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Condé Nast reduces response time by 70%

Condé Nast is a premier media company attracting 95 million consumers across its industry-leading print, digital and video brands. The company’s portfolio includes some of the most iconic titles in media: Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, GQ, The New Yorker, Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Wired, Ars Technica, Style.com and others.

The company’s newest division, Condé Nast Entertainment, was launched in 2011 to develop film, television and premium digital video programming. In 2013, the corporation was recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the digital video business.

To support its U.S. dotcom properties, Condé Nast has more than 600 servers running Java, PHP, and Node.js. The U.S. websites garner approximately 800 million page views per month. For its online video platform, Condé Nast Entertainment makes use of Amazon Web Services (AWS). The group uses Ember.js and Ruby On Rails for its front-end applications.

The leap from magazines to digital content

With its heritage of developing award-winning content for its magazines, Condé Nast previously had a magazine-first strategy, with content trickling down to other forms of distribution such as the website. Now, the company has a new strategy: develop original content that takes advantage of all its distribution channels. For example, the media company’s Angry Nerd video series created for its Wired audience is accessible through multiple channels such as print and websites. Chris Handy, director of technical operations at Condé Nast, explains: “We’re now a content company rather than being simply a magazine company. It’s a big leap for us as we transform our business into a model that will take us well into the future.”

In showcasing its premium content online, Condé Nast aims to deliver the best possible experience for consumers. That requires constant vigilance for the technical operations group and a way to forestall any potential performance problems that could impact the consumer’s experience. That’s why Handy’s group began researching and evaluating application performance management tools. “We needed more control and visibility into our platform and content,” says Handy. Ultimately, the operations group chose New Relic for three main reasons: The breadth and depth of data that New Relic provides; The intuitive interface which makes it easy to use from day one; The easily understandable, actionable information provides insight for not only operations, but developers, project managers, and product managers as well. The Condé Nast Entertainment team soon followed in Handy’s footsteps. “We saw how New Relic would be critical in giving us the confidence to rapidly roll-out new video content and capabilities,” says Wilken Rivera, software engineer at Condé Nast Entertainment.

reduction in response time
< 50 millisecond
reduction in MTTR

New Relic has really given us better insight into how we can move forward effectively. I’ve lost count of the number of ah-ha moments we’ve had with New Relic.”

Bringing operations and development together

Today Condé Nast and Condé Nast Entertainment rely on application performance monitoring (APM), browser monitoring, mobile monitoring, and infrastructure monitoring. New Relic plugins help deliver premium digital content experiences that meet or exceed the company’s high standards for service levels. While New Relic was originally spearheaded by the operations team, “we immediately started bringing in our developers and showing them how to use it,” says Handy

Handy believes New Relic has fostered a greater sense of ownership within the team. Following a DevOps approach, the Condé Nast operations team and development team share a work environment and collaborate on projects. “New Relic gives operations and development a common language to work together to manage performance,” says Handy.

According to Handy, the operations and development teams use New Relic daily to review performance from the previous night as well as to monitor trends throughout the day. “We don’t have a lot of time to lose when it comes to content,” says Handy. “For example, when we released the interview with Edward Snowden, everybody was watching New Relic to make sure we could respond quickly to any performance issues. Dropping the ball on an important piece of content like that is not an option here.”

Fixing problems, even before they happen

Both Condé Nast and Condé Nast Entertainment have found many uses for New Relic. For instance, both groups use New Relic to uncover latency with any of the third-party providers the company works with. Both teams also appreciate the plugins from New Relic: “Plugins improve our visibility and make it easier to find out what’s going on with specific components within our environment,” says Handy. Condé Nast Entertainment’s Rivera likes the dashboards within New Relic: “The dashboards give us a snapshot of how everything is responding across the entire ecosystem.” His team also uses distributed tracing to pinpoint root causes of performance issues.

“With New Relic, we can see issues before they even manifest themselves,” says Rivera. “For instance, during our initial load testing of our new video platform called The Scene, New Relic identified key hotspots, which enabled us to reduce our average response time by 70%. Our SLAs are set to 50 milliseconds, but we’re far below that because New Relic is built into our development cycle.”

Another use case is the company’s video player, which is deployed by third parties as well as Condé Nast Entertainment. “We use New Relic Insights to collect overall playback errors from all the places the player is being used,” says Rivera. “We can aggregate how many times people are having certain errors and identify where to focus our resources on improving the player.”

Real-insights into users

Now Condé Nast can see how people are using its content. “We don’t get the opportunity to know how people are responding to our magazines,” says Handy. “But we can now see how someone views our website.” Handy’s group can visualize how its applications are being used, how they are being stressed, and how daily changes impact the experience. “New Relic has really given us better insight into how we can move forward effectively. I’ve lost count of the number of ah-ha moments we’ve had with New Relic.”

Because they don’t need to spend nearly as much time troubleshooting, the Condé Nast Entertainment team can focus instead on pushing out new content and capabilities. “New Relic is such an important service to have as part of our infrastructure,” says Rivera. “It has helped us reduce our mean time to resolution 60% across our entire application ecosystem, which enables us to focus on rapid, iterative development instead of spending all of our time responding to performance issues.”

“Here at Condé Nast, we’re always pushing boundaries,” says Handy. “We’re taught to be fearless, be the best, and never be afraid to go beyond what everyone else is doing.” New Relic is helping Handy, Rivera, and their teams do just that.

When we released the interview with Edward Snowden, everybody was watching New Relic to make sure we could respond quickly to any performance issues.