As you know, we’ll be taking the site down for up to 3 hours on Sunday, March 3rd at 8am ET. We don't often communicate to our users the updates that aren't new features, but given the site errors some of you have been experiencing over the past few weeks, we thought it was important to let you know what we're doing to fix it.
ERRORS, SLOWNESS & ENDLESS SPINNER
If you’ve been seeing any error messages such as "Invalid User", “HTTP: … Error” or “Timeout...” we’ve fixed them. These errors were all related and took some time for us to figure out. The issue was manifesting itself in our cache service (we use an elastic cache service to avoid redundant calls to our API service) where our service would go down. We thought the issue was with the cache, so we made improvements there, but as it turned out, it was our API service that was restarting which caused our cache service to fail. So we spent a week looking at our API service, load testing it, and figuring out why it was restarting in the middle of the day. We eventually found the root of the issue, which was that our search code wasn’t as efficient as it could be given our high volume of users these days. So we rewrote many parts of our search code, and optimized the auto-scaling of our hardware services which will allow us to scale quickly and efficiently to accommodate user growth and high demand.
In the works for a few months is a big upgrade to Docker containers. Containers allow us to package code, including dependencies across platforms and services, in order to run more quickly and efficiently from one computing environment to another. These standalone packages allow our team to more quickly develop, test, and release features. Containerized software is not infrastructure dependent, so this also allows us to leverage cutting edge server-less technologies like Amazon's Fargate, enabling us to more easily scale our platform.
Making it easy to find products in a catalog of over 2 Million sku's is a huge challenge, and we know our search hasn't worked as well as it could lately. We took January to analyze what dealers search for and then optimize search around helping you find what you're looking for quickly. You should notice a significant improvement in search results.
PROPOSAL MODIFIED DATE
You may have noticed that the “last modified” time stamps on your old proposals were updating with recent times. This was confusing, as it was pushing old proposals to the top of your list and making you wonder who the heck was updating them and why. What we found was that when we were updating product info in our catalog (merging duplicate parts, for instance) the parts that were on old proposals were getting updated (product info only, not pricing) so your proposal was reporting that it was being updated. We’ve prevented product info updates from affecting the modified date on proposals. Now you should only see a proposal as being “modified” if one of your users (or clients) makes a change.
FEATURED RESULTS TWEAK
Our “Featured Results” row at the top of our catalog pages allows manufacturers to sponsor us, keeping your service fees low, or for most dealers, free. We built an algorithm that displays relevant products to your search, but we realized that in many cases we were displaying results that were not related to the category you were browsing or the search you were performing. This is annoying, so we updated the algorithm to remove irrelevant results (i.e., you won't see a speaker when you're trying to find a VCR. And why are you even searching for a VCR?).
TAXES ON ORDERS
We recently added an auto-calc for tax rates on Purchase Orders if you do not have a Tax Exempt Certificate loaded. This was really designed for our marketplace vendors, but it was turned on for all PO's. Since you manage your tax certs directly with your other vendors, we turned it off for all non-marketplace (Portal Select) orders.
Many times the "un-sexy" updates to our website don't get the attention they deserve, but they greatly impact your experience on Portal. These fall into that category and we wanted to share with you what we've been working on.
P.S. This update also includes one of the more "sexy" features to Portal, a brand new module called People. For more on this feature, why we built it, and some cool things you can do with it, check out this post from Kirk, our CEO.