KCOM uses data to empower intelligent decision-making
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UK-based IT services provider KCOM helps enterprises and public sector organizations re-architect their IT infrastructures to deliver a flawless digital customer experience for customers. For many, such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, KCOM provides the infrastructure based on best practice architecture, and then manages the environment on an ongoing basis. As an AWS Premier Consulting Partner, KCOM works with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform to host mission-critical applications on behalf of its customers.
APM in the cloud
Delivering an end-to-end service for its customers, KCOM knows the importance of application performance monitoring (APM). As Steve Sell, KCOM’s cloud delivery manager, explains: "In a modern cloud infrastructure, capacity and service management are very important. Many organizations are impressed by the flexibility offered by the cloud in terms of dynamic scale control. However, with that flexibility comes complexity and a difficulty to make clear decisions. Without sophisticated monitoring, those decisions become so risky that in many cases organizations will have to operate with a substantial buffer in the running capacity of services. The buffer represents money they didn’t need to spend," says Sell.
KCOM used various tools to monitor its customers’ environments, including Nagios, Datadog, and Amazon-native monitoring solutions. However, when KCOM worked with high-speed railway service Eurostar to move its mobile booking application to AWS, the company employed a number of tools from the New Relic platform such as New Relic APM and browser monitoring for deeper visibility into both the backend and frontend. In addition, synthetics monitoring helped KCOM to run synthetic tests in order to find problems before they affected Eurostar’s customers. Wayne Stallwood, AWS practice lead for KCOM, says, "This was our customer’s first foray into the cloud and New Relic proved incredibly useful to help us pinpoint any issues along the way to final implementation. Because we could isolate the root cause of any problem we came across with New Relic, we were much quicker at identifying issues and fixing them."
Following its success with the Eurostar migration, KCOM ran a proof-of-concept to determine if New Relic could become a key part of its own reference architecture for its customers. "New Relic is far better aligned with modern, cloud-based infrastructure deployment," says Sell. "Traditional CPU, OS, or memory statistics are just not relevant anymore—they don’t tell us anything about what users are experiencing. Our customers are concerned with website transaction speeds, error rates, how the site performs, and how it responds to increased loads. Many of our solutions have multiple third parties providing components or data feeds. Without a tool to visualize all these interactions, we cannot understand where a problem originates."
When a strategic KCOM customer expanded its AWS footprint with KCOM, New Relic APM was a key part of the solution. KCOM had developed its own continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) software delivery model. With an agile development and rapid software iteration process there is always the risk of introducing performance issues. Traditional OS-level metrics may highlight a symptom but won’t give a clear indication of the cause.
Today, New Relic APM has been integrated within the release process itself to provide build and deploy markers in the code. Dashboard visualizations help the team to see in real time the full service impact when making capacity adjustments.
Early alerting and easy visualization
KCOM acts as the first line of support for key customers and triages support calls to determine where the problem is. Using a train-the-trainer model, KCOM staff are now well-versed in New Relic APM and the organization is moving toward integrating the development and deployment teams much more effectively.
According to Stallwood, KCOM’s developers are invested in New Relic because it makes their jobs easier. "In an agile development process, there isn’t much time between sprints to validate everything, and if the system slows down a tiny bit every time a new feature is introduced, the impact won’t be realized quickly enough. This is where New Relic comes in with its early alerting process and easy visualization," he says.
Intelligent data-driven decision-making
For other KCOM customers, New Relic is helpful in fine-tuning their solutions. Amazon CloudWatch is used for basic billing statistics and consolidating AWS charges; however, it doesn’t give any information on how the services are consumed so that charges can be better understood. New Relic provides the insight to empower intelligent decision-making to ensure the applications and infrastructure operate at full strength and at the right capacity. Sell concludes, "By standardizing our APM offering and making a strategic choice for New Relic, we have drastically improved our application monitoring capabilities and are able to meet our customers’ increasingly sophisticated requirements. New Relic is our go-to APM solution now and we look forward to extending our partnership with the introduction of other New Relic solutions into our reference architecture."