Do Seconds Really Matter? Twitter's Command Center Says, "Yes"

Posted by Alex Slotnick on Mar 14, 2016 4:44:10 PM

Last week, Twitter's blog published an intriguing post about the TCC -- Twitter's Command Center -- and some of the fundamental principles driving it. The post is titled When Seconds Really Do Matter, clearly communicating an idea about visibility and resolution that we very much agree with at VividCortex. "Behind unmarked doors in office buildings around the world," the post begins, adding a dash of the clandestine to the art of monitoring, the TCC maintains unwavering standards in order to meet the strains and demands that global Twitter activity puts on their systems. Not a simple task.

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As you can probably imagine, the frequent occasions that result in big activity spikes can be unpredictable (the post offers the retirement of a pop star, a coup overthrowing a despot, a world cup goal, and a celebrity having a baby as reasonable examples). These events vary in severity, clearly, but no matter the cause of a spike, for a service as significant and sweeping as Twitter's, the systems must keep up: "The services supporting Twitter [need to be] available, responsive, and functioning as expected — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," the post explains. (Hear, hear! We also wrote about the quest for extremely high availability and the vaunted "five nines" in a blog post a couple months ago.) 

Not only do Twitter's services need to be functional virtually all the time, but because the activity that the TCC looks at is in constant flux, their standard "minutely time series storage and graphing engine" can often fail to meet the real-world speed of user developments. In those scenarios, minutes aren't enough; instead, seconds really matter

"The minutely time series has kept us in the know for 99% of the questions we’ve needed answered. But for Twitter, that 1% of information that minutely metrics miss is a very, very important 1% and we needed to address this gap."

Go read the entirety of Twitter's blog post and learn more about the extent of their systems' demands and how they address them. At VividCortex, we'd like to tip our hats to Twitter's team and these scenarios that emphatically illustrate the marriage between very fine granularity and extremely high availability -- principles that we too know to be vital. It's this knowledge, of course, that translates into VividCortex's design that provides visibility as fine as single seconds. Never underestimate the value of high-resolution metrics. 

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