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Faster Web App Performance, Smoother Software Deployment

TL;DR

We’ve cut our web application response times in half, which means building and testing your
landing pages with Unbounce is now even faster. Read on to find out exactly how we did that.

The Whole Story…

I’m sure at one time or another, perhaps even often, you’ve received one of those “we’re upgrading so we’ll be offline” messages from one of the software providers you use. Obviously this can be really maddening if the vendor’s selected maintenance window just happens to fall within your prime working hours.

So why do some software services still do this? Well, honestly, it’s hard to keep systems online all the time. Things happen. The Shellshock Bug happens. Your data center needs to move racks around. You need to update server software. Or, say, take our recent case. We wanted to replace all of the servers in one of our application clusters with faster ones.

Over the last few months, our Technical Operations team has been putting more and more systems automation in place, with the goal of simplifying application deployment. One of the hardest, riskiest, scariest parts of deploying software systems is making a change to a running system. You just never know when something is going to go catastrophically wrong.

However, setting up brand new systems is far less risky. You can tinker around and test brand new systems to be sure they’re working properly without affecting the existing system at all. The downside is that, typically, setting up brand new systems is a lot of work.

The solution is to completely automate this process so that you can do it quickly and easily. Deploying software in this way is called Blue-Green deployments. You start out running on the “blue” system, fire up a new “green” system, then cut over to it.

Blue-Green deploy process. You could just as easily call it “A-B” or “Wallace-Lucy”, but Blue-Green seems to have stuck.

So that’s what we did just recently. We now have sufficient systems automation in place that firing up entirely new servers is actually just a push-button operation. We just happened to fire up brand-new faster servers. And the results were really great. Check out the chart below:

unbounce-faster-flattened

Our average web transaction response time (that’s how fast our Unbounce app responds to your requests) dropped from almost 600ms per request to well under 300ms per request. We sure noticed that navigation within the app just feels snappier. We hope you’ve noticed that too!

This new deploy process is how we’ll be rolling out all changes moving forward. If you’ve been using Unbounce for a while, you may have noticed that sometimes the system will slow down a bit. There’s a good chance you were using Unbounce while we were in the middle of a software deploy. However, with this new Blue-Green deployment system, those delays should be a thing of the past.

Carl Schmidt, CTO

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