No, there's no inference or implication that any (ie regardless of how its built) WordPress configuration will scale on WP Engine. As I wrote in my prior comment, scalability is a partnership between infrastructure and code. That's the case irregardless of framework and PaaS provider.
We like car analogies at WP Engine - if I sell you a racing car and you're only a moderately good driver then you're going to crash when you approach the corner at 200mph. There's little I can do about that other than teach you to drive, and I'm in the business of building the cars. There are plenty of folks who can help you improve your race-craft out there.
To say that we've missled someone is an unfair assertion.
If I analyze the suggestions you're making in your comment here...
* Jacques complained about lack of 24/7 support, but I shouldn't have tried to reply and explain the reason for that because 'there's no crying in business'. ?????
* The WP Engine website shouldn't mention scaling WordPress because it's not technically possible to scale all WordPress code regardless of how it's written. (What should our site say? What should any scale-orientated PaaS website say given the same issues apply to anyone in this space)
* WP Engine should vet and screen it's customers so that they must prove their code can scale before we sell them an account? ?????
I'm sorry, but if that's the advice you're offering then, with respect, I don't agree.
That being said...
No, there's no inference or implication that any WordPress configuration will scale on WP Engine.
I would humbly suggest that your entire Web site is a refutation of this assertion. Even moving beyond the copy on the home page to the fine-print "Common Questions" section of http://wpengine.com/pricing/ , there's no disclaimer or other "are there WordPress configurations that WPEngine can't scale?" fine print.
My point here isn't that you shouldn't promise scaling, it's that it's not hard to see how a mismatch could arise between your expectations (scaling is hard, customer code can make it harder) and customers' expectations (scaling is easy, WPEngine has figured it out).
Jacques complained about lack of 24/7 support, but I shouldn't have tried to reply and explain the reason for that because 'there's no crying in business'. ?????
Yes. If a customer complains about a lack of 24/7 support, you say "I'm sorry, but we're not in a position to provide that level of support at this time." And nothing else. The reason why you're not in a position to provide it is irrelevant to the customer, and risks sidetracking the conversation into a blind alley about the reasons.
It also feels a little bit like pleading for understanding -- "cut us some slack, this stuff is hard!" -- which is off-putting. Of course it's hard, that's why people pay you to do it for them.
WP Engine should vet and screen it's customers so that they must prove their code can scale before we sell them an account? ?????
As I said, you already do some vetting by disabling plugins you know to be performance-killers. Look at this list: http://support.wpengine.com/disallowed-plugins/ , there's an entire category called "CPU/MySQL Thrashing Plugins."
I'm not suggesting that you need to give your customers a full CIA background check before bringing them on board, but you've already moved beyond just taking whatever code customers throw at you. If there's other things that need to be disallowed to ensure that WP sites work on your platform, the thing to do is to find out what those things are and add them to the blacklist.
Again, just my $0.02, IMHO, YMMV, IANAL, etc.
Use some common sense.
"infinite scaling" means _exactly_ that. If you don't want people to use accepted dictionary definitions of words like "infinite", you should not use them in your marketing.
A few telcos here in Australia have recently lost court cases about their use of the word "infinite" in their cellphone plans/marketing, and then cutting off or charging extra to customers who "used too much". The court, rightly in my opinion, said that the meaning of the word "infinite" is clear and well known, and any claim that it included "limited, of course, by common sense" is bogus. Be careful of letting your marketing team write too much hyperbole - occasionally you'll be held legally accountable for it.
I suspect if the amount in dispute had been an order of magnitude or two larger, Jacques may well have had a strong enough case to find a no-win/no-fee lawyer to go into bat for him... I know I'd prefer not to have to explain to a judge how those first two boxes in the first column on the WPEngine homepage didn't cover all of Jacques complaints.
I can create an infinitely scalable server and you can come in and drop a sledge hammer on it...does that mean I shouldn't use the word.
You have to understand the layperson won't know anything about tables etc and stating "infinitely scale" is a HUGE selling point for potential customers. If they wanted to be truthful they wouldn't say that, or they would say we CAN provide infinite scaling IF the following conditions are met.
The way I see it, you are not selling the car, but providing a driver so that I don't have to worry about how it should be driven.
I should sit in the back and relax while you make sure that my car is driving safely and comfortably.
Maybe your message isn't clear enough if you think that your product is the car. From your website:
QUIT WORRYING AND LET US RUN WORDPRESS FOR YOU
QUIT WORRYING AND LET US DRIVE YOU CAR FOR YOU
It seems to me wordpress.com is the "we supply the racing car and driver" solution provider. You don't have to worry about how it gets driven, but you also have only limited say in what car you get and which lines the driver takes through corners.
In my version, WPEngine are providing the race track - to which you bring your own car and driver. They go to a bit of effort to improve the safety, mostly by ensuring other track users don't do too much to affect your performance, but you're free to bring your own F1 car, MotoGP motorcycle, Nascar, or go kart; and run at whatever pace you think is appropriate.
Seems to me the OP's problem was that he wanted to run a top fuel drag rail. From his perspective, he made assumptions about what "a race track" meant that didn't include "decreasing radius downhill hairpins". Meanwhile WPEngine's website/marketing didn't anticipate that class of user, and didn't think they needed to point out that their track isn't an ANDRA approved 1440' long straight with a mile or two of slightly uphill runoff at the end.
With my sympathetic hat on, I can easily understand why both parties assumptions were sensible to them when they made them.
With my cynical hat on, it's pretty obvious that you could install a Wordpress theme or plugin on anybodies hosting platform with an O(m^n) or O(n!) function it it somewhere, and no magical cloud autoscaling pixiedust is going to solve your problem. At the same time, the expectation that a company claiming "Insanely Fast. Infinitely Scalable." and "At WP Engine, there’s no “first level” of support–our entire staff are WordPress experts, so you never hear “We don’t know how to do that.”" on their homepage should be able to do a better job keeping a Wordpress site up than some time-limited non-technical guy self-hosting on Linode.
Edit: and Wordpress is a monster. But that's why I wanted to pay you guys in the first place.
FWIW, it's clear that you _did_ mislead Jacques.
Whether the assumptions he made were valid or not (and frankly, based on the content of your homepage, it's hard not to have sympathy for his point of view), he clearly expected you guys would do a better job hosting Wordpress that he could do himself on his own Linode VPS. He also clearly expected that if there were problems, your "Expert Wordpress Support" would provide the solutions. Instead he found your support guys effectively saying "we don't know how to do that" and flicking him on to WebSiteMovers, who _also_ end up saying "we don't know how to do that" and charging him $500 for failing.
So I think you did let Jacques down, and I think he has every reason to feel missled.
You should probably acknowledge, at least prominently enough that anyone researching your service with a view to becoming a paying customer will find it, that there are possible pathological cases and configurations which WPEngine's technology/infrastructure/service will not solve. If you don't want to feature this on the homepage (and I can understand you not wanting too), I'd suggest a note near the top of the Disallowed Plugins page - and probably re-wording that page to make clear that avoiding everything on the "complete list" of disallowed plugins doesn't guarantee a successful deployment, and also that it's possible for themes with certain code patterns in them to cause a WPEngine deployment to fail to perform as advertised.
Secondly (and I suspect you've already got this one in hand), you need to train your support staff to recognise more quickly installations with pathological performance things going on, and apologise and extricate yourselves and inform the customer as early in the process as practical. I don't know what the tone/implication in Seans message about the ~188k row sort was, but from reading your defence here I can't help but think there was at least a bit of "you're doing it wrong!" - which even when it's true, it's not the wording you want to feed an unhappy customer.
(Note: this is written as a happy WPE user, with some curiosity about exactly what went wrong, and why some guy with a Linode VPS can, in some cases, keep a Wordpress site up better then WPE. I'm suspecting he's got define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '2048M'); or something similar covering up some quickly hacked together "it works for me" not-very-well-though-out-code - which you can get away with on your own hardware/VPS, but not generally on shared hosting...)