Chapter 27. Reliable Product Launches at Scale

Consider an ordinary Google service—for example, Keyhole, which serves satellite imagery for Google Maps and Google Earth. On a normal day, Keyhole serves up to several thousand satellite images per second. But on Christmas Eve in 2011, it received 25 times its normal peak traffic—upward of one million requests per second. What caused this massive surge in traffic?

Santa was coming.

A few years ago, Google collaborated with NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) to host a Christmas-themed website that tracked Santa’s progress around the world, allowing users to watch him deliver presents in real time. Part of the experience was a “virtual fly-over,” which used satellite imagery to track Santa’s progress over a simulated world.

While a project ...

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