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How THAT Reduced Their Database Load by 80% and Response Times by 40x

Before Stellate’s GraphQL Edge Cache, we had around 75 million database reads per month. Now we're down to 3!

Clark Sell

Founder, THAT Conference


Faster p50 API response time


Less API traffic

Check out below how we helped THAT become an unconference powerhouse. Or just go ahead and give Stellate’s GraphQL Edge Cache a try. Or do both!

It was the best of times, until it was the worst of times. At least that’s what the team of THAT thought, as they prepared to organize their Midwest in-person conference pre-pandemic. Before Covid-19 smacked the globe around like a toddler batting a ball, Clark Sell and Brett Slaski enjoyed organizing their annual polyglot conference at Kalahari Waterpark: an opportunity to gather, network and connect with fellow developers, while splashing about amongst families cooling down from the heat. Basking in post-conference glow, Sell and Slaski pondered, “How could we build and re-imagine all the things that we’d built already, then build for the next 10 years?” It wasn’t enough to connect some people once a year in Midwest America: Sell and Slaski wanted to connect developers around the world 24-7.

From Pandemic Disaster to Inspiration

Like a needle scratching a record, Covid-19 rudely arrived, and as with so many things in its path, wrecked the idea of another in-person conference. Still, it was a blessing in disguise, forcing Sell and Slaski to answer their own question as the world shifted to virtual human interaction.

“When the pandemic happened, we deleted everything. We created the platform that we wanted to create from the ground up: open-source, GraphQL, serverless, Node, Svelte. If you could use anything that you wanted to, how would you do this?” Sell asked. “We took a little bit of Twitch, a little bit of Stack Overflow, Slack, Zoom, and created this global anytime unconference for you to use.”

And with that, THAT was born. Like a famished child, THAT immediately forced its parents to answer the question, “How do you facilitate a remote unconference?”  

In late 2019, while holding down day jobs, Sell and Slaski built like men possessed, laying down a new backend API, and then completed THAT’s frontend in June 2020. A month later, they hosted their first virtual conference: six hundred sessions with 1000 attendees, running concurrently throughout the day. Not only did the event’s facilitation have to work, but could the code be opened up for use by anybody at any time?

How Stellate’s GraphQL Edge Cache Helps THAT Scale

The answer is yes. “People f**king go look at it. It’s there to see,” said Sell. THAT’s entire platform, including how they use Stellate’s GraphQL Edge Cache, is open source. Just a fortnight after their first unconference, sessions were made available online, allowing developers to watch them anytime. Sell and Slaski continued building more and more functionality into the platform: spotlight pages to host community gatherings and postings, partners, profile pages… the list continues to evolve, with GraphQL as the central graph of all of their data.

As mentioned prior, THAT had a little help from Stellate, in the same way a booster helps a rocketship. “Before we put Stellate’s GraphQL Edge Cache in place, we had somewhere around 75 million database reads per month. After finishing the integration we dropped to 3 million per month, or about a 96% reduction in database reads,” said Sell.


“It's easy to focus on the number of database reads that have gone away, but the reality is that the performance impact is absolutely felt by the user. Our platform is night and day, bonkers fast. The performance improvement is outstanding. 2s queries that are 30 milliseconds because the result sits at the edge directly next to the user. I mean, you can't ask for more than that,” Sell summarized.

Even with these impressive numbers, Sell and Slaski won’t take their foot off the gas pedal: never satisfied, they relentlessly refine. Moreover, given the improved overall state of things, THAT’s next conference will be held in-person, with online access for those that can’t make it (this is in addition to THAT’s monthly unconferences on the 15th of every month). Talk about 24/7 access around the globe!  And yes, you guessed it: for those attending in-person, it’ll be held at their favorite waterpark, living up to the company’s promise of geeks helping geeks become more awesome every day.

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