’t wait to see what they have to show:

  • Chris Bissell, Chief Software Architect at MySpace, and members of the MySpace team will demonstrate a massive, real increase in traffic, and will manage it on-stage. MySpace already deals with tens of thousands of hits each second – we can’t throw enough traffic at them to cause any harm – so they’ll cause their own harm and then show how they work through it.
  • Ryan Nelson, Operations Director for MLB Advanced Media and MLB.com, will walk us through a combination of war stories and live traffic management to show what happens when millions of baseball fans all want to see what’s happened after the commercial break at the exact same time. Between their very popular desktop apps and their newly-announced iPhone game streaming, the MLB is a true leader in technology innovation with a rabid fan base that goes well beyond the Web 2.0 echo chamber.

Spike Night is meant to be a fun event, taking place Tuesday night of Velocity, and open to the larger web community – a Velocity pass is not required to attend. We’re looking forward to hosting interesting demos and a fun Q&A, and hope to see all of you there!

Photo of Scott Ruthfield

Scott Ruthfield

Rooster Park Consulting

Scott Ruthfield is founder of Rooster Park Consulting, a Seattle-based engineering leadership and custom software development consultancy, and is the acting VP of Engineering at Virtuoso, the industry’s leading leisure travel network. He was the previous VP of Engineering at WhitePages.com, and ran various technology + business teams at Amazon.com. He very occasionally blogs at scottru.com.

Photo of Chris Bissell

Chris Bissell


Chris is the Chief Software Architect at MySpace.com. In other words, he comes up with overly convoluted ‘design patterns’ in order to lengthen the development process.

Photo of ryan nelson

ryan nelson


VP of Operations at Joyent. Former MLB.com devops graybeard. Yankees fan. Cat herder.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Joel Weierman
06/24/2009 4:03am PDT

This was a lot of fun and hilarious! Kudos to the MySpace.com folks for not taking themselves too seriously.

06/24/2009 2:50am PDT

Spike night was very cool ! Havin’ real, non censured view to what the guys at myspace are running was really awesome. There’s too much secret about the numbers around here, so this raw cool and non formal event was definitely what we want more !

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