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Using New Relic APM’s scalability analysis, we estimate we can save around £5,000 ($7,800 USD) a month in hosting costs by scaling down our instances to the right size.

Andrew Brockway
Head of Infrastructure and Operations at Confused.com

In 2002, Confused.com launched the first price comparison website for car insurance in the United Kingdom. In doing so, it disrupted a market that was traditionally difficult for consumers to navigate, offering a simplified process for finding great insurance quotes. Today the company offers a wide range of trusted household names for car insurance, home insurance, gas, electricity and other utilities, holiday and travel insurance, pet insurance, caravan insurance, and money products such as credit cards, savings and life insurance.

Keeping up with the cloud’s pace of change

Agility, cost control, and flexibility were the key business drivers behind Confused.com’s decision to move to the public cloud. While the company was able to realize these benefits and more with Microsoft Azure, it also ran into some challenges from a monitoring perspective.

“We had a bit of a patchwork quilt of monitoring solutions,” says Andrew Brockway, head of infrastructure and operations at Confused.com. “This was fine when we were hosting on premise in a dedicated data center because we had a much smaller footprint. But since we went to Azure, we found those solutions were a bit cumbersome. They couldn’t keep up with the rate of change in terms of how the platform evolves and how the changes that we deploy evolve.”

In addition to keeping up with a dynamic environment, Confused.com also needed a way to keep technical and non-technical teams on the same page. Non-technical stakeholders involved in product development projects, for example, didn’t have a simple way to get answers to their questions. “They weren’t empowered to get the data for themselves, and felt left out of the overall process,” says Graham Schultz, head of product development at Confused.com.

The company needed a way to not only consolidate its monitoring tools, but also give non-technical teams a way to understand how technical changes are impacting what they’re trying to do from a business perspective.

Better visibility leads to better collaboration and performance

During Confused.com’s cloud migration to Azure, Microsoft recommended taking a look at New Relic for their monitoring needs. Not only did New Relic offer seamless integration with Azure, but it also met the exact criteria that Confused.com was looking for. Not long after an initial proof of concept, everyone was convinced that the visibility, ease of use, and knowledge-sharing capabilities that New Relic provided was their answer.

Confused.com solved its initial challenge of simplifying and consolidating its view of application performance with New Relic application performance monitoring (APM). “Once we got New Relic, we didn’t need to worry about hosting our own monitoring system, and we didn’t need to worry about trying to stitch together a disparate view of system health and how things are operating,” says Brockway. “Now we know we can just log into the browser, we can get a good view of the application performance and what it means in terms of a technical context.”

In addition to APM, Confused.com uses New Relic browser monitoring, dashboards, synthetics to get an end-to-end view into the health of its systems. Not only is the team able to see right into the line of code with APM features like transaction traces and thread profiling, but it can see greater context behind browser-side performance as well.

Says Chris Lewis, head of website development for Confused.com, about New Relic browser monitoring, “We now have a much better way of reacting to whether a customer is having issues on the site because of JavaScript errors or due to slow page load times.” The New Relic platform has been invaluable in helping the company adopt more of a DevOps mindset. “I find the deployment reports feature in New Relic to be particularly useful because it allows us to evaluate the success or failure of deployments against each other in a very quick way, which can also be understood by non-technical users,” says Schultz, noting that Confused.com typically releases new code to production up to 15 times a week. For the first time in Confused.com’s history, developers are looking at operational issues, helping shift the company forward in its DevOps transformation.

Translating lines of code into pound signs

With a more simplified view into application performance, one of the immediate benefits Confused.com has enjoyed is faster mean time to resolution. “Before we started using New Relic, in many cases it would take me days to diagnose an issue, whereas now that kind of exercise takes me mere minutes,” says Lewis.

In addition to saving time, the Confused.com team is also finding ways to save money. “Using New Relic APM’s scalability analysis, we estimate we can save around £5,000 ($7,800 USD) a month in hosting costs by scaling down our instances to the right size,” says Brockway.

Not only has New Relic helped Confused.com improve collaboration and communication between Dev and Ops, but also between technical and nontechnical, business teams. “We use New Relic dashboards when engaging with non-technical stakeholders to help explain how the changes we’re making on the product side are impacting the business,” says Schultz. “The product is so easy to use, they’re creating their own dashboards, and of course loving the fact they can get answers to their questions in real time.

“We’ve now drawn a line between the lines of code and a pound sign. That’s something we’ve strived to do for a long time, and with tools like New Relic we can now make the connection," says Brockway.