Why New Relic
Superb Ruby on Rails performance monitoring with almost immediate actionable insight into improvement opportunities
- 24X7 visibility into performance using large screen for New Relic Dashboard.
- Transaction traces pinpoint source of problems for faster action.
- New Relic part of the Zendesk fabric and used in every trouble-shooting effort.
Zendesk has a sophisticated technology stack that includes Ruby on Rails, Apache, MySQL, Nginx webservers, Unicorn, Reddis, Resque, Ruby workers, mail exim server, and SOLR. Their servers are co-located with Rackspace in Chicago. Rackspace provides them with Fusion-io solid state drives which substantially boost their IO rates. Zendesk is architected for the cloud with an open architecture that allows easy integration with the myriad of communication channels and devices used by users today including email, Facebook, Twitter, cell phones of all types, web portals, online chat, VoIP, etc. The product aggregates all the information from each customer so that a service agent sees the whole picture and history concerning an issue rather than having to view multiple locations and/or systems.
Ensuring that customers trying out the service have an excellent user experience is critical. Not only must it be easy and intuitive — the same way that the iPhone, iTunes and Facebook are — but it is equally important that the system is always available and performance is consistently stellar in every component — from the front end to the back end.
The Zendesk philosophy is to roll out new features and integrations very rapidly. With development teams in California and Denmark, the company embraces an agile development model to achieve its goals delivering rapid enhancements such as integrations with Facebook, Twitter, Windows phones, and features like benchmark reporting and real-time reporting.
With more than 65 million end users interacting with the system, the service has to be accessible from anywhere, from any device — all the time. Performance has to be rock solid. Zendesk has a published SLA of 99.9% uptime/ month, often achieving 100% uptime. Great visibility into performance issues and the ability to quickly find and resolve them is essential to keep this turbo charged team running at top speed.
“ The New Relic Dashboard is up in the office 24X7 so we notice if there is a blip in the performance. We are big users of the drill-down capabilities. Transaction traces help us figure out where things went wrong. New Relic is so ingrained in our process that every trouble shooting exercise we go through involves using the tool. It’s part of the Zendesk fabric. ”
In 2008, one of the company’s founders, Morten Primdahl, was looking for a better way to monitor, manage, and improve Zendesk performance. When he found and tried New Relic, he was astonished that he gained immediate insights into where and how the team could improve Zendesk performance. The Zendesk team never looked back.
Solving performance issues in a cloud environment that utilizes many different technologies, with a multi-tenant architecture, a sharded database architecture, and with different customers on different servers is challenging and complex. Zendesk processes some 60,000 RPM and 500K queries per minute at peak load times. New Relic gave the team an easy-to-use, intuitive tool to help them pinpoint and resolve issues quickly, rapidly becoming the backbone of Zendesk’s performance monitoring strategy. “It runs all the time, every day, constantly providing us information on how Zendesk is doing,” says Tim Sturge, Zendesk Director of Operations. “The New Relic dashboard is excellent at showing us if we have a performance problem and where is it — database, application, etc. Being able to take that information and drill down to the source is terrific.”
As Zendesk grew, they also discovered that they were moving beyond the capabilities of their initial hosting environment. They turned to Rackspace. “We worked closely with the Rackspace team to build a modern architecture that would provide the level of performance, scalability, and security we needed,” comments Zack Urlocker, Zendesk COO. “Rackspace also provided us with Fusion-io SSD’s which provides simply superb IO performance. Rackspace has a great reputation. They are known for their high availability, performance, and security. When we tell people that we are running on Rackspace, we consistently get a great response. Our customers know they are in good hands.”
Helpdesks are critical to any company’s operation. The team understands all too well that any Zendesk performance issue or outage causes their customers to suffer, so preventing issues is their first concern. The second is resolving them quickly if they do occur. Zendesk sees both New Relic and Rackspace to be best of breed providers in their respective spaces — performance monitoring and hosting platform. The two solutions complement each other, each contributing to achieving the level of availability and performance their customers have come to expect and rely on.
“The New Relic Dashboard is up in the office 24X7 so we notice if there is a blip in the performance,” says Tim Sturge. “We are big users of the drill-down capabilities. Transaction traces help us figure out where things went wrong. New Relic is so ingrained in our process that every troubleshooting exercise we go through involves using the tool. It’s part of the Zendesk fabric.”
Likewise, they find that Rackspace is a great provider and Zendesk continues to grow their investment in the solution. Rackspace’s commitment to provide outstanding support is a big plus for Zendesk, a company that knows about the support business. The Fusion-io drives have made a significant performance improvement in database IO. Traditional IO operations read about 200 items per minute. Fusion-io can read about 200K per minute allowing Zendesk to use their databases much more efficiently.
“Rackspace is an excellent partner for us,” explains Tim. “They deliver phenomenal uptime; they have good failover capabilities and their communication is outstanding. They provide us with lots of data that helps us run our operation efficiently. Most importantly, Rackspace has enabled us to rapidly expand our hardware footprint while we maintain control over what kind of services we want to deploy. We’ve been able to avoid a lot of the intricacies around network configuration and hardware management. We don’t want to have to spend our time swapping out disc drives. Providing us with Fusion-io has been a tremendous. They provide a constant level of dedicated resource, stability, performance, and security.”
At Zendesk, they see using New Relic and Rackspace® solutions as a winning combination. New Relic allows them to understand the performance characteristics of their application, to monitor performance and quickly drill down to find and resolve issues. Additionally, New Relic shows Zendesk how their application interacts with the Rackspace infrastructure underpinnings so they can achieve the most effective and efficient use of their hosting environment. Together the Rackspace hosting environment and the New Relic application performance tool creates a foundation for SaaS application success. In turn, this frees up the Zendesk team to work on application features. And, after all, that’s Zendesk’s objective — to make and deliver the best cloud-based helpdesk solution on the market.
“We worked closely with the Rackspace team to build a modern architecture that would provide the level of performance, scalability, and security we needed. Rackspace also provided us with Fusion-io SSD’s which provides simply superb IO performance. Rackspace has a great reputation. They are known for their high availability, performance, and security. When we tell people that we are running on Rackspace, we consistently get a great response. Our customers know they are in good hands.”