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55,000 servers and pumping

We’ve just added more than 55,000 new servers to make Xero faster and more reliable.

In the infrastructure team we’re a bit like the odd ones out at Xero. We’re not out there developing it, we don’t shape what it looks like, and we don’t connect new customers to Xero, nor do we support customers as they use it. In fact, it’s always seemed to me, that our team ends up using Xero less than anyone else at Xero.

That’s not because we don’t like it, but because we spend our time and effort behind the scenes. In infrastructure we care about two things:  Xero being up, and Xero being FAST!Craig has spoken in the past about our approach to Client Side performance, and a key part of our initial approach was implementing a rudimentary Content Delivery Network (CDN) to bring our cached content closer to our customers.

I knew that Xero needed a more mature CDN to help us scale up and deliver improved performance to customers across the globe. If you’re serious about wide-scale performance, Akamai should be your first point of call. Akamai have more than 55,000 servers around the world, in over 70 countries, and their servers are within one network hop of 90% of Internet users.

Earlier this year, Craig and I meet up with Akamai’s Australasian representatives and this was the first time we saw Akamai’s Web Application Accelerator in action. We were blown away by this technology and I knew we just had to get it on board.

I’m not going to go in to all the technical details of how Web Application Accelerator (WAA) works but if you’re interested, Akamai have a presentation here. An elevator pitch is that WAA not only delivers content closer to customers, it speeds up the dynamic content over the fastest route, not the cheapest (which is the opposite of how the Internet normally works).

Thanks to the Akamai team for working with us over the last few months and enabling us to deliver a faster, more responsive Xero to our customers.

 

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13 comments

Craig Walker
11 December 2009 #

Well done Paul – we wouldn’t have got this over the line if it wasn’t for you pushing it through. Operationally this a very important evolution of our performance story.

Great job.

Craig

Dennis Howlett
12 December 2009 #

Does that mean something like 4.5 servers needed for every user as reported in recent numbers?

Rod Drury
12 December 2009 #

@Dennis – not your best crack but we always enjoy the attention :)

Not 4.5 servers needed but 4.5 servers provided. The significance of this is hitting another scale threshold. When SaaS companies start you just can’t afford to leverage top tier services but as you get to scale you can start to use these fantastic resources. This puts our static content (which is probably 95% of what our customers pull off our servers) in their local ISP.

It gives our potential customers a great experience in countries we can’t even spell.

We think that’s pretty cool.

Rod

Ben Kepes
12 December 2009 #

I really hope that was a joke Dennis…. A bad one admittedly but better than not understanding the post

;-)

Dennis Howlett
12 December 2009 #

Rod. Not having a crack at all – aaah – I think I get it. Xero gets access to not necessarily using. OK. That isn’t clear.

Hmm…headline doesn’t help, neither does the opening para which says: “We’ve just added more than 55,000 new servers…” but later says: “Akamai have more than 55,000 servers around the world, in over 70 countries…”

Rod Drury
13 December 2009 #

Paul our ops guy has secret fantasy of being a tabloid journo.

Dennis Howlett
13 December 2009 #

Hmmm…suggest it didn’t quite come off. Suggest reading the UK’s The Sun. Great way to learn that stuff IMO. (lol)

Words matter
13 December 2009 #

[...] doing as long as they know their apps are running. So when Xero put this headline into the blogs:  55,000 servers and pumping I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck was going on. My initial response was to question [...]

Luke
13 December 2009 #

Love this – great post, and great improvement to an already great product. Well done.

Adrian Pearson
14 December 2009 #

When I first saw the post title I thought, “what the hell have they bought so many servers for?”, since, even with my limited tech savvy and limited knowledge of Xero’s user numbers, I somehow knew that this did not make sense.

Reading the post made it clear, the servers are there as and when needed. A good idea and one that gives me more confidence in Xero’s ability to scale their business.

Bruce Earle
15 December 2009 #

Plenty of room to grow!Having the system on a network like that gives me lots of confidence in the security of the data.

Gone are the days of having a server meltdown and hoping that when you get it going again the backup tapes have worked!

[...] but they can also leverage a clever bit of technology called persistent TCP connections that the Akamai WAA platform [...]

Will Croxford
17 May 2010 #

Thanks for the tech info on how Xero works. As a techie, it’s nice to know!

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