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Why New Relic

Mature monitoring technology married to an open and extensible platform, vastly simplifying the management of application stacks

Highlights
  • In a 12 week period during a 300% growth rate, reduced WordPress stack errors by 98% and ticketpurchasing app errors to 0%; Improved average response time from 800ms to 250ms; and improved customer satisfaction by 25%
  • Developed dashboard for CFO that gives visibility into real time ticket sales
  • Unified Ticketfly metrics into a single view with the New Relic Platform, improving company visibility into an increasingly complex environment
 

Ticketfly Slashes Error Rates, Cuts Response Time and Increases Client Satisfaction with Help from New Relic Platform

Founded in 2008, Ticketfly is a data-driven ticketing and marketing platform for professional event promoters and venues in the United States and Canada. The company works with some of the most respected venues and promoters in North America, including the Brooklyn Bowl, Austin City Limits Live, the Independent in San Francisco, and the Troubadour in Los Angeles.

The Ticketfly platform provides a full suite of ticketing, mobile, social marketing, website, email, and analytics tools that streamline operations and increase ticket sales. To that end, the company recently introduced a customer analytics suite called Fanbase that gives promoters greater insight into sales, attendance, and social sharing data for driving loyalty and mobilizing influential customers.

Environment

The Ticketfly platform runs on Scala, while the application side uses a combination of Java and Grails (a Rails-like environment running on the Java virtual machine). The company embraces a hybrid cloud model, running much of its technology on private hardware for optimal response time, with overflow into the Amazon Web Services public cloud as necessary.

Ticketfly hosts hundreds of websites for individual venues in a WordPress stack. Each venue uses its WordPress site as an eCommerce frontend for guiding customers through the ticket-purchasing process. Venues also have access to a backend CRM (customer relationship management) system for creating events, reviewing analytics and identifying top customers.

Challenges

Ticketfly is growing faster than anyone in the company dared to imagine. “Year over year, we’re making triple-digit revenue gains,” says Matthew Baird, VP of Engineering. “Our board keeps laying out aggressive plans for growth and we keep beating those goals by double digits, easily.”

Of course, that rate of growth brings its own share of challenges. “As we gear up for another summer concert season, we know that our system will undergo an immense amount of stress,” says Baird. “To prepare for that, we need to achieve a 10x increase in site performance. My role is to help our team of coders prioritize their efforts so we can meet that goal.”

For Ticketfly, site performance is far from a vague ideal — it’s a business imperative. Event attendees are looking to spend their discretionary time on a first-rate experience and they have zero tolerance for slow or unresponsive systems in any part of the process. “If we mess up, that’s bad for us, but it’s even worse for the venues,” says Baird. “We provide key support to those venues. Their success is linked to ours. And the more popular we get, the more insight we need to maintain the highest levels of performance.”

Deep insight, he adds, is only possible with constant monitoring. “You want to be monitoring-centric so you can move quickly and release software quickly,” says Baird. “At Ticketfly, we pursue a continuous deployment strategy to keep pace with our growth. We release code to a few of our servers, see how it impacts our key applications and roll the changes back or forward as necessary. So we need clear visibility into system performance at all times to make that strategy work.”

“By plugging all of these technologies into the New Relic Platform, we’re able to make breakthroughs in solving our problems much faster. It’s like having an MRI of our applications, showing us a slice of data across all systems and making it easier for us to draw correlations.”

Matthew Baird VP of Engineering, Ticketfly

Solution


When Baird joined Ticketfly in January 2013, the company had already been using New Relic for nearly two years. “I was familiar with New Relic from my time at a previous company and I was glad to see that Ticketfly already had it in place,” he says. “We trust this tool. It’s been tested through millions of hours of use and it’s easily the most mature solution of its kind.”

New Relic is the main tool that Baird uses on a day-to-day basis, helping him keep a close eye on the frontend ticket-purchasing application and the backend event management application. “I look at pageviews per minute, throughput and error rates,” he says. “I also have giant monitors on our walls to help our team visualize overall performance. One monitor is a straight-up visualization of different servers. Another shows the health of our main applications. Together they serve as canaries in our coal mine, alerting us to potential issues long before those issues start affecting customers. We can see right away if we have a sudden surge in traffic and we can respond by spinning up instances in the cloud.”

By instrumenting Ticketfly’s revenue data through the New Relic dashboard, Baird is able to generate up-to-the-minute reports on sales performance. He can easily break out how many tickets the company sold, along with the latest sales trends on Ticketfly’s mobile, desktop and social channels. “I’ve created a dashboard for our CFO, giving him visibility into the ticket sales happening literally as we speak,” says Baird. “As you can imagine, it’s exciting for him to watch the company bring in millions of dollars in revenue — all in real time.”

Ticketfly also uses New Relic to supplement data from other applications. For example, Baird and his team rely on BlazeMeter to determine ratelimiting reactions in large tests — a practice that initially forced them to keep multiple windows open throughout the testing process. “We would run the test in BlazeMeter,” says Baird. “Then we would go back to New Relic and determine the source of a spike, whether it was a slow SQL query or an application server error or any number of other issues. We couldn’t get all of that information in a single interface, so our testing process was far from seamless.”

Then in March 2013, Ticketfly heard about the New Relic Platform and recognized an opportunity to simplify its testing process. The New Relic Platform stores all of Ticketfly’s favorite metrics in a single view, helping the company achieve instant visibility into an increasingly complex environment. Baird and his team can choose from a number of plugins already created by an open community of developers, or they can create their own plugins to solve unique problems. “When we installed the BlazeMeter plugin, the whole testing process became easier almost instantly,” says Baird. “We had a more comprehensive view of each test, so we didn’t have to move between applications to get the full picture. Then we started looking at other areas where we could add more information to the New Relic interface. That’s when we added plugins for our F5 load balancer, our Memcached instance and our MySQL instances.”

For Baird, the New Relic Platform is simply a no-brainer. “The New Relic Platform empowers developers,” he says. “You can easily build your own plugins to address almost any issue. And if you want to monetize or build another channel, you can use this platform for marketing and promotion. The possibilities are truly endless.”

“Most of our system components are now running error free. That’s great, because we’ve gotten rid of all the noise. We can see real issues now and increase performance by 10x through dispatching alone.”

Matthew Baird VP of Engineering, Ticketfly

Results

By using the New Relic Platform to unify multiple views within a single interface, Ticketfly isn’t just saving time. The company is achieving a deeper understanding of a broader range of data. “I believe in the concept of pre-attentive attributes,” says Baird. “When data visualization is done right, you can glance at it and see things you never noticed before, even if the data was always technically there. Maybe it just hadn’t been visualized in a way that enabled you to connect the dots quickly and completely.By plugging all of these technologies into the New Relic Platform, we’reable to make breakthroughs in solving our problems much faster. It’s like having an MRI of our applications, showing us a slice of data across all systems and making it easier for us to draw correlations.”

That level of visibility has enabled Baird and his team to achieve stunning
reductions in error rates. In just one 12 week period, errors in the
WordPress stack dropped by 98%. The ticket-purchasing application’s
error rate dropped to zero percent. Average response time got faster —
from 800 milliseconds to just 250 milliseconds. And the company achieved all of those improvements during a time of remarkable growth:
during that same 12 week period, requests jumped 300%.

“Most of our system components are now running error free,” says Baird. “That’s great, because we’ve gotten rid of all the noise. We can see real issues now and increase performance by 10x through dispatching alone. I can go into New Relic, find an issue, cut-and-paste the URL, send it to the team, and let them fix it. That way, I remain focused on identifying high level issues and the people who truly know the code can focus all of their attention on solving our most urgent problems.”

Perhaps most important of all, these improvements help Ticketfly serve customers even better. The 12 week period of massive error reduction corresponded, not coincidentally, with a significant increase in client satisfaction levels. “Our goal as an engineering organization is to deliver more than just a product,” says Baird. “We want to deliver an experience. That means, in part, that we need to be available whenever customers need us, no matter what. And that level of availability plays a major role in helping us ensure that every Ticketfly experience is a tremendous one.”

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