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AZ Tech Beat | September 27, 2020

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Taming the Beast – PHX Tech Talks

Taming the Beast – PHX Tech Talks
Tishin Donkersley


The first PHX Tech Talks, a quarterly meetup designed for software engineers, kicked off last night at WebPT. The Tech Talks is an event where the developer community can gather, discuss software development and advancements, case studies and the obstacles they face as they build and scale their respective applications.

The event was developed by Brad Jannenga, CTO of WebPT, to build a collaborative developer network in the Valley, “The tech scene in the metro valley is fairly fragmented, so I started the PHX Tech Talks to address this. I want to encourage the city’s incredible talent to venture out of their silos and come together to learn, talk, and problem-solve. In the spirit of open-source software, I want to provide Phoenix’s technologists a platform to share not only their accomplishments, but the paths they took to achieve them. Hopefully, this in turn helps others problem solve and innovate,” he explained.

Jannenga further hopes to foster an environment where the developer community can learn from each other and create a supportive network. “Crazy intelligent people are coming together to share their experiences and talk shop. This presents an opportunity for individuals to learn and grow, but it also allows us to create a sounding board of sorts. People who might not regularly interact are coming together and having meaningful conversations. I believe good things will come out of this-not only for the individuals, but for the tech community as well,” he continued.

Guest speakers Jeremy Wilson, Senior Architect and Mike Ray, Director of Software Development, at WebPT discussed how their development team has addressed the immense amount of growth at WebPT and the overall customer’s demand for product features in their talk “Taming the Beast-A Case Study” with ” The Beast” referring to WebPT’s model of software.

The developer team have their hands full as WebPT has helped more than 24,000 rehab therapy professionals transition to EMR, resulting in therapists generating almost 30 million records, providing more than two million patients with a more complete medical history; and recently recognized in Inc. 500/5000 for one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S.-Ray and Wilson definitely had some pain points and strategies to share with the group.


The speakers began by unveiling the development team’s “Battle Plan” used to manage sales demand, server capacity and expansion of features.

“Doing feature development and keeping a pace is always challenging,” said Ray.

Their Battle Plan objectives included: use the best practices, patterns and anti-patterns, align with corporate objectives, develop productivity, and balance between tactical and strategic methodology.

In order to completely tame “The Beast” many tactical strategies are in motion:

Horizontal Partitioning – adding more clusters (group of servers) to accommodate unlimited growth or “volume scaling.

Vertical slicing – segmenting applications into chunks or “slices” and placing it into a cluster, then breaking up development to address the particular feature at hand. “Teams can focus on a specific part of an application and we can organize those vertical functions for product scaling,” Ray said.

Single Sign-On (SSO)- the ability to authenticate a user and establish identity that can be used across all distributed applications, such as a therapist logging into the EMR or one of its participating applications.

Team parallelism & specialization – ability to pull talent together, localize features and direct the teams to scale out.

Enterprisification of PHP – implementing enterprise design patterns that make PHP scalable.

Service orchestration – mediation using the camel service (ESB) and mediate traffic between the vertical slices and clusters as well as our SSO.

According to the speakers, these tactics have been useful to help predict scalability, add more features quickly and with ease, and increasing developer ramp up time in order to respond to the expanding market and customer base.

One event goer, Daniel Schulz, co-founder, President, COO of Spotlight found this event helpful for his business and understanding how growth companies are dealing with scalability.

The next PHX Tech Talks will be in November, AZTB will keep you informed, so come on back.