HP Tablet Fire Sale Blows Up Web Site

When HP put its 16GB TouchPad tablet on deep clearance for $99 this past weekend, customers came in droves. Unfortunately, the web site couldn’t handle the additional load causing embarrassment for HP on a number of levels.

HP sells monitoring tools. It also sells cloud infrastructure and cloud services. It missed the opportunity to show off both.

As Lawrence Dignan pointed on ZDNet, the problems began on Saturday, starting with shopping cart issues. “On Saturday, HP had a cart glitch that where the company’s systems wouldn’t recognize the liquidation prices,”  Dignan wrote. That was only the beginning though. According to Dignan, then the web site started serving up VBScript errors. By Sunday, the site was delivering 404 errors. Ouch.

You think there might be a few lessons to be learned here? Just maybe.

First of all, HP missed a golden opportunity to show off how well its cloud computing infrastructure could keep its eCommerce system going. It failed miserably. One of the big selling points of using cloud services is that when you have an anticipated run on your servers, you can always add more virtual servers to handle the additional load.

In its new guise as a software and services company, HP hopes to sell consulting services moving forward. Presumably, they want to help companies implement cloud services that can help prevent just this type of situation in times of stress.

Secondly, HP sells monitoring tools. Presumably, using its own tools, it could have been able to track down the nature of the problem and fix it. As the ZDNet article points out, HP did eventually fix it, but was like the boy sticking fingers in the dike as a new problem cropped up for each one it fixed.

HP’s situation actually could have been a case study for monitoring tools, enabling them to show off their tools and show how well you can track down problems and fix them.

HP clearly had a bad day on Saturday. Not only did it have to unload its shiny new tablets for pennies on the dollar,  it allowed server capacity to get behind demand.

But don’t necessarily get too smug about this because no matter who you are or what your company does, what happened on Saturday could happen to you too. It’s the nature of doing business on the web. You’re going to have bad days.

But if you put good monitoring tools in place that help you track the nature of the problem at the transaction level as quickly as possible, you can find the problem, and fix it and get back up and running as quickly as possible.

The point here isn’t to pick on HP. It’s to try to ensure it doesn’t happen to you — and if it does, you’re prepared to attack the problems as soon as they pop up.


  1. Mac McCarthy says:

    You are too kind.

    “But if you put good monitoring tools in place…”

    The lesson obviously is, you won’t get those good monitoring tools from HP. As they have demonstrated.

    Another lesson is that, if HP, which is *in the business*, can’t keep from screwing up – what chance do the rest of us have? What “good monitoring tools” will we be able to find, if HP’s monitoring tools — which they sell for a living – can’t keep HP out of trouble?

    Recommending that we use good monitoring tools is, it seems to me, a less than useful instruction to the readers…. Just sayin’.

    • Ron Miller says:

      Fair enough, Mac. But just so you know, this site is dedicated to web and application monitoring of this sort. In fact, the site’s sponsor actually sells a very nice monitoring tool, but since we are in the business and the purpose of this blog is to inform readers about monitoring in general, and not directly sell out monitoring tool, I left it to the reader to draw his own conclusions.

      By the way, I wouldn’t necessarily say that HP’s monitoring tools failed in this instance, but the people using them weren’t able to keep up with the problems, partly because of the failure of other aspects of the web site including failing to anticipate increased demand.

      Thanks for your comment.


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