"There is no one tool that does everything for us," Parnell says. "We use a variety of tools at different levels that give us a comprehensive monitoring suite. So far there haven't been latency issues, but we have used them to optimize various parts of the system."
The company's toolbox includes Scout, a server-level tool that allows IT staffers to see what loads look like on master and slave databases, as well as CPU utilization and memory consumption on servers, he says. The monitoring is done using agents that run on the cloud servers and report back with alerts and status data.
Also used are monitoring tools from Nagios Enterprises and open-source tools from Monit.
"There's certainly a good amount of overlap to these tools, but they all have things that each does well, which is why we use them together," Parnell says.
Bleacher Report also uses pinging tools from Pingdom to ensure that its various sites are up and running and performing well in the cloud.
In every case of monitoring, 100% uptime and fast page response is critical, according to Parnell. "If people aren't able to get to the website and see the advertising, then we're losing money."
The company also uses New Relic for application performance monitoring so the IT staff can get performance insights into which pages are running fast or slowly, memory consumption and CPU usage.
Watching in real time
The monitoring data arrives in real time on screens that his staffers are constantly watching, Parnell says.
The key, he notes, is to monitor with a wide range of products so you can get as much information as quickly as possible to make fixes when problems arise. "In general, I'd prefer to err on this side of too much data than not enough," he says. "New Relic does a great job of surfacing the important information in a dashboard so you don't have to wade through data. That helps when you want to take a quick look at what is going on."
To watch the performance in real time, Parnell's team uses several large monitors that constantly cycle through different reports so they can be watched all day by team members. "We aren't digging through this all day every day, but we do monitor for things [that] look out of the ordinary," Parnell explains. "All of these tools do give us deep data when we do need to dig deeper."
The monitor screens are watched mostly by a team of lead engineers, particularly when new features are being deployed or around times of high load.
Another major point to remember, Parnell says, is that cloud environments and cloud monitoring are still in their infancy. IT departments need to be flexible, finding and using cloud monitoring tools but still looking for new ones that could be even better, he says.
"We've only been using Scout for five or six months and it's working really well now, but in five months it could be something else" that does the job better, Parnell says. "You need to keep your finger on the pulse of the market so you can follow new tools. There are new companies popping up all the time."
Another thing to remember, he says, is that you have to constantly monitor the servers provided by your cloud vendor to be sure you always have the best-performing units.
It's one of the biggest benefits of using a cloud, Parnell says. "With a cloud, you can just ditch a slow server and get another one through your control panel."
The monitoring tools are also used in-house to improve the development of new website features aimed at Bleacher Report readers.