Future Ticketing sells out tickets in a flash

Since adopting flash technology from Fusion-io, Future Ticketing is now able sell Big Day Out tickets without crashing the website, or it could, if the festival still existed.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Future Ticketing, the company responsible for managing ticket sales for extinct festival known as Big Day Out, previously one of Australia's largest music festivals held across five Australian cities, was constantly challenged by the bottleneck of online traffic when it was selling tickets for the shows.

While it was a recognised issue, it was not until 2009 when ticket sales for the 2010 Big Day Out went on sale that Future Ticketing realised it needed to find a better solution to deal with the large influx of traffic.

Future Ticketing founder and managing director Nasir David said while the company's servers and CPU were "great", the system, which ran on spinning disk arrays, took an "absolute walloping" during the 2009 ticket sales.

"We managed to get through the sales and it was still a sell out, but we had things like loss orders, there were many delays in processing orders, some people didn't get their orders through, and it was an absolute nightmare because we couldn't see what was going on," he said.

According to David, server loads topped 140, even though average server loads should be sitting at four.

"Our servers basically lost the plot. It was really bad because we couldn't really get onto our server, customer orders were lagging behind, and it was just a very bad situation," he said, noting that as the server was crashing, the CPU was not doing anything useful.

To avoid a similar scenario occurring the following year, Future Ticketing opted to implement Fusion-io's flash card. As part of initial testings, the company bought two 80GB Fusion-io cards for US$9,500, which David said for the same price today "could get 1.2TB, which is 16 times the difference, but we didn't care because we had a big issue we needed to overcome".

At the end of testing, the company bought another two more cards, spending a total of US$60,000.

"It was a really big step for us. You talk to your peers, you talk to those in the data centre, and they go 'what are you nuts?' And that's what people tend to focus on: This is your bang for your buck. Whereas we had to say we were paying a lot for it but hopefully our results will be fantastic, and thankfully it was," David said.

When ticket sales for Big Day Out 2011 came around, David said its server loads were sitting at four and tickets were sold out within 4 minutes.

"We were sitting there watching the top load, and we just couldn't believe it. Plus we were dealing with a bigger load than what we had in the previous year," he said, highlighting despite the server being able to handle the traffic, the company had to turn away 36,000 customers because there weren't enough tickets, which he was the "biggest let down".

Fusion-io EVP global field operations Ian Whiting said while flash adoption is still in its infancy, the uptake of it is starting as compnaies begin to realise the potential of it becoming a mainstream storage technology, particularly as the cost of flash decreases.

"Flash adoption is still very, very low in what I call the enterprise, but it's growing primarily as the result of the many Web 2.0 companies — seeing the likes Facebook, Apple and Amazon of the world — use it, and it's now really moving full speed into the mid-market and enterprise market, as well," he said, drawing on SanDisk's recent acquisition of Fusion-io as an indication of how the market is realising the potential of flash.

Whiting also said given that flash is a proven technology in the consumer technology sector, the adoption of it should be easier. 

"The need for instantaneous access to data is non-stop. At the same time, we're all aware of the constraints customers have around data centre cost, space, power, and cooling, so there's the constant idea of doing a lot more, with a lot less," he said.

"At the same time, providing better access to data is a real conundrum for most IT professionals. This is where disruptive technology like flash, which has come through the consumer world of electronics like digital cameras, and iPhone, is really making a shift into enterprise or data centre."

Editorial standards