Facebook Tech Infrastructure Needs Constant Care
- 02 September, 2008 13:35
What's an example?
Over the last two years, we have had a concerted effort to improve the push tool so site updates are seamless to users. Every couple of weeks, someone checks in some bad code or there's a bad database call or we fail to do full design review and push it into production and see user impact. The site might start running slower or a geography of users will have issues. Cyber liability isolates the problem, reverts the component or reverts the whole thing back to the previous known good state.
At Wal-Mart, we had the belief that we only roll forward, never back. Once you make schema changes in the database, it's difficult to pull back. If you pushed buggy code into production, you had to fix it in production. With user impact covered in the press.
Here, it's the opposite approach. We know there's going to be broken things that happen fairly regularly. We are ready. We have emotional shields for them.
You changed the basic Facebook interface a few weeks ago. What sort of things happened with that rollout?
That's a massive change. Similar to how we rolled out Chat, we turned the new interface on gradually, some percentage of users at a time.
How did you roll out the chat feature?
We had the technology running for about a month [detecting who was online] before we had the user interface visible. We turned it off several times, found a bunch of bugs that way. You can't discover that in a QA environment. You need millions of people pounding on it every day. But the actual rollout is gradual.
Is gradual rollouts an approach enterprises should take with big software rollouts?
That control, that knob, gives operations and development organizations a lot of confidence. You can turn up the heat and if there are issues, only a certain percentage of employees have been affected. It's a mentality shift. In some large enterprise apps, you can't necessarily control technology changes to a subset of users. They all have to be using the same iteration at the same time. But in other instances, you can.
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