The Gilt Effect: Handling 1000 Shopping Cart Updates per second in Rails

Scott Penberthy (Gilt Groupe), Michael Bryzek (Gilt Groupe), Geir Magnusson Jr (Gilt Groupe), Yonatan Feldman (Gilt Groupe)
General
Location: Pavilion 2 - 3
Average rating: ***..
(3.93, 44 ratings)

Gilt Groupe is a fascinating e-commerce business, where luxury items are sold at a discount in “flash” sales that mimic the New York sample sale experience. In this model, passionate buyers rush to grab items in a time-sensitive shopping cart, choose what they want, and check out within seconds.

These updates would normally require reading and writing to a centralized database, currently PostGres running on Joyent’s Accelerators. Relatively new plugins for threaded database connections, and PostGres’ lack of read/write slaves, pose interesting technical challenges.

Our solution combines a bank of servers at the edge of the network, running on Amazon EC2 with local data stores. An optional queuing layer sits between these servers and the centralized database at Joyent. We’ll discuss our architecture and algorithms to address the problem of ACID shopping cart updates. The solution dynamically scales to handle load, optimizing cost while maintaining a 250MS response time.

Scott Penberthy

Gilt Groupe

Scott is the CIO at Gilt Groupe, an online retailer of luxury goods sold at discount prices to a private, invitation-only membership. All sales occur once a day at noon, providing interesting technology and processes challenges to handle instant, flash floods of transactions. In this role Scott’s team is responsible for all things tech, from the web site to handheld scanners in multiple warehouses. Scott has been a builder and leader of technology teams for over 15 years. He started his career as a research scientist at IBM, then led teams that delivered web browsers, web platforms, and open source services during the first web wave. After IBM he left for the venture world, becoming CTO or VPE of early stage startups including Photobucket, Heavy, and Bling. Scott enjoys building tech teams who love what they do.

Photo of Michael Bryzek

Michael Bryzek

Gilt Groupe

Michael Bryzek is the Chief Technology Officer for Gilt Groupe. He brings extensive experience in developing user focused internet software and a deep passion for leveraging technology to streamline logistics. Prior to Gilt Groupe, Michael founded Volunteer Solutions, an internet application service provider for the philanthropic sector acquired by United Way of America in 2001. Michael then served as the Chief Technology Officer for United eWay, United Way of America’s technology subsidiary, where he created software that today supports the activities of millions of volunteers and over 600M in donations annually.

Michael earned his Masters degree in Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Geir Magnusson Jr

Gilt Groupe

With a diverse background as both a technical executive and an internationally known leader in open source software, Geir comes to us from Joost, where he led software development and had responsibility for platform architecture, implementation and delivery. Prior to Joost, he held positions as Director of Middleware Architecture and Open Source Technology at Intel, and Vice President of Products and Strategy at Gluecode, an open source application server startup that was acquired by IBM. He was VP, Engineering and Chief Architect of Adeptra, an innovating communications service provider, and as CTO, guided technology FitLinxx during it’s rapid growth years. Geir began his commercial career as an architectural and product lead at Bloomberg Financial Markets where he developed the company’s real-time, multi-platform financial data delivery and presentation system. He is also a member of the board of advisors for WSO2, an open source SOA middleware vendor.

In addition to his commercial software experience, Geir is a Director of the Apache Software Foundation, currently represents the ASF on the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process, the organization that governs the evolution of the Java platform, and helped found major open source projects, including Apache Geronimo and Apache Harmony, and has been recognized for his work in the Java ecosystem through a Google-O’Reilly Open Source Award.

Yonatan Feldman

Gilt Groupe

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Comments

David Padilla
05/10/2009 2:33pm PDT

Loved this talk especially because I have a similar project in my hands… its like I saw me and the problems I will be facing in a couple months… met these guys at their party… wonderful people

David Vanderson
05/09/2009 2:59pm PDT

Fantastic session. Great technical details and a nice example of pragmatic choice of tools.

Jason LaPorte
05/07/2009 4:57pm PDT

The title is misleading—they didn’t handle a major component of their shopping cart in Rails at all. However, it was a good case for cloud computing, and an interesting talk nonetheless.

Picture of Todd Sedano
Todd Sedano
05/05/2009 11:59am PDT

Excellent presentation. The speakers were eloquent, well organized, intellectually stimulating, and fashionable.

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