Tracking performance as cloud deployment expands
IGN.com has been using the New Relic tools for about 18 months. It started out by moving non-production development and other applications to the cloud to see how things worked. Now IGN.com is putting some new projects onto cloud servers, including a social media stack, so the company can ramp up applications and scale them as needed, Ting says. Also being slated for placement in the cloud is the network's disaster recovery infrastructure.
"It could eventually all go to the cloud," Ting says of the company's IT systems. "Performance stability would have to be more certain in the future for us to do that, but we're watching that."
The monitoring from New Relic provides performance metrics IGN couldn't get when it was using other tools, he says. The old tools "did OK for physical machine monitoring, but didn't do application stack monitoring at all without a lot of work from the engineering team."
By watching the New Relic management tools, IT workers can spin up more cloud-based servers, bring down poorly performing instances of applications, then add new instances as needed to keep up response times for users, he says. With the previous tools, Ting's team would obtain insights only into uptime, not response time.
"New Relic gave us tremendous visibility into the response time," which allows IT staffers to take actions on servers even when the servers are running, Ting explains. For example, "we have found instances where one memcached server performed much worse than others in the pool. Upon further investigation, we found one of the memory modules to be defective. In the Nagios world, that server would be running in the pool until it dies."
IGN.com is using Amazon's EC2 for its forays into the cloud today, Ting says.
With New Relic, IGN.com can watch over all the parts of its three-tiered architecture, from its front end to its databases to its API tier. The management tools help ensure that user response times stay optimal and don't spike.
"We can look at what's running on the cloud" using plug-ins that collect data and send all the analytics back to the New Relic tools, Ting says. "They give you very detailed reporting on how the server group is performing," he adds.
"The amount of data and the precision of the data is tremendous," Ting says. "This is where we can start looking at the metrics and be able to make intelligent business decisions with it."
In addition to moving its IT infrastructure, IGN.com has been exploring the cloud to host many of its more than 100 websites for increased performance and uptime, Ting says. The main sites include IGN.com, Askmen.com, Gamespy.com, Fileplanet.com, Teamxbox.com and Gamestats.com.
So far, the trials have been looking positive, Ting says. "We've got some infrastructure pieces moving out into the cloud," he notes. "It's in the experimental stage right now, and we're checking performance."
Using a variety of tools
Bleacher Report, an online publisher of fan newsletters about professional and college sports, also quickly found out about the importance of performance monitoring after it moved its core infrastructure to the cloud a year ago.
Sam Parnell, vice president of technology for the San Francisco-based business, says his firm was concerned about potential performance problems -- including possible latency issues -- as it worked to scale up for its 20 million unique users and 500 million page views per month. To prevent bottlenecks, he brought in a host of tools to monitor and manage the new cloud environment for the ad-supported sites.