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Why New Relic

Granular insight into application performance, all the way down to the OS level

Highlights
  • Improved application response time by nearly 90% in a matter of months
  • Saved tens of thousands of dollars in hosting costs for sharing up-to-the-minute performance data
  • Enabled major return on the New Relic investment within the first year of use

Wellcentive Cuts Application Response Time by Nearly 90% with Help from New Relic

Wellcentive specializes in population health management. The company’s cloud-based solutions enable hospital systems and provider networks to run detailed, longitudinal analytics across siloed EMR systems, ultimately increasing efficiency, improving profitability, and delivering the best-possible care.

Meeting SLAs at a Time of Exponential Growth

Wellcentive is on an exponential growth curve—and every time the company acquires a new customer, its environment grows more complex. “We can’t have a single OLTP database for all of our customers,” explains Drew Borland, Director of Architecture and Research at Wellcentive. “That’s a HIPAA compliance concern for us, so we segment each customer’s data to avoid cross-pollination.”

Hiring more system admins wasn’t the solution to Wellcentive’s complex environments. Wellcentive needed people who not only had strong development backgrounds, but who could also look into application profiles and address performance issues. In short, the company needed to create a DevOps team.

Meanwhile, Wellcentive began searching for the right performance monitoring tool to optimize its DevOps efforts. Team members tried out a couple of different options—but those solutions provided less visibility than Wellcentive required.

As part of Borland’s implementation of DevOps practices, he established a weekly service-level agreement (SLA) meeting to review performance metrics. “Our goal was to have every page on our system respond in under three seconds,” he says. “That’s where New Relic came in.”

“With New Relic, we’re able to get a perspective on our performance data that we simply didn’t have before, all the way down to the OS level. New Relic immediately solved a lot of our business needs.”

Drew Borland Director of Architecture and Research, Wellcentive

Gaining Unprecedented Visibility Down to the OS Level

“With New Relic, we’re able to get a perspective on our performance data that we simply didn’t have before, all the way down to the OS level,” says Borland. “New Relic immediately solved a lot of our business needs.”

Today, the Wellcentive team relies on New Relic APM to monitor all of its JBoss application servers. Apache and MySQL plugins from New Relic Platform offer comprehensive visibility into server and database performance within the New Relic dashboard.

Wellcentive also uses New Relic Insights to determine the origin of emerging issues, whether those problems originate on the network, the application server, or the database. “Logs can’t give you that kind of information,” says Borland. “But with Insights, we can run an ad hoc query and immediately see where we should be looking. Then we have an engineer use the APM tool to dig into the code and fix the problem.”

Wellcentive depends on data from New Relic to inform its SLA meetings. Borland and his team have high standards for quality and application performance. “We’re always looking at performance data in real time,” says Borland. “In fact, we have a 55-inch TV screen displaying response-time data all day long. Everyone on our DevOps team knows exactly how important those numbers are.” Borland’s team also uses New Relic Insights to track real-time performance page load times. Their dashboards include histograms and charts that show response times, SLA misses, and page load times for individual apps, which makes it faster and easier to prevent or fix problems before they turn into a major issue.

“We capture more than 15 million patient records a day, so we have an appreciation for how much data New Relic Insights receives, and how little latency we experience. Because it consistently delivers that level of speed and performance, we’re able to use real-time information to dramatically cut the response time of every application across our system.”

Drew Borland Director of Architecture and Research, Wellcentive

A Dramatic Return on Investment in a Matter of Months

Within its first year of using New Relic, Wellcentive made deep cuts in average application response time, dropping from four seconds to half a second—nearly a 90% improvement. “One of the things that impresses me the most about New Relic is how quickly it churns through terabytes of information,” says Borland. “We capture more than 15 million patient records a day, so we have an appreciation for how much data New Relic Insights receives, and how little latency we experience. Because it consistently delivers that level of speed and performance, we’re able to use real-time information to dramatically cut the response time of every application across our system.”

As a result, Wellcentive can identify issues at the virtualization layer even faster than its hosting provider. “These days, our hosting provider sees us more like a partner than a customer,” says Borland. “We’re the canary in their coalmine—able to alert them, hold them accountable, and help them solve problems. And because we’re able to provide them with such valuable data, we’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars in hosting costs.”

Wellcentive also hopes to use New Relic Insights to assess how new releases and versions of their software impact performance and usability, and to track end-to-end user activity across their applications. “As we develop new features, we’ll want to capture usage patterns,” says Borland. “We plan to use Insights for that post-feature creation business analysis. In doing so, I want to make sure that we’re using the strength of our tools to help all of our teams, not just IT.”

As the company continues to grow at an astonishing rate, one of Borland’s frustrations is that he has so little time to explore New Relic further to gain even more value. “If I could add just one person to our DevOps team,” he says, “it would be a dedicated Java expert who simply stares at New Relic all day. The return on investment is already so great that I’m willing to invest an entire employee to immerse themselves in it.”

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