Overstock.com

Overstock.com selects AppDynamics to monitor popular retail website

Overstock.com is a discount online shopping retailer that sells a broad range of products including furniture, rugs, bedding, electronics, clothing, jewelry and cars. The Nielsen State of the Media: Consumer Usage Report placed Overstock.com among the top five most visited mass merchandiser websites in 2011. The NRF Foundation/American Express 2011 Customer Choice Awards ranked Overstock.com in customer service among all U.S. retailers.

Challenge: Massive website with frequent deployments required more visibility

“Overstock.com has millions of customers; we do over a billion dollars in revenue a year,” said Neil Hartner, Senior Architect at Overstock.com. “Our customers expect fast response times, and we work hard to ensure that we're the fastest retail site on the Internet.” Hartner worked with the development staff to determine the architecture and improve the performance of the website, ensuring it was as fast as possible.

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“One of the key challenges we face at Overstock.com is being able to deploy our website rapidly—we like to deploy every two weeks—and we also like our site to be responsive and fast,” said Hartner. With rapidly changing content on a large scale, managing site performance was challenging without quick access to the right information.

When Overstock.com had performance problems, Hartner and his team had to dig through log files and code profilers. “We had problems with only using log files: if we weren't logging the right things, we couldn't find the problem,” Hartner said. “Log files also don't scale well when you have thousands or millions of log messages coming through?and you also don't have the context you need to figure out: ‘This log message, what request did it belong to?'”

The AppDynamics platform provided intuitive insight into website performance

Overstock.com decided an application performance management (APM) solution would make it easier to monitor performance. Hartner and his team came up with some success criteria in order to find the right solution.

One of the benefits is that our root-cause analysis time has gone from days or hours down to minutes.


“The solution needed to be fast, have low overhead and be ‘always-on' so that it could be running in production or our staging environment—wherever we wanted to deploy it,” said Hartner. He added, “It needed to provide the context so we could have fast root-cause analysis, and it needed to be usable by both development and operations staff.” 

With these criteria, Overstock.com was able to eliminate several solutions. “So quickly we whittled it down to a handful of vendors,” said Hartner. “Some of them were too expensive so we threw them out.” The AppDynamics solution not only met but, in some areas, exceeded Overstock.com's criteria?while also remaining cost-effective. 

“What we found with the AppDynamics platform is that we were up and running much faster,” said Hartner. “We found that the Operations team had a much easier time using the tool; it was much more intuitive. We also found that the overhead was slightly less, which we liked.”

MTTR reduced from days to minutes

One of the immediate benefits of the AppDynamics solution was reduced MTTR. “When we've had a problem, the root-cause analysis time has in some cases gone from days or hours down to minutes,” said Hartner. 

In addition, Overstock.com used the AppDynamics solution across the organization. “I think it's a great tool for both development and operations,” said Hartner. “For the ops team, there are great dashboards to show you real time how the system is performing. For developers, the AppDynamics platform provides a great way to find performance problems.”

For the ops team, there are great dashboards to show you real time how the system is performing. For developers, the AppDynamics platform provides a great way to find performance problems.

He added, “I myself am a developer by background, and I find that the AppDynamics solution has everything I look for?I can look at call stacks to see exactly what code is being executed, I can see SQL calls so I can see queries that are being run and how long they're taking to execute, and I can see web services that are being called.”

“I'd recommend the AppDynamics platform to anyone running a public website where you need to know what's happening,” continued Hartner. “You want to know in real time how things are performing—and when there are problems, you need to quickly figure out where the problems are.”