Klaus Enzenhofer

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Website Traffic Surge By @KEnzenhofer | @DevOpsSummit #APM #DevOps

Is It Marketing Driven or a Bot Attack?

Website Traffic Surge: Is It Marketing Driven or a Bot Attack?

Nobody wants to be in the news with headlines like this, but it happens. I'd like to share an interesting experience I had when meeting on site with an anonymous customer. I've since noticed this same problem a few times, concerning email marketing, conversion impact, nervous operators, CDNs and what happens if there is no communication between the marketing teams and IT operations.

Is it a bot/denial of service attack or a "successful" marketing effort that caused this increase in traffic and degradation in response time?

It was back in January when I arrived at the operations center of the customer and instead of the usual warm welcome, the head of operations - let's call him Hugo - just said: "I'm glad you're here! I think we have a bot/denial of service attack from Asia currently going on. Look at this dashboard."

Is it a bot/denial of service attack or a "successful" marketing effort that caused this increase in traffic and degradation in response time?

Easy enough to spot as there is four times more traffic than usual coming in from Asia. But is it really a bot attack?

Me: "Are you really charting here Real User Monitoring visits?"

Hugo: "Yes it is. Why are you asking?"

Me: "Because knowing that Dynatrace technology depends on JavaScript execution I doubt that these are bots. They tend to not execute JavaScript. I think you have real visits hammering your system. Are you aware of a promotion, any marketing effort or something else going on?"

Hugo: "No I am not! But let me ask our CMO."

Hugo on the phone: "Hi this is Hugo. We are seeing some unusual high traffic from Asia. Is there something going on from your side that could explain this?"

Silence for a couple of seconds

Hugo: "What the @#!*^" (according to the Netiquettes I am not allowed to repeat that part)

After hanging up, Hugo explained to me what the CMO told him on the phone and he revealed that they had a massive email campaign scheduled for this week with 3,000,000 emails being sent each day for three days in a row. Marketing did not tell anyone in IT about their plans and had no idea such a massive traffic peak could bring down data centers around the world.

For me two interesting questions popped up:

  • How did the data center survive this unexpected load?
  • Was this email blast successful?

How did the data center survive this unexpected load?

This answer is more simple than expected. Their CDN (Akamai) took care of ~90% of all the requests and the number of requests hitting the datacenter was fortunately not enough to bring down the datacenter but had, after reaching a certain limit ,an impact on the response time for all users around the world.

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More Stories By Klaus Enzenhofer

Klaus Enzenhofer has several years of experience and expertise in the field of Web Performance Optimization and User Experience Management. He works as Technical Strategist in the Center of Excellence Team at dynaTrace Software. In this role he influences the development of the dynaTrace Application Performance Management Solution and the Web Performance Optimization Tool dynaTrace AJAX Edition. He mainly gathered his experience in web and performance by developing and running large-scale web portals at Tiscover GmbH.

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