Apr 18, 2007

Out of Capacity on Tax Day

Like many tax payers, I waited until the last weekend to finish my taxes, but I filed one day early, on April 16. I used Intuit's Turbo Tax, but I still filed the old-fashioned way-- by mail. As it turns out, many procrastinators filing electronically on April 17 were in for a nasty surprise. Intuit ran out of server capacity, and many people's returns could not be processed in time. Luckily, the IRS extended the deadline to April 19 for folks who had trouble filing electronically. Read the details in today's Mercury News.

Some highlights:
  • Intuit processed more than 1 million transactions on April 17. This was double the number of electronic filings from the previous year.
  • Once the system reached capacity, many filers were simply turned away.
I bet Intuit had other servers sitting idle, dedicated to other applications while their tax-processing servers were maxed out. Unfortunately, there was no way to tap into that excess capacity. These types of workload spikes happen in many industries, and sometimes the traffic patterns are very predictable-- news properties during the week, music and sports properties during the weekend.

What if you could shift capacity around your data center as the demand is needed? What if you could tap into those lower-priority applications and harvest the capacity to higher-priority applications? How much would that be worth to your business' top-line revenue?

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