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Why New Relic

Full support for Node.js on the Windows Azure Web Sites platform

  • Deployed in less than five minutes; team gained instant insight by adding a single line of code to the main application file
  • Captured a complete picture of overall performance, both at the machine level and the application level
  • Enabled proactive assessment of application health, along with quick responsiveness to major spikes in traffic Scales to Accommodate Rapid Growth on Azure Platform with Help from New Relic offers a collaboration suite that enables creative teams to work better together. The product enables visual people to shape their ideas together, fully unleashing their imagination without getting in the way of their flow.

At the core of the offering are ‘murals’—online zoomable walls with web content (videos, links, photos and more) where users can visualize, imagine, show and discuss ideas, and then access and work on them at any time from anywhere.

Challenges launched in September 2012 and, in just nine months, has grown to serve 125,000 users in 161 countries. High performance is critical to its continued success. “Everyday, we have new users checking us out,” says Johnny Halife, chief architect and co-founder at “We also get a lot of exposure in tech media outlets, so our traffic comes in unpredictable bursts. If we’re not up and running, our first-time visitors probably won’t give us a second chance.”

In its first few months, experimented with different platform configurations to determine the right environment for accommodating its rapid growth. The company finally settled on Windows Azure Web Sites, a rapid development offering that lets companies create and deploy web apps in seconds using ASP.NET, PHP or Node.js. “We chose Azure Web Sites for three reasons,” says Halife. “First, we’re big fans of open source in general, and Node.js in particular. The fact that we can have open source capabilities combined with Microsoft’s 24x7 support and global scalability is just an awesome combination.

Finally — and perhaps most importantly — the Windows Azure Web Sites platform offers the speed necessary to support’s exceptionally agile environment. “We push new code to our customers about 10 times per day,” says Halife. “On other platforms, deployment time was about 20 minutes per push, so we would spend over three hours every day just waiting for things to go live. With Azure, the deployment time is under a minute. Three hours versus 10 minutes? There’s just no comparison.”

Yet with all that speed and flexibility, still lacked full visibility into real time application performance. “It was clear that we needed some kind of monitoring capability,” says Halife. “We considered developing a homegrown solution, but we quickly realized that we didn’t have the bandwidth to do that. Frankly, we didn’t even have the desire — it wasn’t a problem we wanted to solve ourselves. We wanted to maintain a tight focus on our core capabilities, which meant finding the right solution for monitoring performance in an incredibly fast-paced environment.”

“We installed New Relic really, really, really, really, really fast. It took us literally five minutes, which included tweaking some parameters to meet the needs of our app. We didn’t need to change anything we were doing — we added one line of code on top of our main application file, and it just started working.”

Johnny Halife Chief Architect and Co-Founder,


When Halife told the Azure team that he was looking for a monitoring solution, they immediately recommended New Relic. “As it happened, New Relic was just beginning to support Node.js,” he says. “Much like the Azure folks, they were willing to work with us in co-creating a solution that would help us grow. They exhibited a real openness toward iteration and collaboration, which is exactly what is all about. The Azure Web Sites and New Relic teams share similar values and are critical to our success in complementary ways. Both support teams are excellent, are collaborative in nature, have 24x7 availability and support, and give us the ability to influence features and functionality. This is essential to a global startup where selecting the right vendors is critical to success. Selecting both was a solid ‘bet your business’ decision for us.”

The installation process was nearly instantaneous. “We installed New Relic really, really, really, really, really fast,” says Halife. “It took us literally five minutes, which included tweaking some parameters to meet the needs of our app. We didn’t need to change anything we were doing — we added one line of code on top of our main application file and it just started working.”

The team now uses New Relic to monitor performance both at the platform level and the application level. “On the one hand, we look at the performance of the Windows Azure Web Sites platform, monitoring our deployments and our infrastructure — how the load balancer works, how many requests we serve per machine, and so forth,” says Halife. “At the same time, we’re looking at the performance of our Node.js app. How many exceptions are we seeing? Sluggish queries? Slow routes? By seeing both of those perspectives at once, we get a complete picture of our overall performance from moment to moment, and that holistic perspective is simply invaluable.”

“The shared values of the Windows Azure Web Sites and New Relic teams have been a critical success factor for us. Both have a focus on collaborating and cooperating with their customers and offer 24x7 support with excellence. Windows Azure Web Sites and New Relic is a pure symbiotic solution with New Relic delivering performance analytics and insight for our Azure Web Sites and our Node.js application. Selecting both was a solid ‘bet your business’ decision for us.”

Johnny Halife Chief Architect and Co-Founder,


New Relic gives the tools and information it needs to proactively assess the health of its Node.js web app. “We always want to have a clear understanding of the relationship between the number of requests we’re receiving and the number of machines we’re running,” says Halife. “With New Relic, we can monitor current performance in light of historical patterns, gaining insight into the infrastructure necessary to deliver the optimal customer experience. We can also keep a close eye on our most popular transactions, because that helps us understand how customers interact with the app and where we need to concentrate our efforts in improving site performance.”

Sometimes, however, proactive improvements aren’t enough. Unexpected events call for quick adjustments to fix an outage or accommodate a surge in traffic. “Three weeks ago, we were featured in the Chrome Web Store,” says Halife. “Just like that, we were serving 10 times our normal traffic levels. I had New Relic open the whole time, just looking at key indicators like response time, number of requests per minute and error rates. It was our living, breathing test interface for all the experiments we were running to accommodate the increase in traffic. That kind of real time responsiveness is so important for us as a startup, because we never know when the next big promotion is going to drop.”

When asked what he would tell developers who are considering New Relic for the first time, his answer is simple. “Just try it out,” he says. “It takes zero effort. In five minutes, you’ll have it up and running. You’ll instantly have the data you need to gain a better understanding of your environment. There’s truly nothing to lose and so many things to gain.”

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