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Rackspace CTO John Engates Discusses Google+ Hangout Recap

The main reason that Drew and I started the Cloud Office Hours Hangout was to help new and existing businesses learn how to leverage the power of the cloud. In particular, we try to provide information that can be helpful for businesses to scale their website or application for an onslaught of traffic. Preparation is the key to ensuring that a website is up and available.

One website learned the hard way about the importance for handling massive amounts of traffic. The launch of was lampooned widely throughout the media and call-in shows. The mistakes they made could have been avoided. Still, many companies fall into those same traps. The only difference was the amount of people that were affected and level of political scrutiny placed on this particular launch. To help sort through the mess, Rackspace CTO John Engates was invited to Washington, D.C. to provide insights and expertise on how to fix We caught up with John after his trip to the White House and the website’s operations center. Here are some of the highlights with the video of the entire Hangout embedded below.

  • One thing that was underestimated was the complexity of running the site. Ultimately, launching the site was only one of many tasks  that were part of the Affordable Healthcare Act. On top of that, the hosting was only a portion of putting together the site and ultimately got placed towards the back of the pack.
  • John talked about the importance of placing the lightweight transactions upfront to prevent the site from going down. Typically, the heavy computational part happens at the end of the process, where the person enters their credit card and personal information. inverted that funnel, placing tasks with heavy transactional load upfront (such as credit analysis for subsidies and username creation). This effectively bogged down the system as massive amounts of people flooded to the site.
  • Finally, John mentioned the importance of considering the user experience when building a site. With, the last step was for people to click a button that said something to the effect of, “Under penalty of perjury I guarantee all the information I put in is 100 percent accurate.” The cart abandonment rate was astronomical because people were scared to click the button due to fear of making a mistake inputting data along the way!

A huge thanks goes out to John for stopping by our show to discuss this topic. The Office Hours Hangout happens every Thursday at 1:00 p.m. CST. Be sure to check the Rackspace Google+ page for more information.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Alan Bush.

Alan Bush is a Technical Community Manager for the Rackspace Community. What's a "Technical Community Manager"? Well, technically, it means he manages the community, but really it means helping connect people with the information they need to make awesome things in the cloud. Before pioneering the TCM role, Alan helped to create the Cloud Launch Team.

During his time on the Launch Team, Alan helped more than 100 new cloud consumers get started with cloud hosting; developed a weekly live video show, Office Hours Hangouts; was one of the first 175 Rackers to become certified "Cloud Savvy," and was awarded the Fanatical Jacket, Rackspace's highest honor for outstanding customer support.

Before Rackspace, Alan helped create the Stevie Award winning onboarding program for cloud collaboration suite Central Desktop, working directly with companies and organizations like, Sesame Workshop, and IEEE. When he's not helping customers learn how to build awesome things in the cloud, he can be found performing improv comedy with ComedySportz San Antonio, or volunteering with the Alamo Beard Club.

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