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Why New Relic

Real time application performance monitoring with an appealing UI

Highlights
  • Time required to locate a bug reduced from one hour to a matter of seconds – literally 1,000 times faster
  • Using New Relic, team can determine exactly many servers are required to scale to 100,000 users – calculating the budget is easier and more precise
  • Reduced time spent troubleshooting issues results in more time spent on developing great games

Rumble Entertainment Diagnoses Issues in Production 1,000 Times Faster with New Relic

Rumble Entertainment, headquartered in Redwood City, Calif., is dedicated to building polished games and shared experiences that embrace the digital world. The team is comprised of talented creators that believe in a customer-lead approach to delivering great games. Rumble's upcoming 2013 slate of games are free to play and available across a variety of browsers, mobile devices and social networks.

Environment

Rumble runs on AWS, with very large server clusters scaling up and down to accommodate heavy usage by gamers from around the world. The company writes most of its applications in Java.at.

Challenges

Gamers are a passionate crowd and Rumble has passion to match. The company dares to deliver synchronous, multi-player games with the highest possible production values to browsers and mobile devices — all for free. The difficulty of that undertaking is hardly lost on the Rumble team. “This isn’t like online poker, where you can take breaks between each turn,” says Albert Ho, Product Manager at Rumble Entertainment. “Everything is real time. People are playing our games around the globe, 24/7. We can’t be down for even a second. If a server isn’t giving a response back in 20 to 30 milliseconds, it has an impact on gameplay. People won’t enjoy it. And if people don’t enjoy what we do, we’re no longer in business.”

Before New Relic, diagnosing performance issues generally required a lot of time and even more guesswork. “For our first 16 months in business, we relied on a few open source tools to monitor our applications, but everything was piecemeal and inefficient,” says Ho. “We didn’t have easy access to historical data. We had some error monitoring capabilities, but we couldn’t tie the data together without writing Python script and exporting it to Excel. All of our tools required manual workarounds, which felt like a waste of time. And when we’re wasting time, we run the risk of wasting our users’ time as well.”

“New Relic is the single best tool that we’ve installed at this company, for any purpose – by far! There’s no question about it.”

Albert Ho Product Manager, Rumble Entertainment

Solution

Rumble developers had been aware of New Relic for some time, but they didn’t try implementing the solution until late 2012. In just two months, the software has already become a critical part of the Rumble environment. “We subscribe to the Chaos Monkey theory,” says Ho. “If you’re building a service, flexibility is key. You should be able to destroy any machine in your infrastructure and still keep everything running. We’ve put New Relic on every server to make that approach possible— and frankly, we should’ve been doing that from the very beginning.” For Ho, the core value of New Relic is the UI. “Collecting and instrumenting data is a solvable problem,” he says. “But delivering that information on a real time basis in a way that’s easy to consume? That’s a major differentiator.”

Another key differentiator is the ability to monitor application response time, which previous solutions simply couldn’t offer. “With open source tools like Ganglia, we had access to low-level data on CPU and memory,” says Ho. “But we couldn’t track application latency. That just doesn’t work for us, because if we’re experiencing response times as slow as 00 milliseconds, the game suffers. New Relic aggregates data on the browser, the database and the platform, making it extremely easy to spot errors. Once you spot those errors, you can plot them to when they occurred. That alone would be worth its weight in gold. But when you add in the fact that New Relic scales to aggregate statistics across a huge cluster, and retains that data for on the spot historical analysis, it’s just over the top awesome.”

Results

“New Relic is the single best tool that we’ve installed at this company, for any purpose,” says Ho. “By far. There’s no question about it.”Thanks to New Relic, Rumble can now address bugs in production at speeds that were once unthinkable. “Before using this software, investigating a bug meant poking around the server, looking at error logs, running some tests,” says Ho. “It would take a minimum of 60 to 90 minutes just to figure out what the problem was. And if the issue happened to occur in the middle of the night, it would often take much longer to diagnose, because we had no easy way to search for the log. With New Relic, we’ve cut the time required to locate a bug from one hour to a matter of seconds. It’s literally 1,000 times faster.”

Just as importantly, developers aren’t required to make a diagnosis. “New Relic is easy enough to use that people who aren’t developers can look at the data and draw meaningful conclusions,” says Ho. “This software takes application monitoring — something very difficult and important — and essentially consumerizes it so that more people can perform tasks that used to be very specialized. That saves developers from spending too much energy on troubleshooting and it helps the entire organization run more efficiently. As a result, our developers are free to spend more time making great games and less time chasing down logs.”

With the data available in New Relic, Ho and his team have the information they need to budget more accurately — an especially important consideration, considering the company’s big plans for growth. “Before New Relic, we weren’t sure how many concurrent users we could handle on a given number of servers,” he says. “Now we can quantify that. So when the CEO asks me to scale to 100,000 users, I know exactly how much budget that will require.”

Yet for all its features and functionality, the real key to New Relic’s success at Rumble may be something less quantifiable — namely, that it’s just a lot of fun to use. “I came from Apple, so I put a lot of value on UI,” says Ho. “The New Relic UI resonates emotionally with our internal teams. It’s truly fun to look at the data, to click on graphs for more information. Everything flows together beautifully. I believe that you can never underestimate the usability of things, and using New Relic is a total delight.”

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