There are a few points in the history of BigCharts and MarketWatch that I’m especially proud of. Perhaps one of the most prominent ones, and most public, is the inclusion of the BigCharts BigArchitecture (the name we retroactively gave the COM-infrastructure behind MarketWatch and BigCharts) in the scalability demo at the Windows 2000 launch event. The video is a fun watch.
We had been working with Microsoft pretty extensively at this point in part because we were trying to run our stuff on Windows NT 4.0 and it was horrible. We were having immense problems. We decided to throw a “Hail Mary” and upgrade to the unreleased beta of Windows 2000 Server. It worked! Our problems, which I can’t even remember now (anyone?) went away, and our sites stabilized.
Microsoft knew about the success we had had and was looking for the scalability demo for the launch. They called us about 10 days before the launch event to see if we could do it. We sent one of our systems team out that night. When he got there, Kristian Meier called me on my mobile saying “Dude! Do you know what they want me to do?! This is awesome!” We really hadn’t had time to brief him before his flight.
They made images, installed 500 clients, a bunch of servers, some databases and loaded it all up on trucks to drive from Redmond to San Francisco.
Microsoft only gave us two seats on the floor for the event. Chris Tersteeg and I attended. The screen that they had MarketWatch on in the auditorium was immense. To this day I don’t think I’ve ever seen a screen projected bigger. They brought MarketWatch up live during the talk and at one point the page refresh kicked in. The whole screen went blank and Chris and I sat there with our heartbeat stopped waiting for the page to redraw. I don’t think there has ever been a more anxious page view to the site.
There is a funny editorial aside here. The newsroom was of course covering the launch of Windows 2000 and the theme of the coverage was that it was generally a non-event. We had a headline, above the fold that morning, called “Windoze 2000 Launch” and there was a picture of a guy sleeping next to it, if I remember right. Microsoft of course called me with panic since this wouldn’t exactly be the kind of headline you would want on the screen during the launch event. I called our editor to see what we could do. He appropriately suggested that we hope something new happens to take the headline off the site, otherwise, pound sand. Luckily some new news broke!
The demo was awesome in person. Seeing 500 client machines drive huge traffic to your code base was great. After the launch event we called it a day, rented a convertible and drove around the valley for the afternoon. We also made a stop at Fry’s to pick up some toys.
What a great event. Thanks to everyone who made it a reality!