Why New Relic
Delivers end-to-end application visibility in real time.
- Reduces the effort to identify performance issues from days and hours down to minutes in many cases
- Gives operations and development a common tool to work together directly to improve the client experience
- Enables proactive problem identification and resolution to reduce after-hours calls to operations staff
ReachLocal’s datacenters are located throughout the globe, with Linux running exclusively on its servers. The company takes advantage of a diverse set of technology stacks, including OpenStack and in-house cloud technologies for its private cloud, which enables it to push out new applications very rapidly. For its more than 90 applications, ReachLocal relies on Perl, Java, PHP, Groovy, and Ruby languages as well as the MySQL database.
Creating more visibility into new and legacy application performance
Thanks to ReachLocal’s digital marketing solutions, the company has grown from a U.S.-only business to one that now spans five continents. Tim Fox, senior director of operations and IT at ReachLocal explains: “We’re focused on what our clients need and how we can provide the best value to them through the platform and technologies we provide.”
To that end, the engineering staff at ReachLocal wanted to gain more insight into application performance, which impacts both ReachLocal’s clients as well as their clients’ customers. Previously, the company used server and network monitoring tools that didn’t deliver the depth of information engineering needed to optimize the application experience.
With more than 100 engineers across four different locations, ReachLocal needed a solution that provided a common means of measuring application success. “One of the things that passionate engineers want to do is to write software that provides value,” says CT Rhude, senior director of engineering at ReachLocal. “Having the data to back up whether or not what you’ve created is successful is incredibly important to engineers.”
At the same time, the operations group was looking for ways to get deeper insight into the performance of the legacy systems it supported. “One of the challenges we have is that some of our more than 90 applications are legacy systems,” says Fox. “We wanted to better understand the interfaces and connections within and between the various legacy applications we’ve inherited.”
“New Relic has made ReachLocal’s focus on the client more actionable and deliverable.”
“Baking” New Relic into ReachLocal’s application skeleton
The ReachLocal engineering and operations teams worked together to put the New Relic application performance management software to the test. “New Relic started delivering benefits almost immediately,” says Michael Hogg, manager of orchestration engineering at ReachLocal. “We spotted long-running performance issues we hadn’t seen before. Within days of implementing New Relic, developers were approaching operations to work together to fix application performance problems.” With the whole team convinced of the value, ReachLocal went on to deploy New Relic® APM™, New Relic Browser™, New Relic Insights™, and New Relic Plugins™.
Today, New Relic is “baked into” ReachLocal’s entire application infrastructure stack, known at ReachLocal as an application skeleton. “Our application skeleton is a top-to-bottom stack of anything that isn’t application specific,” says Hogg. “Developers know that when they create an application now, it’s going to have New Relic included,” says Hogg. “For instance, if a skeleton has the option to use MySQL as a back end service, we use the New Relic MySQL plug-in to give us the visibility we need.”
That visibility also pays off with legacy applications as the ReachLocal team discovered when it was asked to fix an ailing Drupal site that was originally developed outside of the engineering organization. “We immediately set up New Relic using the PHP plug-in with Drupal support,” said Hogg. “It helped us identify the issue right away.” Adds Fox: “Without New Relic, it probably would have taken two weeks to identify the problem and we solved it with New Relic in three days. Making that app work better helps our sales and service team sell more and service our clients better.”
“New Relic started delivering benefits almost immediately. We spotted long-running performance issues we hadn’t seen before. Within days of implementing New Relic, developers were approaching operations to work together to fix application performance problems.”
Empowering staff with a common measurement of the client experience
By utilizing New Relic products, ReachLocal is armed with end-to-end visibility into application performance and the client experience across its entire suite of client-facing software as well as internal services. The Apdex metrix is particularly valuable and used as a yardstick to measure client experience. “The Apdex gives us a consistent way to measure diverse applications,” says Hogg.
ReachLocal’s engineering and operations staff aren’t the only users of New Relic. The company created business and product-related dashboards using New Relic Insights for non-engineering employees. “Our product managers actively look at the metrics coming out of New Relic that show conversions throughout the pipeline for our clients,” says Rhude. “It’s not just ‘Is this server running hot’ or ‘Is this application delivering pages in less than two seconds,’” says Rhude. “It’s ‘Are we delivering business value?’”
“Without New Relic, it probably would have taken two weeks to figure out what was going on and we solved it with New Relic in three days. Making that app work better helps our sales and service team sell more and service our client better.”
Moving from a ticketing system to real time and proactive response
Before New Relic was deployed, the operations group communicated with engineering through a ticketing system. “The beauty of New Relic is that we went from the flow of a ticket taking anywhere from minutes to hours to go through the queue to now having engineers looking at urgent issues almost immediately,” says Rhude. Development and operations are communicating directly, with New Relic giving them “a common language for application performance” according to Hogg. “New Relic helps us look at problems through the same lens.”
Beyond supporting a DevOps culture, New Relic helps ReachLocal respond more quickly and effectively to performance issues. “New Relic reduces the effort to identify performance issues from days, down to, in some cases, minutes, because all the data is in one place,” says Fox. Adds Rhude: “New Relic has made ReachLocal’s focus on the client more actionable and deliverable.”
New Relic also helps the operations team get a better night’s sleep. “When you’re in operations, what keeps you up at night is when your phone goes off because something is broken,” says Fox. “We are using New Relic to be more proactive in solving problems, which lets people sleep at night.”
Hogg believes that New Relic has made ReachLocal’s culture more performance aware. That’s reflected in the company’s plans for the future. From New Relic Insights expanding into the business intelligence group to replace spreadsheets to the marketing department’s dashboards for keeping tabs on the performance of the revamped marketing website as it gets developed, ReachLocal intends to take full advantage of all that New Relic offers.