Developers love using it to monitor and troubleshoot their products and it gives the entire team visibility into production
Supports DevOps approach and continuous delivery, enabling 600 deployments per week
Reduces outages and disruptions for a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars
Improves code quality and customer satisfaction
Carsales.com Drives Great Buyer and Seller Experiences With Help from New Relic
Carsales.com Ltd. is a publicly owned company with a network of websites, including carsales.com.au, which is the largest and most popular automotive classifieds website in Australia. The company offers private and dealer-based sales solutions, while providing real-time updates on vehicle statistics and information. The Carsales.com network of websites also includes CarPoint.com.au, bikesales.com.au, RedBook.com.au as well as leading boat, caravan, and truck and machinery classified websites.
Driving a great customer experience
While car buyers and sellers might not think about the customer experience when choosing where to buy or sell a car, Carsales.com Ltd. definitely does. For the owner of the leading automotive classifieds website in Australia, putting the customer first and finding new ways to improve the experience are how the company has catapulted to the top of the market. The IT department is no exception. “Our software developers live and breathe the customer experience,” says Jason Blackman, chief technology officer at Carsales.com Ltd. “For instance, our developers spend time in our call center to hear customer feedback directly.”
Moving to a DevOps approach has helped the company deepen its focus on the customer experience. Previously teams were organized around projects, but today teams are organized by the customer groups they support. “Each team is now responsible for a customer group and builds products specifically for that customer,” says Blackman
With high volumes to support while optimizing the customer experience, issues causing outages or performance degradation can be extremely costly for the company. “Our image server serves up more than six billion images per week,” says Blackman. “At peak, our retail sites are seeing 1,200 requests per second.”
After a three-day outage following a migration of a major system, Blackman’s team took stock and decided it needed a software analytics solution to give it greater visibility into application performance and the customer experience. “When you have a strong transactional system like ours, you really need to know what’s happening at each point,” says Blackman. “We didn’t have that visibility with the various monitoring tools we were using.”
Giving everyone access to what’s happening in production
Initially, Carsales.com turned to an analytics solution that appeared to deliver what the IT team needed. However, it soon became clear that the software was not delivering the benefits the team hoped it would. “The first software analytics solution we tried wasn’t adding value or saving time for our developers when diagnosing an issue,” says Blackman.
That’s when Carsales.com turned to New Relic APM, a SaaS-based application monitoring solution that enables the Carsales.com IT team to see every aspect of the application environment in real time. Today, everyone from developers to product managers to operations/deployment staff rely on New Relic for features such as release markers, Apdex scoring, and deployment history. “The developers love New Relic,” says Blackman. “They are wedded to the success of their own product and use New Relic to help them monitor it.” Adds Tom Hissink, group manager of trade systems at Carsales.com, “New Relic is the first thing we look at every morning. If we didn’t have New Relic, we would waste a lot of time trying to figure out what is going on.”
In addition to monitoring performance and accelerating troubleshooting, the insight that New Relic delivers also helps Carsales.com complete projects that might otherwise been deemed too difficult or expensive to deploy. “We wanted to make changes to our image server software to embed a watermark in our thumbnails, but the computational time was going to double our cloud computing costs,” says Blackman. “Using New Relic, we worked out where the processing could be improved, which enabled us to take the project out of the ‘too hard’ basket and get it deployed.”
Faced with a million-dollar price tag for a hardware refresh to support its image server software, Carsales.com decided to try cloud computing instead. “We serve terabytes of imagery every day,” says Jason Blackman, chief technology officer at Carsales.com. “The infrastructure costs to handle only a small percentage of our actual peak loads would have been millions and left us with no ability to scale for unusual events.” So the company partnered with Microsoft for its Microsoft Azure cloud services, re-architecting its image server software for the cloud. “We haven’t looked back since moving to the cloud,” says Blackman.
Now if there’s a situation where Carsales.com needs to scale up, it can do so easily and then let the auto-scaling capability scale the infrastructure back down again. “In the cloud, we’ll go from 20 instances at off-peak times to 250 instances during peaks,” says Blackman. “We scale up and down on an hourly basis.” Today, Carsales.com relies on a combination of Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services to run its applications and Blackman envisions the company moving entirely to the cloud over time.
"Before New Relic, problems with new features or code changes could take days to identify and fix, which might have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue and costs. With New Relic, the impact of a production issue is only potentially hundreds of dollars because problems are noticed straight away and we can fix them immediately. That allows us to move faster and take a bit more risk."
Saving money while improving code quality and customer experience
Using New Relic helps Carsales.com reduce costs while improving customer satisfaction by fixing issues faster and creating higher quality code. “Before New Relic, problems with new features or code changes could take days to identify and fix, which might have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue and costs,” says Blackman. “With New Relic, the impact of a production issue is only potentially hundreds of dollars because problems are noticed straight away and we can fix them immediately. That allows us to move faster and take a bit more risk.”
Moving faster helps Carsales.com be more responsive to customer requests. “We have some great success stories where customers have made a request and have been blown away when we responded with the change they wanted,” says Blackman. “We get feedback like ‘you guys are awesome. I didn’t even think I’d get a response.’” Blackman also confirms that customer satisfaction has improved as measured by the decreased number of calls about problems to the call center.
Blackman also credits New Relic with helping him get his weekends back. For Blackman, this means no more weekend calls from higher ups that something is broken. “Now, with New Relic, I might get a message from developers saying they spotted an error in production and fixed it already,” says Blackman. “That’s a huge change for us.”
"New Relic is the first thing we look at every morning. If we didn’t have New Relic, we would waste a lot of time trying to figure out what is going on."
Going from larger weekly deployments to hundreds of small ones each week
Moving faster and improving responsiveness to customers are the main reasons that Carsales.com has been moving to a microservices architecture. “With small, low risk deployments, we can roll something out and patch it if necessary without bringing the whole site down,” says Blackman. “Previously, before microservices and New Relic, we did new releases maybe once a week and in some cases, once a month,” says Blackman. “Now we have continuous delivery, with about 600 changes a week in the production environment.”
Blackman is counting on DevOps, microservices, cloud computing, and New Relic to help his team achieve continued success as the company expands internationally into Mexico, Brazil, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. “International expansion is our company’s key strategy going forward,” says Blackman. “And with New Relic, we’re ready for the challenge.”
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