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Amazon Collapses Under Weight of 1,000 Xboxes 162

Posted by Zonk
from the everyone-is-falling-down dept.
theodp writes "Is there such a thing as a BusinessWeek Cover Jinx? Amazon was bitten by the success of its 1,000 Xboxes for $100 promotion, which brought the entire site to its knees for about 15 minutes on Thanksgiving Day. Singing the too-much-traffic blues on Black Friday were Wal-Mart and Disney."
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Amazon Collapses Under Weight of 1,000 Xboxes

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  • I wonder why they didn't just setup a basic html page or two for the home page in order to handle the traffic. By enabling a landing page for 15 minutes or so, they could have directed all the folks seeking these incredible deals to the correct page, instead of ensuring everyone is fed dynamic CPU-intensive pages. It's not like it's the first time that Walmart or Amazon have experienced traffic spikes.
    • Wouldn't that also defeat the purpose of the whole promotion though? I mean, if you're giving away a hundred x-boxes to drag as many people as possible to your site, and all you get out of them is 100 xBox sales, you've lost cash. It's the continued shopping that you're hoping for....
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Sigma 7 (266129)

        Wouldn't that also defeat the purpose of the whole promotion though? I mean, if you're giving away a hundred x-boxes to drag as many people as possible to your site, and all you get out of them is 100 xBox sales, you've lost cash. It's the continued shopping that you're hoping for....

        It's not that difficult to hard-code "People who buy X-Boxes also purchase" into the .HTML description page. Granted, it might not be optimal, but it works enough - at the very least, include links to hard-coded pages that sho

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:54PM (#16981556) Journal
      If those websites couldn't handle hordes of shoppers, I can't imagine what'd happen if someone was actively trying to blast 'em off the internet.

      Seems to me like that'd have been the perfect time to launch a malicious DDOS aimed at those big online retailers. Kinda like how some jokers went around supergluing locks the night before.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bangzilla (534214)
      Gosh - we never thought of that...! Of course if you look at the Amazon home page you'll see it's all dynamically calculated content - not static. And it wasn't the site that had the problem on Thursday anyway. Problems lay elsewhere...

  • No Chance (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Renraku (518261)
    There was almost no chance at getting one of these. The site was completely and utterly unresponsive between 1:56PM EST and 2:09PM EST. When a page loaded at 2:09PM, it was sold out.

    It would have been different if at 2:00:23PM EST it said it was sold out, but not. It might as well not have been on there at all, because getting that deal was pretty much impossible. I wonder how many of the winners were on Amazon's network?
    • by RuBLed (995686)
      well, the article said it was sold out in 29 seconds.. so yes.. there is no chance...
    • Re:No Chance (Score:5, Informative)

      by 11223 (201561) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:03PM (#16981262)
      No more than 999 were on Amazon's network. I got one.


      I had two networks to choose from: Comcast cable modem, and a supposedly "slower" SBC DSL connection. I ended up using the DSL as Amazon went unreachable on the cable modem at 5 till 1 (CST). At 1:00, Amazon was taking 10-20 seconds to load, but it did load. I clicked, answered a simple math question ("what's 18 + 19" IIRC), and it gave me the "you've got it" page.


      I'm still shocked I got it, especially since I'm in Chicago, not on the west coast.

      • Re:No Chance (Score:5, Informative)

        by Crysalim (936188) on Saturday November 25, 2006 @04:33AM (#16982602) Homepage
        You are the first person I have seen claim they got the code. I didn't believe anyone did until now, but that's only because I also was able to make it to the question link...

        ...but when I answered the question (19 + 6), it turned me down. It was incredibly frustrating, because I was under the impression that I had already received a claim code (this is what the buying tips [amazon.com] page said), and it was waiting for me to answer that question.


        Screenshots: (1) The question [ngsam.com] | (2) The denial [ngsam.com]
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ergo98 (9391)

          You are the first person I have seen claim they got the code.

          Only 1000 people got the code. 1000 is a very small number, and it's unlikely that many of those 1000 happen to visit the same online hangouts that you do.

          This whole thing is rather absurd (I'm speaking more to comments on the linked page rather to your specific comment - excuse me while I blather) - a bunch of people got their hopes up, against tremendous odds (it wasn't a small number of people who knew about this deal. I was at lunch and a lunc

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, there was. I heard rumors that going directly to the ip would have it load. I imagine that disabling images and what not would improve your chances. Simple common sense stuff, but nothing that would give anyone a guarantee. Alas, it was fate that sold these things.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Main Gauche (881147)
        "I imagine that disabling images and what not would improve your chances. Simple common sense stuff,"

        Disabling images is common sense... until they throw a captcha (or other critical graphic) at you that you need to see to claim the prize.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by blincoln (592401)
        I imagine that disabling images and what not would improve your chances.

        I don't think so. When I couldn't load the page in my browser, I tried telnetting in on port 80 in order to do a raw GET of the URL. I couldn't even connect to enter the command.
      • Disabling images likely wouldn't do anything. For one thing, the page would load with a placeholder for the missing image anyway. Also, the images are on a different server, so loading them doesn't even slow down the page you're trying to load. FlashBlock might have helped, as flash ads can cause the tables they're in not to reflow until the ad is loaded on some pages with tables. And using the IP instead of the domain name likely would have helped, because it may have been their DNS server that got overloa
        • by pboulang (16954)
          And using the IP instead of the domain name likely would have helped, because it may have been their DNS server that got overloaded.
          no. That's silly thinking.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Merc248 (1026032)
      I had two computers refreshing the page on my DSL connection (a bit redundant and counter-intuitive, I know)... took like five minutes for the page to come up.

      Here's the kicker: it came up at around 11:01 AM PST. Sold out.
  • by Wolfier (94144) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:02PM (#16981254)
    here [amazon.com] evil grin
    • by DeadBugs (546475)
      Don't forget the shameless self-promotion that started this all. Use a referral link like this... http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect-home/pr ime1-20 [amazon.com]
  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@nOSpAm.exit0.us> on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:03PM (#16981264) Homepage
    How about this [ebay.com]? Talk about one stupid seller.

    . The guy will probably protest it though.

  • Inconsistancy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Genocaust (1031046) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:03PM (#16981268)
    So was Amazon selling 1,000 XBOX systems at $100? Or selling a $1,000 XBOX system at $100?
    • Well, think about it. if you wanted an Xbox 360, which choice would make you visit amazon.com to check it out?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by edschurr (999028)
        Obviously anyone would go for the thousand Xboxes for only $100. You could make $400,000 easy.
  • Typical (Score:2, Insightful)

    by slobber (685169)
    That's what typically happens when marketing is out of touch with engineering. My educated guess would be that marketing droids "forgot" to mention this promotion to engineering. If they did, assuming that Amazon's tech team is any good, this idea would get shot down pretty quickly as one which would creating a DOS attack.

    And of course it was the tech team which ended up spending its holidays fixing the site, not marketing. (You can probably tell that I am taking it a bit personally and for a reason...)
    • Re:Typical (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bamafan77 (565893) on Saturday November 25, 2006 @12:12AM (#16981628)
      That's what typically happens when marketing is out of touch with engineering. My educated guess would be that marketing droids "forgot" to mention this promotion to engineering. If they did, assuming that Amazon's tech team is any good, this idea would get shot down pretty quickly as one which would creating a DOS attack.
      Eh, I don't know. A site as big as Amazon probably suffers from DOS almost daily. (In fact, an average day of legit traffic for Amazon.com would probably be indistinguishable from a DOS attack for most sites). And I'm sure Amazon has had past promotions that caused traffic surges too. I'm guessing they(including engineering) underestimated the popularity of THIS particular promotion.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Cassini2 (956052)
        Either that, or engineering couldn't figure out if they would rather complain about the promotion, or try to win the promotion!
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)
        A competitor of Amazon's, woot.com, runs a promotion like this every single day for some overstocked items, selling them at sometimes ridiculous prices. They also go down almost every single day, from my experience, in the same way Amazon.com did. I think you reach a certain point of traffic spike, and it's just not possible to compensate it. The Slashdot Effect is nothing compared to the "I want cheap shit" effect... look at Wal-Mart, for instance.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      If they did, assuming that Amazon's tech team is any good, this idea would get shot down pretty quickly as one which would creating a DOS attack.
      Do you have some reason to think this was not a successful promotion? The fact that the website got slow is probably as discouraging to Amazon as the fact that people waited in line for a week to get a PS3 was to Sony.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      That's what typically happens when marketing is out of touch with engineering. My educated guess would be that marketing droids "forgot" to mention this promotion to engineering. If they did, assuming that Amazon's tech team is any good, this idea would get shot down pretty quickly as one which would creating a DOS attack.

      Ah yes, that famous conceit of IT workers... That, somehow, *they* are the ones who decides what is good for the company and what is not, based on whether or not *they* will be inconveni

      • by sholden (12227)
        That's right. And when marketing decides to promote their great new idea of teleporting a new Xbox down your internet connection so you don't have to wait for shipping, screw the tech losers who claim that will be hard for them to do.

        They can work a weekend to write the code...
  • Even the apple store (Score:1, Interesting)

    by c0nst (655115)
    Apple relatively rare deals on iPods bought store was down for a couple of hours today.
  • ..and now this! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheSpatulaOfLove (966301) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:13PM (#16981340)
    Jeez - You would've thought they were selling Bags Of Crap with the way that server went down...



    On a serious note. They knew this was coming. It was marketed heavily and they should be ashamed for not being prepared to handle the onslaught of refreshers.
  • by iendedi (687301) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:15PM (#16981354) Journal
    How does Amazon think that a promotion like that would increase overall sales anyway? What they should have done is said that XBoxs will be onsale randomly throughout the day, so check the price from time to time to see if you are a lucky recipient of the sales price. There will be 100 randomly allocated sales items to customers each hour until the promotion ends.

    That would bring more traffic to their website and keep it there all day. Much better idea!

    Oh wait... Hmm....
    • by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Saturday November 25, 2006 @01:11AM (#16981908)
      How does Amazon think that a promotion like that would increase overall sales anyway?


      Marketdroids, by and large, act like spoiled children. Attention-grabbing stunts are all they do. It works to a limited extent - insofar as it keeps people talking about Amazon. It may not be particularly effective, but nobody ever accused marketdroids of being very smart.
      • by YoungHack (36385)
        I'm not sure it wasn't effective. I'm a regular Amazon user, but I'll admit that all of the buzz about promotions and specials had me checking back way more often than I would normally visit the site. I haven't made many purchases, but I've added a lot of things to my wishlist that might become future purchases.
      • Well, since it's their job to attract attention to a product, I would say they are professionals doing their job, rather than spoiled children. Just because their job description is to pander to human stupidity doesn't mean they themselves are stupid.
  • CompUSA and Best Buy. Black Friday must be a living nightmare for the half-assed tech staff shopping stores must hire to some extent.

    Surprisingly enough, Circuit City loaded perfectly fine. Does this say something about it's popularity, or it's hiring practices for IT?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Based on the fact CompUSA is running on IIS [netcraft.com], Best Buy is running Apache on Linux [netcraft.com] via Akamai and Circuit City is running SUN One [netcraft.com] via Akami, we can conclude that Comp USA's tech is half-assed, and Best Buy and Circuit City's techs may be half-assed, but Circuit City is helped by being less popular.
    • by Behrooz (302401)
      My roommate works at best buy. He went in at 3AM this morning, and came home at 9PM tonight.

      18 hours. Not bad for non-government work...
  • by jest3r (458429)
    I'd buy an XBOX 360 for $100 .. heck I'd buy 10.
  • by tecker (793737) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:30PM (#16981450) Homepage
    Ehh. This is nothing new. You should see Woot.com after they throw up a Bag-o-Crap on the site during a "wootoff". Their site at least says "Server is to Busy". Maybe Amazon.com should have thought twice before deciding to do a stunt like that.

    Hey wait a second. When was the last time a Microsoft product cause a VOLUNTARY distributed denial of service attack?
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      I know you're trying to do some snarky Microsoft-bashing, but the last time was about two days ago when Slashdot posted that the number of people downloading movies and TV shows from Xbox Live was overloading Microsoft's servers because they didn't anticipate the demand.
  • Apple Store too? (Score:2, Informative)

    by sakusha (441986)
    I haven't been able to get into the Apple Store tonight, it's been down all evening. They had a big one-day sale today, I bought a Bluetooth Mighty Mouse ($11 off, yay!) this afternoon and now I can't back get in to check the order status.

    I've never heard of the Apple Store going down under a high load, but it often goes down briefly when product or price changes are made. I figure it didn't go down due to high traffic, but this is a rather long outage, compared to most updates. But still, it should be givi
    • by sakusha (441986)
      The Apple Store just came back online, and yep, it looks like it was excessive traffic that killed it. It came back online with the one-day sale still in place. Usually they only go offline to add or remove content like this. Usually WebObjects is pretty robust under heavy loads.

      And whoever moderated the parent as offtopic, please RTFSubmission, it talked about Amazon AND WalMart AND Disney going offline due to heavy traffic. These online stores are the big guns and if they go down on Black Friday, it's new
  • 'beta test' ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quixote (154172) * on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:45PM (#16981526) Homepage Journal
    Amazon has begun offering a service called elastic compute cloud [amazon.com] (EC2). It is designed to offer scalable computing/storage solutions designed to handle, (drumroll), traffic spikes.

    Which leads me to think: was this a beta test for this EC2 system? I mean, there's no better bait for the millions of youngsters out there than a cheap top-o-the-line console. What better way to stress test your system than to have 100s of 1000s of people hit your site at the same time? If Amazon has logged the traffic data (and they'd be incredibly stupid not to), it would be a gold mine for their engineers. Eventually expect them to offer just such a service which can handle the such spikes, and pitch it to the Best Buys and Walmarts of the the world.

    • If their grid of who-knows-how-many computers couldn't handle serving pages, who's going to want to use it for other stuff?
  • Slashdot (Score:2, Funny)

    by jrmiller84 (927224)
    Now let's see of they can survive a slashdotting!
  • by ConfusedSelfHating (1000521) on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:58PM (#16981574)

    No I don't have proof, but having the most prominent retail website in the world hawk your product is worth a lot of cash. The $100 special gets reported by multiple media sources, "1000 Xbox 360s sell out in 9 minutes", "Demand for Xbox 360s brings down Amazon's website". If Sony wants the headlines of people going crazy about the PS3, why wouldn't Microsoft want the same? Does anyone believe that 10 minutes of poor connectivity will hurt a website's reputation? Server problems yes, super cheap deals no. "Oh no, too many people are coming to our website for the great, great deals!" People are going to associate Amazon's name with amazing one time sales, which is only going to help them. Both Microsoft and Amazon have benefited from this sale.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by lilfields (961485)
      To make it more ironic IBM developed the Xbox 360 processors, so the story could go like: "1000 Xbox 360s powered by IBM processors sell out in 9 minutes bringing down Amazon.com...IBM claims HP powered servers were the cause of the site's shortfall..." In follow up story: "IBM finally reeps profits from it's patent one-click-shopping through Amazon.com without going to court"
    • by Nightspirit (846159) on Saturday November 25, 2006 @12:41AM (#16981764)
      Except amazon users voted which special they wanted. Sure, the other offers were crap, and didn't have much chance of getting voted for, but then you're suggesting MS paid amazon to have a "potential" sale, which may never happen. Sounds way too tin foil for my tastes.

      And I doubt amazon even lost much money. Supposedly MS are now making $70 profit for the premium system, and likely much more for the core system. Seeing how some retailers are dropping $60-$100 off the premium package already (dell.com for instance, once you put it in the shopping cart) I would expect a retail price drop in 3-6 months, probably $360 for the premium (what dell is currently selling it for) and $260 for the core.
    • by rmckeethen (130580) on Saturday November 25, 2006 @03:46AM (#16982460)

      This is the email I sent to the Associated Press after they reported the $100 X-Box 360 deal in a story, but failed to mention the number of consoles Amazon had for sale at the discounted price:

      Hello,

      I'm writing to express my deep concerns about your story titled "Some stores begin shopping season early" by Shaila Dani, on November 24th, 2006.

      My biggest concern about this piece is Dani's mention of Amazon's limited sale of deeply-discounted X-Box 360 consoles. As far as I can tell, this story appeared on Yahoo! more than an hour *after* these consoles went on sale. The story lacked specifics as to the number of consoles available on Amazon's web site, so readers had no way of knowing if they could take advantage of Amazon's discounted price once they read the piece. It appears as if Dani wrote the story to entice online readers to visit Amazon's web site in search of a 66% discount on a popular game console. This smells to me like a 'bait & switch' advertising tactic, and it makes me wonder if your news agency, or the story's writer, colluded with principles from Amazon in order to drive Internet traffic to Amazon's web site.

      Shame on you Associated Press! It isn't news you're reporting anymore; this is plainly advertising, cloaked as a legitimate news piece. Thanks for contributing to the continuing degradation of journalism in the public's eye. The lack of ethical standards and plain common sense in this story makes me think your vaulted writers and associated newspaper publishers are nothing more than advertising hacks in disguise.

    • 9 minutes? No fricking way. They were sold out within 30 seconds. I know because I managed to get through their confirmation page at 11:00:30AM PST, and I got the "sold out" message. I live near Seattle, so the worst I had was waiting about ten seconds for each page to load.

      Actually, I managed to get the confirmation page by 11:00:15, but I somehow didn't notice a little "I agree to these terms" checkbox before I clicked through. The confirmation failed, and I had to do it again. If it wasn't for that extra
    • by metamatic (202216)
      Mmm, illegal dumping by a convicted monopolist. Tasty.
    • by ahoehn (301327)
      Nine Minutes? I finally got through at 11:02, 2 minutes after the sale supposedly went live, and they were all sold out.
  • Collapse (Score:4, Funny)

    by Psychotria (953670) on Saturday November 25, 2006 @12:13AM (#16981630)
    The fact that the Amazon jungle has collapsed under the weight of a thousand boxes surprises me little. In fact I thought the number would have been more. Boxes to transport wood, made of... wood... it's no wonder really. This is a sad day. The diversity of species in the Amazon is huge. The fact that it has collapsed is worrying to say the least. This is likely to result in a whole series of follow-on effects: Global Warming will quicken; The ice-caps will melt; The Ozone Hole will become a non-issue (the hole will be so big, we'll start calling normal bits of sky the Ozone Zones). I have no idea why nobody thought of the children.
    • It must be the excessive packaging that they use these days. All that cardboard has to come from somewhere. It might as well be Amazonian jungle foliage, since the rain forest is doomed from the pollution everyone will cause when they fire up their X-Boxes, Wiis, and PS3s (and the TVs they connect to).
  • Because if everyone had to keep clicking through the checkout process, every transaction would add another 3 or 4 page loads. One click is merely a way to avoid these extra page loads and not bring down the server too often.

    That, and it also explains why there's no link in the story - we don't want to slashdot Amazon again, do we?
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      The deal was done as a coupon code. If you were one of the first thousand, you got a $200-off coupon code for that item. Once you had the code, you could come back at your leisure to set up the order for it.
  • Exactly the same thing happened to Madman [madman.com.au]'s website when they had an online AU$10 DVDs for 10 Hours sale to celebrate their tenth anniversary. The website was completely inaccessible for those 10 hours, and led to a lot of irate anime fanboys. ;)
  • The Truth is... (Score:2, Informative)

    by JimXugle (921609)
    A lot of the traffic came from Digg... the $100 XB360 story was on the front page twice. Once when it originally broke, and a reminder on thanksgiving.
  • I don't even live in America, but a week ago I re-opened an US Amazon account just for this promo.
    Even considering shipping and customs (no less than 100 dollars I think) It was a hell of a deal...
    Oh, after that, I browsed around the site and bought "World War Z" and planning to buy "I am legend",

  • Presumably, the weight of the controllers contributed most to the crushing.
  • Thank you for writing about this situation which you encoutered with
    our web site.

    First, please allow me to express my sincere apologies for any
    frustration that has been caused. It is certainly not our intention
    for our customers to have anything but a pleasant experience at our
    store.

    We are working hard to provide a stress-free and convenient holiday
    shopping experience at Amazon.com. Unfortunately, we have not met
    that standard in this case.

    Please note many customers voted for customer vote program and were
    waiting to place their orders at 11 A.M. This caused high network
    traffic and hence our web site was slow.

    We utilize top of the line servers, internal routers and network
    connections. Although we often wish we could avert this problem,
    many issues regarding speed are actually a result of complex
    routing patterns over the Internet itself. Even the best Internet
    services can't get around this fundamental problems.

    To help prevent this problem in the future, you can reset your
    cachesize. Go to the "Cache" or "Temporary Internet Files" option
    on your web browser (in Internet Explorer, go to "Tools" and
    choose "Internet Options"; if you use Netscape, go to "Options" and
    choose "Network Preferences"), and make sure you have your memory
    cache set to 3000 kilobytes, and your disk cache set to 5000
    kilobytes.

    For instructions on clearing your cache on other browsers and
    platforms, please consult your browser's help documentation for
    details on how to manage this process.

    We here at Amazon customer service continuously strive to assist the
    customers in each and every way can and feel disappointed when we
    are unable to address customer's concerns. I hope you can understand
    our limitations in this regard.
    as if the problem were the fault of my firefox cache

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