When Google released its new social networking tool, Google Plus last week, it was confined to what they called a limited invitation-only Beta. Scoring an invitation was a precious commodity, but many new members (including me) quickly found that instead of accessing the system, we found a sign that indicated the system was temporarily over capacity.
I’m guessing that Google wanted to make sure there wasn’t so much traffic, that it would take down the system. Not exactly what you want to do in the first days of release of a hot service. So instead, they throttled the number of new people they would allow on the system at any one time.
I’m speculating of course because I don’t have actual insight into what goes on in Google’s data centers, but I would be willing to bet they had sophisticated monitoring tools in place, maybe even tools they developed specifically for this type of case.
They knew they would have some potentially unhappy users who couldn’t get immediate gratification of getting into the social network, but they were probably willing to trade that temporary disappointment to ensure that the people who were already in would get the optimal Google Plus experience. If the system were slow, unavailable or balky, that would have been a bigger problem.
They were probably watching for the point at which the system performance began to decay, and if that wasn’t due to any number of factors they might understand and control, it could very well have to do with the number of people using the system. By shutting down new user access temporarily, it ensures, all things being equal, that the experience of current users wouldn’t be affected by a large influx of new users.
And it buys them time to increase capacity to accommodate the next wave of traffic. It’s a smart approach if that’s what they were doing, especially with a popular new service like Google Plus. Perhaps, Google also learned some lessons about how it rolled out the failed Google Wave, its first attempt at social networking, which they kept limited to a select few early adopters for so long, it never really caught on (of course, there were other factors that contributed to its failure too).
Whatever the reason, if Google is using monitoring tools in this fashion to keep the system operating optimally, it’s sensible way to ramp up capacity, while ensuring that the users on the system don’t feel any of the company’s growing pains as new users flock to the social network.
Posted on July 14, 2011