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Flying in the Cloud

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It was a perfect morning for a relaxing flight around New England; calm winds, cool air, and clear skies. I finished the pre-flight routine on my Cessna 182, fired up the engine, and took off heading south. About an hour into the flight, I noticed my oil pressure steadily dropping and the oil temperature rising; warning signs that the engine could quit at any minute. I immediately remembered my training, followed the emergency procedures, and got the airplane on the ground safely.

As I look back on this experience, I can’t help but notice three parallels between aviation and managing a mission critical application like Bullhorn:

Process
Process is essential in aviation; knowing the emergency procedures and remembering my training were crucial to ensuring a good outcome. Regardless of whether a pilot has 10 hours or 10,000 hours, a key component to safety is a tight adherence to process at every juncture. The same goes for managing a production system that safeguards hundreds of terabytes of sensitive data.

In the past year, Bullhorn has invested heavily in process, controls, and training. We have improved our change management procedures and invested in tools and automation to decrease the risk of deployments and production changes. Our team has successfully completed multiple training programs and is formally certified in all aspects of our technology stack.

Bullhorn and its data centers are SSAE16 Type II compliant. This framework is a comprehensive set of criteria known as the Trust Service Principles designed to ensure the security, availability, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of your data. Bullhorn’s controls cover everything from monitoring, change control, and security, to financial integrations and backups. Our controls are audited by a 3rd party firm to give you the utmost confidence that Bullhorn is the safest place to put your data.

“Up”-time
In my first flight lesson, my flight instructor quipped that the most important part of flying was to make sure that the number of landings equals the number of take offs. In cloud computing, our equivalent measurement is uptime. Bullhorn measures uptime both in the number of minutes the application is available during business hours and also on a 24×7 basis given an increased reliance on 3rd party applications built on the Bullhorn platform.

Thanks to many watchdog sites that track historical uptime across Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers, we have a great basis for comparison. In 2013, comparable cloud providers had an average uptime of 99.93% while Bullhorn’s up-time is 99.98%; a 30% improvement from last year and about 200 fewer minutes of downtime than comparable services based in “the cloud.”

While our uptime numbers exceed industry standards, there has still been some turbulence this year. In April and May, users experienced intermittent searching and file attachment latency. In August, we had a network failure which impacted users in Asia and Australia.

In aviation, we take our safety for granted. The truth is, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning four times in your life than you do of not arriving safely at your destination. But, flying hasn’t always been as reliable as it is today. The aviation industry is among the best at learning from its mistakes and implementing sweeping changes to ensure subsequent improvements in safety.

Bullhorn also strives to be transparent with issues and remediation efforts (visit http://status.bullhorn.com for real-time information about the service). While we cannot eliminate risk and guarantee perfection, we are disciplined about understanding root cause, correcting problems and fortifying our environment to prevent future occurrences. Every year our stability improves as a result of a relentless focus on continuous improvement.

Speed
Performance is like engine power: “lots is good, more is better, and too much is just enough.”

Over the past year, Bullhorn has invested in all areas of the application to improve server response time. Through a combination of infrastructure and architecture improvements, we have dropped the average page request time to 440 milliseconds, with 96% of all requests completing in less than one second. Additionally, the average time to search 100 million candidates is 500 milliseconds; a 25% improvement from last year.

While we are extremely satisfied with our server-side performance, we recognize that there is room to improve the overall user experience. And, we are doing just that.

When Bullhorn was first built, Microsoft was alone in first place, leading the browser market and innovating rapidly – they even invented the concept of AJAX. As such, Bullhorn used a variety of Internet Explorer-only features to build high-quality software as quickly as possible. Eventually, Internet Explorer got outpaced, leaving Bullhorn bound by IE’s sub-optimal memory management, DOM rendering, and JavaScript engine.

So, for the past twelve months, our development team has been intensely focused on three critical goals: optimizing usability, enhancing performance, and enabling browser independence. Bullhorn’s upcoming Winter Release marks the culmination of this effort.

The new interface will provide a richer experience and is built on the back of robust frameworks specifically designed for scalability and performance. As for usability, we’ve measured a 50% decrease in the number of clicks required to perform common recruitment actions. In essence, we’re introducing a new way of working and leveraging your data.

The combination of this new interface and the aforementioned server-side performance improvements will result in the fastest, most user-friendly Bullhorn you have ever used.

On the Horizon
While we’re hard at work building the new user interface, here are some things you can do to prepare.

  • Invest in great machines. Modern, fast web applications – like Google Apps and Bullhorn – require hundreds of megabytes of RAM.
  • Configure Internet Explorer to Bullhorn’s recommended settings until the application works cross-browser.
  • Keep your bowling alley windows to a minimum. Opening 30 bowling alley windows is like having 30 browser tabs open; it is resource intensive. Similarly, close additional browser tabs.
  • Talk to your account manager to ensure your organization is ready to enable the new interface when it is available – and follow the Bullhorn Product Blog for updates.
  • Move to Bullhorn for Email, a complete Bullhorn integration with Gmail and Outlook. It’s the fastest and easiest way to both take actions on emails directly from a best of breed mail client while continuing to get the benefit of passive activity tracking.

Our mission is to make awesome software that helps recruiters put the world to work. We’ve invested $9M in R&D in 2013 in order to meet the challenge of making our market-leading application even better and I know you’ll be as excited about the new Bullhorn as I am.

Onwards and upwards,

Matt Fischer
VP, Technology