Tagged: Retail

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how Amazon scrambled to handle traffic on Prime Day

Within 15 minutes of the kickoff of one of Amazon’s biggest sales days of the year, it was quickly apparent the e-commerce giant didn’t have enough servers to handle the surge in traffic, leading Amazon to throw up a scaled-down backup front page and to pause all international traffic.

That’s according to CNBC, which got a look at internal Amazon documents that also suggest the company’s auto-scaling capabilities may have failed in the lead-up to the crash. “That,” according to the business news network, “led to a cascading series of failures, including a slowdown in (Amazon’s) internal computation and storage service called Sable, and other services that depend on it, like Prime, authentication, and video playback.”

The snafus ended up causing problems throughout the company. Some warehouses, for example, reported being unable to scan or pack orders. Teams encompassing Alexa, Twitch and other Amazon offerings reported having trouble.

To be sure, the company’s sales don’t appear to have suffered (though we can’t say the same for whichever Amazon staffers likely had to feel the full fury of company founder Jeff Bezos’ well-known volcanic temper). Or maybe a better way to say it is the company still made money hand over fist.

The aftermath of Prime Day saw the company rave about the more than 100 million products Prime members scooped up during the 36-hour event. Estimates put the cost to Amazon from the downtime, though, at between $72 million and $99 million in lost sales, according to Business Insider.

Here’s a closer look at what happened.

The site started getting buggy almost as soon as the much-anticipated sales day launch on Monday. Per CNBC, “Updates made at 12PM PST say Amazon switched the front page to a simpler ‘fallback’ page, as it saw a growing number of errors.

“By 12:15PM PST, Amazon decided to temporarily cut off all international traffic to ‘reduce pressure’ on its Sable system, and by 12:37 PM PST, it re-opened the default front page to only 25 percent of traffic. At 12:40PM, Amazon made certain changes that improved the performance of Sable, but just two minutes later, it went back to ‘consider’ blocking approximately 5 percent of ‘unrecognized traffic to U.S.,’ according to one of the documents.”

The site’s error rate continued to get worse and then saw a drastic improvement in the afternoon until Amazon finally got a handle on things. At one point, more than 300 people were on an emergency conference call.

This year’s was the first Prime Day run by Amazon vice president of worldwide marketing and Prime Neil Lindsay. University of Southern California professor Carl Kesselman told CNBC that, all things considered, Amazon’s response was still impressive. Because, in many cases “the site would have crashed entirely under those circumstances.”

“Amazon is operating at a scale we haven’t operated before,” he said. “It’s not clear there’s a bad guy or an obvious screw up — it’s just we’re in uncharted territory and it’s amazing it didn’t just fall over.”


If you saw Amazon dogs on Prime Day, you were not the only one

Amazon kicked off its fourth annual Prime Day sales festival on Monday, but things weren’t off to a great start. Many Prime members looking to make the most of the 36-hour sale were greeted to site issues that prevented them from doing any shopping.

In fact, if you were greeted with Amazon dogs soon after Prime Day 2018 started, you were not the only one.

This year’s Prime Day will be Amazon’s most significant Prime Day ever, with some analysts expecting the retailer to sell goods worth $1 million a minute during peak times, and up to $3.6 billion in total for the entire event. If that forecast does come through, Amazon should rake in $1.2 billion more than last year’s Prime Day event. It helps that Amazon extended the sale period to 36 hours, and added even more countries than last year.

But the fact that some customers were not able to buy products in the first hours of Prime Day business will take a toll on revenue. Amazon quickly issued a statement on Twitter, saying that “some customers are having difficulty shopping, and we’re working to resolve this issue quickly.”

“Many are shopping successfully,” Amazon said, adding that “in the first hour of Prime Day in the US, customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year,” reminding fans that there were “hundreds of thousands of deals to come and more than 34 hours to shop Prime Day,” at the time the statement was posted.


The site issues are all the more surprising for Amazon, considering the company is also running one of the biggest cloud businesses in the world, so it does know a thing or two about making sure a website as big as Amazon.com works flawlessly, especially during Prime Day events.

The point of Prime Day, of course, is to help Amazon sign up more people to its Prime club. After all, the Prime Day deals are targeting Prime members. If you’ve been experiencing issues with the site on Prime Day, one thing you can consider doing is cutting your Prime subscription for a period. Although Prime does come with so many perks, it’s worth getting a subscription — here are more details on what’s included in your Prime membership.

The dog-centric error pages that you may have seen on Monday afternoon have not been created for Prime Day. As Business Insider points out, they were there, part of Amazon’s 404 error page since at least 2006.

The dogs of Amazon are dogs that belong to Amazon employees, with the retailer being a dog-friendly working environment. I’m sure some Amazon employees would be a lot happier to receive other perks on top of this.

“At Amazon, bring-your-dog-to-work day is every day,” an Amazon blog post reads. The tradition started back in the early days of Amazon when a couple used to bring their Welsh Corgi, Rufus, to work with them.

That said, there’s plenty of time left in Prime Day 2018, and a ton of deals to take advantage of, hopefully, without any Amazon dogs sightings.