For many employees in America, Thanksgiving weekend was a time for relaxation, a chance to take a brief break from work.
This year, though, that wasn’t so much the case for engineers at Avalara.
During the midst of what it calls the “Super Bowl of online shopping,” the Seattle tax automation startup suffered technical problems this past Friday that forced some retailers to stop charging sales tax to customers.
In response, Avalara Executive Vice President of Engineering Peter Horadan told GeekWire that his engineering team spent “48 straight hours of coding” through the weekend to fix the latency problem, which caused server slowdowns because of issues with how customers’ addresses were being processed. Avalara’s software automates compliance with transactional taxes, including sales tax and value-added tax.
Horadan said the problem was more complicated than most, and engineers took about two hours to bring the situation under control on Friday. To ensure that the issue would not arise again — in particular for Cyber Monday — employees spent the weekend deploying adjustments to the system.
As a result, Avalara had a “perfect processing day” on Monday, helping its clients complete a record 63 million transactions, which was up more than 110 percent from last year. Transactions were handled at an average response time of 0.12 seconds and Avalara processed a peak of 1,800 transactions per second on Monday.
“Our software is an important part of our customers’ infrastructure, which is why you saw their reaction [on Friday],” Horadan said. “It’s also why we take our effort to meet and exceed their expectations so seriously.”
Though Avalara prepared and tested its systems for several months in preparation for last week’s shopping blitz, Horadan admitted that the company’s software did not meet expectations on Friday given the latency issues. But he’s proud of how Avalara’s engineers worked hard to remedy the problem and ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
“It took the spirit of teamwork to respond to what we saw on Friday,” he added.
Founded in 2004, Avalara has experienced a growth spurt recently after raising $42 million from Technology Crossover Ventures earlier this year, a deal that followed a $100 million round from Warburg Pincus last fall. The company recently announced that it is leaving its longtime home on Bainbridge Island, setting up a new headquarters in the historic Second and Spring building in downtown Seattle.
Editor’s note: Avalara is a GeekWire annual sponsor.