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Scaling out Xero

As you may have seen, we had an scheduled outage earlier today.

Actually, that tweet is not quite true. While there were no in-app features as such, we’ve made some hardware upgrades which play a big part in our growth story. For operations, it is a huge feature upgrade.Load balancers are an important bit of any network computing environment. They allow Xero to serve our webapps from multiple backend servers at once. This allows us both to scale, and provide redundancy. From the point we first moved to Rackspace, we’ve used (various) configurations based around the Cisco CSS platform. They’ve served us well.

This morning, we moved to using F5 Networks’ BIG-IP LTM’s.

The new load balancers do two things for Xero – they can handle eight times the level of traffic that our previous load balancers could handle, but they can also leverage a clever bit of technology called persistent TCP connections that the Akamai WAA platform supports.

This will allow us to not only scale, but to deliver Xero across the Akamai network in a faster and more reliable way. Two features every Xero user should be excited to have!

 

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8 comments

patrick
17 May 2010 #

Myob price war – nbr – care to comment?

Berend de Boer
17 May 2010 #

I got all that for a few bucks on Amazon EC2. I suppose you guys pay a bit more :-)

Rod Drury
19 May 2010 #

@Patrick: We’re excited MYOB is finally hitting the market, their marketing campaign has already been fantastic for us.

We’ve been looking forward to this for a while and surprised its taken them so long.

We’ve had a very experienced team working on Xero for over 3 years now, building the foundations and all the support systems. We’re now 90+ strong and passionate about what we’re doing. We love writing and deploying software and making life easier for small businesses and accountants.

MYOB’s model has been to outsource development to an offshore 3rd party. While we’ve been hiring, they’re reducing their local teams and offshoring, slashing their costs and ramping up maintenance revenue, presumably for their Private Equity owners to break up and sell the company – which is what PE plays are all about.

Software is hard. I’m not sure many have seen a live version of the new MYOB product yet but when/if it does come out I’m sure there’ll be lots of good comparisons. Accounting applications are big, with a broad minimum feature set and take time. We’ve managed to develop a world class product factory that is shipping quality software regularly. You need to get a lot of things right to do that and maintain that.

Given we are three years ahead, their feature set will be thin and their values are different to ours – we’d expect them to have to lead on price. But we’re very confident that we are providing a lot of value.

MYOB’s last online product Business Basic Online got no traction, meanwhile we’re going very well.

We may sound a bit harsh on MYOB but I have to tell you, that their lack of innovation has slowed down small business productivity for many years. They were a good company back in their day but when I had to use it for my own businesses I was shocked by how hard doing the books was. I’ve done the late nights trying to get my reports right in MYOB. So this is personal and we are incredibly focused on this and will compete very hard.

We have a clear vision of what we’re doing, and we’re only just getting started.

I’m sure MYOB is more worried about us than we are about them. As we release final accounts on Xero and can replace Accountants Office (for free) and they have to upgrade servers and database licenses ($10′s of thousands) in their next big upgrade they’ll really know what competing on price is.

So far it’s 17,000+ to nil. Bring it on.

@Berend: Yes

Carl
19 May 2010 #

Great read Rod!

Michelle Donaldson
20 May 2010 #

Excellent blog! So exciting, its great that MYOB are making it known that they are going online as this will only create further awareness for us in the space! (especially as they keep pushing out their date to actually launch).

James Brown
21 May 2010 #

I am following online accounting developments very closely, and although 95% of my clients are MYOB users, I am moving forward and adding Xero and Quickbooks as alternative solutions.

Keith
23 May 2010 #

Paul, nice to see the unsung behind-the-scenes heros getting some of the limelight.

BARRY ALBERT
8 July 2010 #

what were the factors that led xero to use rackspace instead of amazon web services?

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