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Why New Relic

Easy to instrument, delivering meaningful insight almost immediately—no configuration required

Highlights
  • Over the course of one sprint, using New Relic resulted in a 25% improvement in both application performance and error reduction and a 30% improvement in server performance
  • New Relic enabled a 33% reduction in server footprint, delivering immediate ROI
  • With New Relic, support cases contain more information allowing faster resolution

Advanced Computer Software Group Improves Performance by 25% in 60 Days with New Relic

Based just outside London, Advanced Computer Software Group plc is comprised of three main subsidiaries: Business Solutions, Health & Care, and Advanced 365 Managed Services. Together, these organizations provide a broad range of software and IT services for more than 20,000 clients across the globe.

Environment

Advanced Learning, a division of Advanced Business Solutions, specializes in developing software for the educational market. In 2012, Advanced Learning introduced Progresso, an application designed to streamline and optimize almost every aspect of running an educational establishment, from scheduling classes to tracking payroll. Students can access their information on the web or with a mobile app, and parents can review their children’s academic progress on demand. Progresso is written in ASP.NET and built entirely on a Microsoft stack. SharePoint handles document storage. As for hosting, Advanced Learning transitioned from a legacy-hosting provider to Amazon Web Services in late 2013.

Challenges

Since introducing Progresso in 2012, Advanced Learning has slowly rolled out the application, reaching an estimated 50,000 students, 20,000 parents, and 7,500 staff. “Parents are more likely to access the application on evenings and weekends, whereas staff members use it both during the day and into the evening,” says Martin Reynolds, Application Architect and Development Manager at Advanced Learning. “It’s pretty much a 24/7 deal.”

That level of availability requires consistently stellar performance—and at first, Reynolds and team realized that Progresso still needed some work. “Our response times were slow,” he says. “The application just wasn’t quite where we needed it to be. At the beginning of 2013, we took stock of the situation and drew up a plan for improving performance. The first step in that plan, of course, was to find a vendor that could help us identify and diagnose any issue that might adversely affect the user’s experience.”

Solution

After reviewing offerings from five different companies, the team at Advanced Learning narrowed the choices down to two. “We did a thorough assessment of New Relic and one other solution,” he says. “The bottom line is this: New Relic is just incredibly easy to instrument. We installed the software in no time and started getting results almost immediately. The other solution installed easily enough, but we didn’t get instant results. It required a whole team to come onsite for five days and configure it for us.”

In the 60 days since installing New Relic, the Advanced Learning team has used the software to optimize application performance during several major sprints. “New Relic gives you a clear understanding of both sides of a transaction,” says Reynolds. “We’ve always had the ability to see the average performance time of .NET transactions on the CPU, but we didn’t know if that was an accurate reflection of the user’s experience. A one-second average on the server side might actually manifest as a four-second average for users. New Relic’s Real User Monitoring feature gives us the ability to see things from our clients’ perspective like never before.”

Just as important, New Relic provides comprehensive insight with very little impact on server performance. “New Relic requires less CPU than most other solutions in our ecosystem,” says Reynolds. “That’s because it doesn’t instrument everything by default—it will only do a deep dive into the code if that’s what you need. The impact is so negligible that we don’t even notice it.”

“The Key Transaction feature has been critical to us by allowing us to better identify and set performance thresholds for specific transactions,” says Reynolds. “We can make targeted improvements by monitoring that particular transaction and assigning it a unique Apdex threshold. Our roll call function is a good example of how we use Key Transactions. In the U.K., schools are required to take roll twice a day. That places a big burden on our system at the beginning and ending of each school day and after lunch, and as a result, we’re challenged to meet our SLAs around response times. With New Relic, we discovered that roll call was having an even bigger impact on our system than we thought. Using Key Transactions, we were able to make targeted improvements in a short period of time.”

Reynolds is also an advocate of the plugins on the New Relic Platform. These plugins enable the Advanced Learning team to view metrics from different technologies in a single interface, giving instant visibility into all monitoring data. “New Relic gives us a clear sense of overall performance, from application to server to network. I’m especially fond of the Amazon plugin, because it enables us to view all of our key server data on one screen.”

With the Transaction Traces feature, the Advanced Learning team can understand the root cause of a performance issue— right down to the line of code. “One of my favorite things about Transaction Traces is that we can attach a specific transaction to a support case,” says Reynolds. “Wherever the support case goes, the transaction information goes with it. That makes it easy for anyone, whether they’re in development or support, to get instant insight into what’s causing the issue.”

“The Key Transaction feature has been critical to us by allowing us to better identify and set performance thresholds for specific transactions. We can make targeted improvements by monitoring that particular transaction and assigning it a unique Apdex threshold.”

Martin Reynolds Application Architect and Development Manager

Results

Shortly after implementing New Relic, the Advanced Learning team executed a major sprint—and the results were remarkable. “With help from New Relic, in that first sprint we achieved a 25% improvement in the performance of our application, a 30% improvementin server performance, and a 25% reduction in error rates,” says Reynolds. “The changes have been so dramatic that our customers have noticed, and they’ve been very appreciative.”

Those improvements in performance have a direct and significant impact on hosting costs. “Not long ago, we were running 12 servers to host this application,” says Reynolds. “But by using New Relic, we were able to reduce the number of servers by 30%. In just one sprint, we not only improved end-user performance and customer satisfaction, but we also managed to pay for our entire investment in New Relic. We can now more accurately predict hardware requirements needed to support our growing user base so that we’re not carrying excess capacity. New Relic is providing a level of scalability and efficiency that’s great for us and great for our customers.”

By using New Relic to help identify and diagnose issues, the Advanced Learning team has been able reduce time to resolution. “With help from New Relic, we’re now clearing cases much faster, and eliminating a backlog of support tickets. That gives our support team more time to address issues that need to be addressed today—not things that cropped up last month.”

New Relic makes it easy to generate reports that clearly demonstrate the most current performance data, helping Reynolds and his team to provide accurate, informative status updates to non-technical colleagues on demand. “When somebody asks me for a performance update, it takes minutes not hours to compile the data,” says Reynolds. “I can send a report to their inbox right away. The results we’re seeing with New Relic—combined with the ability to document and demonstrate those results to users across the company—have generated a tremendous amount of excitement around here.”

“In that first sprint we achieved a 25% improvement in the performance of our application, a 30% improvement in server performance, and a 25% reduction in error rates”

Martin Reynolds Application Architect and Development Manager

About New Relic

New Relic is a software analytics company that makes sense of billions of metrics about millions of applications in real time. Our comprehensive SaaS-based solution provides one powerful interface for web and native mobile applications and consolidates the performance monitoring data for any chosen technology in your environment. Our 90,000 customers use our cloud solution every day to optimize more than 200 billion metrics for 3 million applications. When your brand and customer experience depend on the performance of modern software, New Relic provides insight into your overall environment. Learn more at newrelic.com.

About Advanced Learning

Advanced Learning provides innovative technology solutions to over 2000 educational institutions throughout the UK and across the world. The company is strongly committed to sustained investment in the education market, continuously developing its product portfolio to meet the changing needs of schools and academies. Advanced Learning is also focused on delivering facilities management solutions to the local government and enterprise sectors. Advanced Learning forms part of Advanced Business Solutions (Public Sector & Enterprise Division), an Advanced Computer Software Group plc company. Learn more at www.progressomis.com.

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