The Ticket to Site Traffic Management
When it comes to site traffic management, few organizations face a more difficult challenge than online ticket services. Usually juggling thousands of events at a time with sudden (albeit predictable) traffic spikes, brokers must invest heavily in network and workflow management or they can lose out on potentially millions in revenue.
But, as these tools become more sophisticated through data analytics, machine intelligence and scaled-out architectures, the event industry has the opportunity to reinvent itself as an agile, mobile-facing service capable of tapping into increasingly diverse sources of revenue — particularly small-venue events that often get overlooked amid the pop culture hoopla.
A Ticket From the Cloud
A case in point is Ticketmaster, which, as described by V3‘s Peter Gothard, must prepare for Black Friday-caliber traffic each time a major event goes on sale. Having been in operation for more than two decades, the company still has a substantial investment in in-house infrastructure, much of it the result of business acquisitions, and is therefore in need of substantial migration and integration support. However, the company is becoming increasingly reliant on the cloud as well — not just for the additional scale, but to improve their support for the increased numbers of mobile users.
This further necessitates a more DevOps-style approach to network management, one that empowers teams to track down, analyze and correct key bottlenecks in the data flow.
Ticket services also have to contend with automated ticket-buying “botware.” Though it is illegal in many locations, enforcement is difficult and its effect on ticket sites can be equivalent to a DoS attack on a standard web page. Ticketmaster is employing a range of solutions to deal with botting, including fine-grain packet inspection to separate bot traffic from human traffic. But the endeavor is immense and its effectiveness is hard to measure.
It might come as a surprise that ticket services — along with other markets that experience volatile traffic fluctuations — are seeing only marginal success when it comes to “cloud bursting,” wherein workloads are seamlessly and automatically offloaded to third-party resources. As Nick Martin noted in TechTarget, it takes a highly sophisticated architecture to enable this level of functionality across geo-distributed environments, so much so that many organizations simply opt to deploy more servers in-house to handle the overload. Networking is one of the major hurdles, not simply in terms of bandwidth and latency, but security logging and auditing as well. And because virtual machine images and related data must be pre-staged in the cloud, ticket services still need to estimate the level of cloud resources they’ll need for any given time period, and then pay for it while it waits to be accessed.
One solution that is proving effective at site traffic management is the emerging class of application performance management (APM) solutions. Tech analyst Zeus Kerravala pointed out on TechBeacon that APM not only helps predict spikes in traffic; it can identify problem areas in the network that are most susceptible to bursty data and even spot random events that create demand surges. By enabling deep visibility into app performance across the data architecture, and applying advanced analytics to spot both normal patterns and abnormalities, APM can establish the baseline for performance while continually monitoring the environment for deviations.
Online ticket services have one thing going for them that most e-commerce sites do not: nearly insatiable demand for their products and the willingness of users to pay top dollar for the most coveted seats. Yet success can be a double-edged sword, and the ease at which new services hit the internet requires even long-standing providers like Ticketmaster to remain on the cutting-edge if they hope to stay on top.
After all, the most popular events cater to a youth market that is wedded to the mobile phone and highly intolerant of service disruption. By focusing on site traffic management, the event industry stands the best chance of reaching customers no matter where, when and how they choose to connect.