December Race Director Newsletter

50,000 Registrations in 7 Minutes!

Your race probably does not need to sign that many people up that quickly, but all of our customers are going to benefit from theScalability and Availability project we have recently concluded.  We were motivated as runners because of race websites that are unresponsive during registration, or after big races trying to see results.  We were motivated as technology people to solve this very difficult problem with our industry leading Cloud Technology.

It took over 500 servers to test and successfully complete this monumental effort.  As a result we found lots of ways to improve our system under this much stress.  You might notice how much faster RunSignUp is than Active – this be because of the hard work we have done that benefits even the 100 person 5K.

Oh, and we can handle over 100,000 requests per minute for results viewing.  So if you have a big race – we are ready for you!

New Race Director User Interface

We have just rolled out the new UI for Race Directors and Timers! This not only makes RunSignUp look great, but adds some nice functionality and great ease of use!

Highlights include a quick view on registration count vs. previous year, wider layout, Action Links at the top, clearer Tab layout, and redesigned accordion styling to take action on one or all events.

Over the coming months we will continue to improve the usability of each page.  We are starting on the left and moving to the right along the familiar Tab structure everyone loves.

Let us know how you like the new look, and if you have any suggestions (or find bugs!) by emailing us at info@runsignup.com.

RunSignUp Webinar

We have started a new way to better service our customers by holding a monthly “First Tuesday Webinar”. We will pick a topic that people are interested in and do a live video feed that anyone can join. We will also open the floor to questions and try to answer all of them!

See our first webinar by clicking here.  And join us on our next First Tuesday Webinar on January 8 at 7PM Eastern. Click here to register!

This Month’s Popular Race Director Blogs

Remember, you can stay current with all our news and suggestions at our Facebook Page or our Blog.

New Race Director UI

Race Director User InterfaceWe are very happy to release the new Race Director User Interface. This not only makes RunSignUp look great, but adds some nice functionality and great ease of use!

Highlights include a quick view on registration count vs. previous year, wider layout, Action Links at the top, clearer Tab layout, and redesigned accordion styling to take action on one or all events.

Over the coming months we will continue to improve the usability of each page. We are starting on the left and moving to the right along the familiar Tab structure everyone loves.

Let us know how you like the new look, and if you have any suggestions (or find bugs!) by emailing us at info@runsignup.com.  Here are some of the highlights:

Track your Yearly Registrations:
Registration Count

Quick Action Items to Copy, Renew and Edit your Race:
Actions

Accordion Style let’s you edit one event or all:
Screen Shot 2012-12-17 at 4.41.57 PM

Age Based Pricing:
Age Based Pricing

Virtual Race Bags

Virtual Race BagsThe combined desire to Go Green and to add value to sponsors has made the idea of the traditional race bag seem quaint in this new electronic world of smartphones.

Virtual Race Bags is a company founded to make this easy for race directors and great for sponsors.  We have recently worked with them to integrate with RunSignUp.  It works in a very simple manner:

  1. Sign up for Virtual Race Bag and create your bag.
  2. Connect to your RunSignUp Race.
  3. That’s it!  Virtual Race Bag will then be able to connect automatically to your RunSignUp race participants and send them their virtual race bags before your race.

Easy-Peasy.  And RunSignUp Race Directors get a 20% Discount on the service!

Read more in the Virtual Race Bag Blog.  Here is a video that explains how Virtual Race Bags works, and then a quick demo of how the connection works below that.

How to integrate with RunSignUp:

RunScore Updates Participant Download Capability

RunScore IntegrationRunScore has updated their ability to download Participant information from RunSignUp and Chronotrack Live.  Timers can now easily select one or more Events (5K and 10K) to download or update at once.

We are starting to see timers and race directors leave online registration open on the day of the race.  This makes it easy for runners to register via their smartphone the morning of the race and automates the download of participants into the timing system without having to read paper entries and type the data in.

Hy-Tek Participant Import

HyTek ImportHy-Tek has a very specific format for importing participants.  Race managers who use Hy-Tek typically have to jump thru some hoops to import participants from an online registration system.

We have simplified this.  Under the Participant Reports section, there is now a nice little button – click it and we will download a file that you will be able to import into Hy-Tek 3.0 and later.  You can see the documentation for Import Entries from a Semi-Colon Delimited File in the Hy-Tek documentation on their website.  It is a bit hard to find, but go to http://www.hy-tekltd.com/downloads.html, then click on Track & Field, then Meet Manager and then User Guide.

50,000 Registered Users in 7 Minutes!

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 5.54.50 PMOur Scalability project has reached success!  We have eclipsed our goal of doing 50,000 registrations in 10 minutes – completing the task in only 7 minutes.  This means RunSignUp is simply the most scalable registration system in the world – able to meet the needs of the largest races.  And combined with our robust Participant Management features for bib exchange, event transfers and automated refunds and wait lists, RunSignUp is now simply the best registration and results system available, eclipsing old systems like Active.com.

Our project was inspired by the Broad Street race in Philadelphia this past spring where we faced frustrations in trying to register ourselves for the race (on a different registration system).  Users were subjected to timeouts, no response and uncertainty as the system took over 5 hours to process 30,000 registrations.

During this year, we have methodically improved performance and implemented mechanisms that give us very robust capabilities.  This has yielded benefits for every race since we are now twice as fast as Active.com, and the stability and availability of our service has been improved to be industry leading.

Here are the gory details:

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 5.44.11 PMThe Test

We tested a user going thru a multiple step process that included most of our features to simulate a “worst case” scenario:

  • Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 5.30.57 PMRace Information Page
  • SignUp Page
  • User Information & Event Selection Page
  • Team joining Page
  • Giveaway selection Page
  • Donation Page
  • Store Page
  • Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 5.32.12 PMPayment Information Page
  • Confirmation Page

To accomplish this test, we had to build a test suite that emulated a browser.  The test suite includes a scripting component that let’s us mimic what a user would type in and see what the resulting page is.  The test suite allows us to set the number of browsers to be emulated, the number of servers to be used to run the browsers, a variable wait time to emulate the time it takes a user to type in information on a page (we set this to be 15-60 seconds, which was done randomly for each user).  The test also collected all of the information on each of these 450,000 page submits and replies checking for errors and calculating response time.  The test servers all fed their information back to a central server which collated the information into a summary form that includes the graphs on this blog page.

The Setup

Screen Shot 2012-11-02 at 5.41.10 PMWe run on the Amazon Cloud, which makes it easy and low cost to add and deploy servers.  We did a number of configurations, but most of our tests were run with the following number of servers and sizes:

  • 20 m3.2xlarge instances, each emulating 2,500 runners.
  • 4 h1.4xlarge Load Balancers running NGINX.
  • 250 m1.large Apache Webservers.
  • 1 m1.large RDS Server running MySQL with multi-zone auto-failover
  • 2 m1.large RDS Read-Replicas running MySQL
  • 4 c1.medium memcached servers for session cache
  • 4 c1.medium memcached servers for data cache

This was distributed across two Amazon Availability Zones to help maximize availability in the event of an Amazon data center going down.  We were also able to achieve similar results with 42 Webservers on the m3.2xlarge servers sized at 26 EC2 units with 30 GB of memory each.

We used other Amazon services as part of this that were critical:

  • CloudFront – a content delivery network that serves static content like HTML, CSS, images and javascript from multiple network locations around the globe to ensure speed of processing.
  • Amazon SQS – This queueing system was the key to eliminating the database bottleneck – allowing us to share connections to the database and have an ordering flow thru the system.

New Relic’s management capabilities provide us monitoring and deep insight into the system, allowing us to identify bottlenecks in our configurations and in our code.

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 7.08.04 PMThe Results

The results are impressive and could have been much higher if we had eliminated the human wait time we built into the test to simulate a runner typing in information like their name and what giveaway to chose.  It took just 7 minutes to process 50,000 runner registrations.  We processed over 64,000 web pages per minute.  Well over 400,000 runners could be registered in an hour.

The average wait time for the confirmation page was 10.5 seconds.  For other pages, the average wait time was 1.1 seconds, with a range of 1.6 seconds for the first Race Info page and a low of 0.84 seconds for the donation page.  The maximum wait time for a page to respond was 25 seconds for the confirmation page, and 26 seconds for the Race Info page.  The average runner took 5 minutes and 2 seconds to register – completing all 9 pages from getting Race Info to getting a Confirmation.

We will be publishing data on results searching (for when runners, friends and family look up times after a race completes) in a separate blog post.  We will also be publishing a complete white paper including some of our source code as well as our configuration and tuning parameters in detail in the next few weeks.

Large Race Offering

If you have a large race (over 5,000 runners, or sell out very quickly), we now are offering this scalability as a service.  We can do this in a test mode (testing RunSignUp as well as other competitive services such as Active.com), for opening of registration and for posting results.  We charge a set-up fee of $5,000 plus $25 per EC2 Unit per day.  For example, if you have 15,000 people registering immediately upon race opening, we would recommend 75 m1.large (4 EC2 Units) servers (200 runners each) for a cost of $5,000 + $100*75 = $12,500.  If you want us to pre-test the configuration, or to benchmark it against another registration service, we would charge the same amount.

Note that large races that need to handle huge loads for people searching results can also make use of this service, as well as our notification service.  This is a common problem for large races that RunSignUp now solves!