Blockbuster Scale Launch in Record Time

"We’re going to have another app out before Christmas and after that, who knows. I can guarantee we’ll be using Heroku."

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  • Rapid Scaling

A “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” App — In Eight Weeks

The biggest web development undertaking Project Zebra CEO Barry Scott ever faced began with a polite email from a stranger. A Hollywood marketing exec from Paramount Home Entertainment wanted to rebrand his iPhone app into a promotion for the Blu-Ray release of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon DVD & Blu-ray™”, the 4th highest grossing film of all time. After some discussion, Paramount added Android and Facebook versions as well, and Barry had eight weeks to deliver it.

Scott’s app became TF3 Battle Zone. Users would enter the world of “TRANSFORMERS™”, forced to choose sides between AUTOBOT™ and the evil DECEPTICONS™. Scott and his team chose Ruby on Rails for most of the TF3 Battle Zone server code, and Python for the Facebook application with a specialty development shop. Everything was on schedule to be ready for a September 26th launch.

Instant Deployment in Both Ruby and Python

Days before the app’s release, executives at Paramount decided they wanted to bump up the launch date of the Facebook application to precede the mobile versions. With less than 48 hours to launch TF3 Battle Zone on Facebook, Scott now had hours instead of days to push a Python app to production. He initially turned to a traditional web host and spent hours in circles attempting to deploy it there. With little familiarity with Python deployment and no time to learn new skills, Scott decided to turn elsewhere.

“There was buzz a few days before that Heroku had started offering Python. I figured I’d have a quick look to see if it could handle TF3. At three in the morning on the same day, we had it up and running on Heroku, and it just worked.”

Rapid Scaling Made Simple

TF3 took off on Facebook, and Scott increased the size of his Heroku hosted Postgres database fourfold within 15 minutes to accommodate the influx of traffic based on data he’d seen from monitoring tool NewRelic. He quickly deployed the iPhone and Android versions on the Heroku platform as well. Paramount continued to promote the app to its more than 10 million Transformers Facebook fans. With each push came several thousand users. Scott was able to scale his app to support the new load with a single command from his terminal, and prevented performance issues simply by paying attention to NewRelic.

Despite the time crunch, TF3 Battle Zone acquired more than 50,000 users in weeks and is Paramount’s #1 Android application to date. The “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” DVD/Blu-Ray™ international launch is upcoming, so Paramount will do even more geo-targeted promotions for TF3 Battle Zone around the world.

Consistent Growth without the Worry of Maintaining It

With operations offloaded to the Heroku platform and feedback from NewRelic, Project Zebra can focus on new projects while still being able to cater to Paramount’s needs. Scott is optimistic. “We’re going to have another app out before Christmas and after that, who knows. I can guarantee we’ll be using Heroku.”