(Photo by Flickr user @jonicdao, used under a Creative Commons license)
Fifty-four thousand unique visitors scrambled to SEPTA’s ecommerce site to buy a transit pass for the Pope’s visit, and that was just in the first minute the passes went live.
The site crashed. It wasn’t built to handle the demand.
(It was run solely on Amazon Web Services, not all the infrastructure that SEPTA built up last year to prevent site crashes. SEPTA worked with Wayne-based Captech for the ecommerce site, which will be used for future sales, said SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch. This is the site, but it’s no longer live. Note that it was the application that crashed, not AWS, and it was because SEPTA hadn’t planned for that kind of demand when the site went live.)
So SEPTA sought out other options. That’s where Ticketleap comes in.
The Center City ticketing company’s going to be running the papal pass sales via lottery.
SEPTA approached Ticketleap and this was the solution Ticketleap proposed, said CEO Tim Raybould, because it would mean that people wouldn’t be slamming the site all at the same time. (Normally, Ticketleap uses a “waiting room” for its customers that kicks in and prevents the site from crashing. But if Ticketleap were to use this technique for the papal passes, people would have been waiting in the waiting room for too long, he said.)
And even if they do, the site should stay up because it won’t be doing anything sophisticated, like processing transactions. That’s the stuff that makes a site “buckle under load,” Raybould said. It’s simply a site to express interest in buying a papal pass. (We imagine it will be like a Launchrock.) They’ll be using Amazon Web Services’ S3, which Raybould describes as “raw, pure storage,” rather than an environment where an application can live and react.
It’s a somewhat unconventional move for a startup. Ticketleap is not, after all, a professional services firm that does one-off projects for customers. When we asked Raybould about this, he said, “The short way to describe it is, just because it was awesome.” His team was excited to work on a puzzle like this one, he said, and to be part of this high-profile Philly phenomenon.
But it’s also clearly a big win for Ticketleap. This will be the biggest event they’ve ever sold tickets to. There are 350,000 papal transit passes available and SEPTA expects them to sell out. Ticketleap will take a $0.75 fee from each ticket sale. It’s also great exposure for the local company.
And maybe the Pope will give Ticketleap his blessing? Amen.