How Slack Supports Its Exponentially Growing User Base
When the creators of messaging platform Slack started what would become a billion dollar company, they knew that the cloud would give them the flexibility they needed to create the most engaging messaging platform available.
Slack, a messaging platform designed to help facilitate team communication, has seen the kind of quick growth that most companies both large and small can only dream about. Considered by Fortune to be “a unicorn” — that rare start-up that reaches a worth of over $1 billion — the app currently has over three million daily active users, 1.25 million of which are paid users like eBay, Samsung, and Expedia.
But with all that growth has come the need to scale its operations to support this increasingly huge user base. That meant creating a sustainable IT infrastructure that could reliably meet massive levels of demand throughout the workweek and beyond.
Using the Cloud
Due to the high cost of physical hardware, the company turned to the cloud to keep their services online. “The realities of physical space, hardware acquisition, replacement parts, running a server facility with all its costs — all the physical manifestations that can lead to breakages — made a traditional IT environment impractical for an internet startup,” says Richard Crowley, Slack’s Director of Operations. “Plus, we would have needed an extra layer of expertise just to run the infrastructure. We could have operated with that kind of IT infrastructure, but the cost and complexity would have made it much harder to launch the business.”
Slack’s decision to turn to Amazon Web Services came in part from the team’s previous development experience — many of them played a significant role in the development of Flickr. The popular photo-sharing service had used a more traditional network architecture that had been difficult to scale, and Slack’s founders understood that a cloud solution would be far more viable for their current project. The cloud keeps Slack’s IT infrastructure streamlined, fast, and agile, allowing them to guarantee 99.99% uptime for their premium members.
Most importantly, however, cloud computing allows them to stay flexible and innovative. By deploying the cloud, Slack’s team minimizes the time it spends on daily IT management and focuses on creating new tools and functionalities for their users. It also allows the company to deploy as-needed IT resources within seconds, avoiding the need to add hardware to an existing infrastructure. “With traditional IT, it would take weeks or months to contend with hardware lead times to add more capacity,” Crowley said. “Using AWS, we can look at user metrics weekly or daily and react with new capacity in 30 seconds.”
Managing IT Resources
Slack is most certainly not the first company to turn to the cloud for sustainable IT infrastructure. In fact, research from Right Scale shows that 95% of large enterprises deploy at least some cloud resources to handle important IT functions. But even though cloud computing is designed to make provisioning and management simpler, it still requires the right tools to ensure your company’s resources are being deployed to the right places.
Cloud management software like the Vityl Suite from TeamQuest helps operations keep their IT infrastructures online, whether they use on-premises servers, host all their operations from the cloud like Slack does, or rely on any hybrid setup that exists in between. Vityl Adviser monitors all your systems to determine the health of individual services and gives IT teams a sense of which ones may need attention, as well as which ones are no longer used or needed. Armed with that knowledge, IT can deploy the right resources at the right time to ensure the service remains online without spending a penny more of its budget than it has to.
Just like Slack’s team is freed up to innovate by the cloud, Vityl can free up IT teams from the costly and time-consuming work of firefighting so that they can focus on the high value work of innovation.