Pivotal Speaks on Scaling Mobile Infrastructure

July 10, 2013 Stacey Schneider

There is a great quote about opportunity, “When you are falling from a mountain, you may as well attempt to fly.”

At VentureBeat’s MobileBeat 2013, we had an opportunity to learn from several mobile-centric engineering executives who have figured out how to build wings and soar at—in this industry, we all call it scale. Though it’s fun to grab a beer with colleagues to talk about ideas for a more clever 404 error than Twitter, GitHub, Tumblr, or Digg, the truth is that we don’t want people to see the error regularly, and the panel, “Scale is Beautiful, Implementation is Key” explained lessons learned from scaling in the real world.


MobileBeat is chock full of great sessions and speakers from companies like Yelp, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google, and our panel on scaling applications was joined by our own Edward Hieatt, COO of Pivotal Labs, the CTO of Evernote, and the CTO and EVP of Product for Pandora. Each of these leaders has seen their share of growth and related scale issues:

  • Pandora offered a version of their service for free and grew 10x virtually overnight.
  • Evernote grew to 50 million customers in 5 years.
  • Pivotal Labs helped both Groupon and Twitter deal with massively famous growth spurts.
>> Got questions about scale for our team? Ask us at Senchacon!

From the Pivotal point of view, there were three simple yet insightful points about scale that came out of the panel.

  1. Know your infrastructure. While clouds are taking over, there is a journey to get to reliable delivery at a foreseeable cost. Don’t outsource operations and forget about it because it will cost you during the scale out period.
  2. Users for mobile are different. While mobile and desktop platforms each have their own development nuances, the profile of use can be drastically different. Scaling mobile is different than scaling for desktop, and scaling HTML5 is different than scaling native apps.
  3. Agile development is the only way to go. Devops teams must work together to automate quality assurance and deploy in smaller, incremental releases to help everyone avoid major problems.

We had the opportunity to speak further with Edward Hieatt after the panel and asked him to offer up additional advice to companies who will face scale challenges in the mobile space:

There are certainly issues that come up within the mobile app, but in our experience scaling mobile apps typically comes down to server side issues. Obviously, there are many causes for scale issues in the mobile space, and these look familiar to people who have scaled web applications. We see something really interesting when the mobile app team and the API team work closely together—scale issues diminish greatly. Very often, we’ll see people who start out building their mobile application separately from the server-side API. There are two distinct teams, sometimes separated physically, and sometimes building their part of the application at different times. The more those barriers are broken down, the better the outcome, and this holds true for issues involving scale. More communication leads to better results, especially when an application is being built rapidly and when change— perhaps significant change—is certain.

If you are interested more in what Pivotal is doing for mobile, come visit us at SenchaCon next week in Orlando, FL from July 16-19, 2013. Be sure to check us out at the following:

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