Manchester United website Crash and Cristiano Ronaldo :: Building Apps for Surge

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I love Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s one of the best footballers alive. Many people share this view. That’s part of the reason why Cristiano Ronaldo’s announcement caused Manchester United website to crash.

Dealing with a sudden surge in app usage is a good headache organizations try to manage by employing DevOps and cloud engineers.

The sport and banking industry, amongst others, have battled with massive traffic by sometimes horizontal scaling (by adding more machines to your pool of resources) and vertical scaling (by adding more power (e.g. CPU, RAM) to an existing machine). With this scaling, many organizations still suffer a crash and bloated recurring expenses. Bleacher Report, one of the world’s top sports news websites, in 2017 had the engineering challenge that arises from serving over 1 billion pageviews per month and sending out more than three billion push notifications each month. To handle massive traffic the company had scaled up to 150 servers. There were reports that Bleacher Report had gone from needing 150 servers to just five! That was an incredible engineering miracle! To achieve this, the engineering team decided to minimize their use of Ruby for their backend, and adopt another technology. I only came to know about this move in 2019 🙁

Data Flood

So, when and how did I stumble on this technology? Well, I’m always looking for an edge in the markets for client benefit. I believe that If you can’t figure out your advantage then you don’t have one. I always look for one. This drives me to take up challenges I am not familiar with, like in the case below.

Interestingly, in 2016 I got lucky and was selected by a startup to lead the architecture (designing and building) of an easy-to-use non-crypto digital currency that confirms transactions within 10 seconds. A colleague in a defunct startup I co-founded in 2009 had recommended me. Though, at the time, the digital currency idea seemed way ahead of its time in Africa. There was no legislative framework for it. And it was somewhat an alien idea. The owner of this project must be crazy, some people thought. I was scared but thrilled at the same time. The project owner didn’t like cryptocurrency (especially Bitcoin as it delayed confirming transactions). Yet they wanted us to use dedicated servers that can’t afford to fail and handled concurrency well.

I started building a prototype using C# programming language with DotNET framework. But it couldn’t achieve the business objective of the client. Neither could Java, NodeJs, and the likes. When building financial systems one have to be very careful. You could go to jail for building rubbish. I was a bit terrified yet excited to discover the holy grail. It took me almost a year of hard-core research into all I could lay my hands on FinTech, cryptocurrency, telecommunication, reading, and re-reading every engineering maneuvering engineers applied to build a system that has speed, reliability, concurrency, productivity, fault tolerance, and scalability. No project had ever stretched me like this. I was so obsessed I dreamt about solutions. And then I found it!

There was a secret weapon companies were using low-key that gave them a great competitive advantage. At first, I struggled with it as it required a paradigm shift from conventional programming. I had to learn it fast. We didn’t use it for the client that year eventually. But I had found gold. I rejected job offers and projects that wouldn’t allow me to build my skill using this technology. I was in love.

To my amazement, Facebook, WhatsApp, Heroku, and some top companies used it [low-key] without making noise about it. I judiciously updated my LinkedIn profile with my new skill and it put me on the radar. Then in 2019, I got a LinkedIn message from a recruiter for Bleacher Report. It turned out they were rolling out new services and features and needed engineers with this special skill. The technical test that was given to me tested one’s ability to design a real-time reporting system that cached the result on a Server RAM. This was a hack some organizations employed to deliver web requests fast without using a disk-based database or hard disk. I achieved the result but it wasn’t up to the expected standard. I kept practicing. We used it to build the backend for an online multiplayer game for a client. This enables them to save costs and avoid using services like Pusher, which is pricey especially when you have to handle over 5,000 concurrent users.

The technology was invented over 2 decades ago. It wasn’t invented for the web but it was built for powering telecommunication. When it comes to powering real-time systems it does an amazing job. At TechAssembly we adopt it for real-time communication-centric services. Some organizations keep it secret as a competitive advantage.

Organizations are able to reduce costs by adopting this technology. While competitors’ apps crashed or accumulated uncomfortable monthly charges organizations that use this technology smile. It has come to our notice that new generation banks are embracing this technology.

In another post, we will talk more about this technology.

We are excited about the future of communication as the need for fast and reliable communication systems rapidly increases.

TechAssembly is a technology company that guides organizations to win with technology adoption.

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