Build Systems that Drive Business
30–31 Oct 2018: Training
31 Oct–2 Nov 2018: Tutorials & Conference
London, UK

Victims of our own success: How Phorest addressed its scalability challenges

John Doran (Phorest)
16:3517:15 Friday, 2 November 2018
Distributed Systems, Systems Engineering and Architecture
Location: Buckingham Room - Palace Suite
Secondary topics:  Systems Architecture & Infrastructure
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Prerequisite knowledge

  • A basic understanding of deployments, operations, and how software components are plumbed together

What you'll learn

  • Learn how Phorest addressed the challenges of a rapidly scaling platform by adapting a continuous improvement mindset


Dublin-based SAAS company Phorest Salon Software powers over 4,000 businesses from the hair and beauty industry in the UK, Ireland, Finland, and the USA. The system processes three million appointments per month, three million text messages, and transactions worth millions per month.

As the platform grew and the company onboarded more and more customers, system response times began to suffer due to server exhaustion and database contention. Hosting costs were rising much faster than growth rate, which was clearly unsustainable for the business. Things became very serious when the company suffered outages as various components of the platform started falling on a regular basis.

John Doran shares the ups and downs of coping with a rapidly scaling product and explains how the system got into that state of distress, what Phorest could have done earlier to avoid it, and how the company addressed the problem by adapting a continuous improvement mindset, using distributed architecture, Docker, and AWS. The solution—an effort called Project Darwin—evolved both the platform and team practices.

Photo of John Doran

John Doran


John Doran is director of engineering at Phorest, a company developing the software that powers over 4,000 hair and beauty salons in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Finland, and the US. John ensures scalability and reliably of the company’s platform and delivers amazing new functionality that helps salon owners grow their businesses. He heads up five teams focusing on product engineering, internal tools, and ongoing support that deliver high value to customers through an emphasis on automation, quality, and scalability.