Ace Parking Sale for SDCC 2014 Failure Due to DDoS Attack

If you tried to purchase parking passes for San Diego Comic-Con in the Ace Parking sale today, the odds are that you left empty handed. However, that outcome was definitely not for lack of trying, either on the part of attendees or on the part of Ace Parking.

This morning at 9AM PT, attendees and Ace Parking both seemed excited that for once, a San Diego Comic-Con sale was going to go off without a hitch. Ace’s Chief Information Officer Jon Gjerset and his team had been working for months to solve the problems that plagued last year’s sale, and had been thoroughly testing and vetting the new system. And unlike with other companies running SDCC sales, the Ace team had been holding an open dialogue with attendees about the sale — answering questions on Twitter, giving a walk-through of the new system, being honest about problems from 2013. So when the site went live, Ace seemed ready.

However, for all of the planning that the team at Ace Parking put into this year’s sale (and they put a lot of planning into it), something went wrong — attendees were greeted with pages that loaded very slowly, green spinning buttons, and multiple error messages (gotta catch ’em all?).

errors

Some of the error messages and spinning green boxes that greeted attendees on the Ace Parking site.

Ace made the decision to take the site offline, at least temporarily, while Ace worked to find out what was causing the problems.

Eventually, the decision was made to bring the site back up at 2:45PM PT, when the team thought they had increased the server capacity enough to handle the onslaught of San Diego Comic-Con attendees.

Screen shot 2014-05-20 at 7.16.47 PM

However, when the second sale went live, the same thing continued to happen — more errors, more time outs, and more disgruntled attendees.

Only a handful of attendees reported being able to complete all the steps necessary in either sale, within the five minute time window they were allotted before the tickets in their carts timed out (though during the second sale, this was bumped up to 30 minutes), and actually walk away with a parking pass.

So what went wrong? We now know, in a message that has since been removed from Ace Parking’s Facebook page, that the site was the victim of a DDoS attack. Essentially, this means that when the site was live, someone was sending millions of simultaneous requests to the server at once. The server then got overloaded in handling the requests, and it soon failed. The system had been tested for the onslaught of San Diego Comic-Con attendees, but not for this.

Ace Parking Facebook DDoS Explaination

Ace is continuing to work through the issue now, and reported on Facebook that they expect to have the site back up and running by 8AM tomorrow morning. However, throughout the evening, some of the testing may open the site back up and cause it to go live again — and anyone who is lucky enough to purchase a badge during these times will have their purchase honored.

ace parking updateDid you try for a parking pass today? Let us know in the comments.

About Kerry Dixon

Kerry Dixon is Editor-in-Chief of The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog and the site's resident panel guru.
  • kaytee

    This afternoon, I got to fill a cart, but when I went to pay, I got a ms that I did not have a valid email for presales. Whatever THAT means. I managed to get 1 day this morning before the crash– for some reason, it didn’t acknowledge I clicked on two days; it was down before I could order the other day.

  • kaytee

    Now… the link from Comic Con goes to the Ace site which says ”

    Reserve a parking space for comic-con

    This event is not yet available for sale”

  • Derrick Bright

    I got in this evening and I am not certain I have passes. I got the ‘no valid email” message, but my card is charged. I had enough self control (thanks to my wife) to not redo it and have multiple charges. I am semi-confident that they will do what they can to honor those purchases. I’ll be checking back to confirm. I emailed ACE earlier and they were pretty quick to respond. So, we’ll see.

    I am 100% sure I either have parking or do not have parking. Either way, life will go on.

  • Steve Hendricks

    I essentially wasted the whole day trying to get parking. It was a painful waste of a day, much like attempting to get con passes.

  • Derrick Bright

    I was just thinking that many folks are getting the “no valid email” message…If the system thinks you don’t have an email (even though it is obviously needed to sign in to pay), it is no wonder we are not getting confirmation emails…Because it looks like none of us have emails.

  • I don’t think it was a DDoS as they claim. It was the amount of people coming to the site at the same time to purchase parking permits and the servers couldn’t handle it. Finally got parking at 10pm PST and convention center was sold out -_-

  • mike

    Yes got parking at 10:15 pm PST whew… tried off and on all day.

  • mike

    You’ll know if you completed the transaction because you’ll have a barcode screen to print that you bring to that lot and display on your dash.

  • mike

    p.s. At 10 pm there was still reasonable parking left. Also log in first then choose your parking. Good luck.

  • Derrick Bright

    I ended up going back when folks were confirming they were getting them, tried again, and got the confirmation. I have 2 charges on my card, but I can deal with that later. I had emailed a couple times to an operations manager at ACE, Jose Guzman, and he was very quick to respond and helpful, as much as he could be.

  • Randy

    I really sympathize with Jon, he’s probably a great guy, but there were some serious problems with how Ace handled the situation. While it sucks that the site was down in the morning, it’s forgivable since, let’s face it, SDCC-goers can crash ANY server. Their big faux paus, however, was to say that the site would be up 8 AM the next day but would intermittently be on and off throughout the night. It really was a way for Ace to thin the crowd enough so the site could handle the traffic. People are going to be really angry when they followed the time Ace gave only to see that most of the good parking was gone because the site was actually live all night.

    In some ways, it’s better for the site to crash because at least everyone’s experience is the same; while disappointed, people feel it’s fair. It’s when people feel like they’ve been deceived or cheated when things go bad, and even if Ace’s intentions were well-meaning, a lot of people are going to be pissed come Wednesday morning.

  • Randy

    I agree. Maybe one DDoS attacks, but two? For what purpose? More likely they didn’t anticipate people would open several browsers to log-in, which then overloaded the servers.

  • San Diego Cinerama

    Let’s see… Ace says they’re stopping for the day… then they bring it back… at 10pm… When pretty much everything good is sold out…

    This is the marvelous skill and innovation of a politically connected monopoly at work.

    And by marvelous skill and innovation I mean, rank incompetence.

  • scotporter

    What incompetence…!!! My biggest gripe is that they tell users a time to come back to reserve your parking spot and then they open it up earlier. Why tell users that it would open at 8am and then have it open at 10pm the day before? Of course they “fixed” the problem because they were not getting overloaded now because people could trickle into the site thinking it will not open till this morning.

    I have always been a big supporter of keeping this in San Diego but if this con was some place like Vegas, this would not be an issue since parking is FREE. And since Ace seems to lack the wisdom to confess to what happened (instead of blaming a DDOS attack), I would prefer Ace not get any more of our money because in San Diego unfortunately they really are the only option.

    Wasted over 8 hours yesterday for nothing. Truly an EPIC FAIL by Ace!!!

  • Dean

    Hey guys, Go back and refresh the page for parking at the ACE Reserve page every so often because there are still open parking spaces left in the CC and Hilton occasionally. I just got my tickets a little while ago, but you might need to keep checking back because they go fast.

  • Dean

    Go back and refresh the page for parking at the ACE Reserve page every
    so often because there are still open parking spaces left in the CC and
    Hilton occasionally. I just got my tickets a little while ago, but you
    might need to keep checking back because they go fast.

  • garfeimao

    A lot of the same issues here, I got through numerous times the past 2-3 days, filled my cart with what was available, went to pay, and then got a number of different error messages, including my email was invalid, which is wrong since I had tested the system on Monday and I got the confirmation email just fine.

    Blargh, this is a major clusterf**k, but at least once I finally got a hold of Jose at the ACE office at the convention center, he’s been helpful and responsive. They are processing the refunds now for the holds on my card. Not sure how my card got charged when I could never fully complete a purchase, but there you have it. 4 Pending charges and not one completed purchase, so confusing and frustrating. Will see how things shake out next week.

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  • Marjy La Costa

    No, I didn’t even try, as I was at WORK and can’t use internet for personal things. Nice job locking people like me out. ABM Parking lots will be getting my money.

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