How Much Should Companies Invest in Launch Day?

In less than one month I’ve watched both Mozilla & Apple have record setting launch days while still experiencing all types of technical problems & causing end-users much frustration & hassle. It’s obvious from the amount & types of problems that were reported on each company’s launch day that neither company was prepared to handle the volume & capacity for that single day. I’m confident that both companies can handle a normal day’s volume just fine. However, both companies appear to have decided that it’s not worth the investment to ensure things work on high traffic volume days such as launch day.

In a previous post I commented on capacity planning & made reference to the failures that Mozilla experienced during “Download Day” for their Firefox 3 browser. As reported by GigaOm, Mozilla’s download site was down early that morning (June 17th) due to the high volume of traffic the website was experiencing. Despite Mozilla’s site being down, they actually did set the new Guinness World Record for the most downloaded software in a 24 hour period. In fact, 8,002,503 users downloaded Firefox 3 that day.

More recently Apple had a record setting launch day/weekend even though they too experienced significant outages & interruption of end-user services. This past Friday, July 11th, Apple released both its new 3G iPhone & its iPhone 2.0 software to existing iPhone owners. Throughout launch day customers across the world were unable to activate their new devices after the Apple servers could not cope with demand & did not allow users to download a new version of iTunes to support the phone activation. For those existing iPhone owners who were planning to update their iPhone software to the 2.0 version, they too experienced problems. NetworkIP’s very own PR guru Neil Vineberg was affected when he tried updating his iPhone software. He was so disappointed that he commented about it on his blog. Neil said, “My phone is dead. A brick. And you’d think that Apple would have had their act together after promoting this launch date for a month.” Despite all the frustrations, complications, & inconveniences that iPhone users experienced, Apple too had a record setting weekend. Apple sold one million 3G iPhones in just three days.

While some may agree with Mozilla & Apple’s approach of architecting for a normal day’s traffic volume it is something that as an organization that we do *not* allow for at NetworkIP. We plan & architect all of our solutions for the busiest days (our version of launch day) of the year; ours being Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, & New Year’s Day. We attribute much of our success to the fact that we *do* plan for the busiest days of the year — it’s one of the many things that separates us from our competition & has propelled us to the top spot in our industry.
As companies such as Mozilla & Apple are able to still have record setting launch days despite so many technical difficulties what’s to stop them & other companies from continuing to architect their platforms for only a normal day’s traffic volume? It’s obviously not fair to the consumer that these companies plan & architect in this fashion that they do, but if we continue to provide them record numbers why would they plan any other way?


3 Responses to How Much Should Companies Invest in Launch Day?

  1. Allen Taylor says:

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  2. Patrick says:

    I agree with your comments in theory but you state that NetworkIP has planed based on a known factor – the busiest day, to date, so far. What if next mothers day your traffic wasn’t just a little larger then the previous year. What if you traffic actually was three times greater. I think that even a company like Apple could have underestimated what a single day demand could be, although that is no excuse.

  3. Brian Kirk says:

    @Patrick You are right in that you can’t plan for any amount of traffic. At the same time, companies such as Apple & Mozilla should be able to plan better. I mean Mozilla was aiming for a Guinness World Record; they had some idea on what their traffic was going to look like. And this wasn’t Apple’s first iPhone launch either. Also, these companies should have ways to throttle their traffic so if an unexpected amount of traffic does arrive they can throttle the amount of traffic coming in so those customers that are currently being serviced aren’t interrupted.

    Looking at previous traffic patterns spanning 10 years does allow us to prepare for such high traffic days. Of course we always provide ourselves with room to grow too. We also utilize throttling mechanisms that we’ve developed as part of our platform & the inherent throttling capabilities of our telephony switches. These types of proactive measures allow us to ensure that regardless of the traffic that comes our way we aren’t taken down.

    Thanks for the comments,

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