By Craig Miller, director of Product Engineering
The late Cambridge computer scientist Roger Needham coined the term “Success Disaster” to describe a product or service that is so successful it overwhelms the organization that created it. Business journals are filled with horror stories of tech companies that have undergone hyper-growth and mismanaged it.
Over the past two years, FamilySearch has experienced faster-than-anticipated growth due to the phenomenal success of our marketing, genealogical-record acquisitions, partner development, and product-software improvements. In 2015, 1.6 million members visited FamilySearch Family Tree, and nearly 430,000 submitted names for temple work—approximately 27 percent growth over 2014. This growth pattern has continued into 2016. Since 2015, we have seen Family Tree database transactions increase from less than 200 million to more than 630 million a day on Sundays. Records are also being viewed and attached at ever-increasing rates. The number of names being added to the tree each week has nearly doubled when compared to a year ago. This success has placed a strain on the performance and stability of the FamilySearch database and network infrastructure, and has prompted product engineering staff to implement costly workarounds and expedite its growth-management plans.
How We Plan to Avoid “Success Disaster”
At the core of the FamilySearch growth-management plan are Cassandra and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Cassandra is the name of an open-source noSQL database designed for high performance, availability, and scalability. AWS is a highly secure and reliable cloud-computing platform that will grow as we do. Moving to Cassandra and AWS will give FamilySearch a scalable foundation that effectively removes the threat of future growth-related success disasters.
Although many of our great software engineers are consumed with our growth-management plan, Product Engineering continues to release innovative new features to our patrons. Recent advancements include (1) the ability to print temple ordinance cards from home, (2) improvements in contextual help, and (3) the generation of new hints within 10 minutes of a name being added.