twitter (v) to allow your services go up and down randomly under heavy load due to inadequate architecture or planning, annoying a lot of the known (online) world

In case you've been living under a rock (or been heads down coding for the past week), Apple launched its latest iPhone today to the delight and, it appears, consternation of customers. A colleague relates his experience not just purchasing one of the eagerly awaited phones, but the disaster that was the activation process. Apparently Apple wasn't satisfied with all the good press it gets about how hip and trendy its products are so it decided to get some of that embarrassing press that Twitter's been getting due to unreliable services. At least Twitter is free, so it isn't as if you paid for the pleasure of having its services go down. Apple, on the other hand, well, we all know Apple products ain't cheap.

So, some 6 hours after leaving my house, I am now sitting with a fully functional, synching 16Gb iPhone 3G on my desk.  My original AT&T store destination had 30-40 people in line 2.5 hours before opening (and most of them looked wet and cold like they’d been there all night).  I then went to an alternate, which is an AT&T store that has only been open 3 weeks.  At 6 am local time, I became the 4th person in line, by 6:30 there were 30.

Once the store finally opened the first four of us were let in.  It would be 30 minutes before I walked back out with my phone.  The phone I walked out with was still bricked and it did not have my number, but a temporary one.  Why?  First, the phone number:  Some brainiac at AT&T decided that they needed new POS software to be used for the first time today—and guess what?  The number porting function doesn’t appear to work—at all.  Of the first 4 customers, 2 of us were porting numbers and neither of us was able.  Second, the phone was still bricked because the unbricking requires you to connect the phone to iTunes—and guess what?  Yup, the first two activations took 15 minutes each—and the other two still hadn’t gone through.

So I take my new phone home and after 2 hours of trying to get it to connect to iTunes myself and receiving various network errors (Timeouts and at one point iTunes was just resetting my connection) I finally received a “We are unable to process anymore iPhone registrations at this time” page.  The, encouraged that I actually got a response other than an error code, I tried again and Poof!!  Unbricked.  Now all I have to do is get my number ported.

Is it just me or does Apple just not get this?  After all the problems they had during the first iPhone launch, you’d think that they would have been prepared.  To me, it just looks like they didn’t even bother.

According to Engadget, Apple's activation servers have indeed been down, with customers instructed to "try again later." And CNN reports similar admissions by the gadget giant:

A spokesman for AT&T, the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the U.S., said there was a global problem with Apple's iTunes servers that prevented the phones from being fully activated in-store, as had been planned.

Instead, employees are telling buyers to go home and perform the last step by connecting their phones to their own computers, spokesman Michael Coe said. However, the iTunes servers were equally hard to reach from home, leaving the phones unusable except for emergency calls

Apparently Apple hasn't figured out how to scale its services to properly handle sudden spikes in volume such as those that occur when releasing a new, very popular product. Hint: it involves an application delivery controller and more servers. It's not much different than the experience many teenagers - mine included - have had around Christmas since the explosion of the iPod. After receiving enough Apple cash to keep them happily downloading tunes and movies throughout their vacation, every teenager rushes to their computer to ... play Solitaire or Bejeweled, apparently, because iTunes and its servers can't handle the sudden spike in users.

C'mon Apple - you could probably cut out a bit of the money used to promote the launch and put it towards a couple of more servers and a nice application delivery controller to make sure you can actually service your customers properly. You can meet the connection management challenge that is often the cause of server overload when suddenly faced with high volumes of traffic (e.g. the slashdot or fark effect).

You aren't a startup, you aren't Twitter, you're APPLE. Surely you can afford to scale up your infrastructure and make sure that using your services isn't a gambling proposition.

And if you won't do that, you could at least adopt a cool mascot like Twitter's Fail Whale to amuse customers while they're denied access to your services.

 

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