Priceline.com

World-leading travel website navigates transactions end-to-end with AppDynamics

The Priceline Group is the world leader in online travel, serving consumers and partners through five primary brands: Booking.com, priceline.com, agoda.com, KAYAK and rentalcars.com. The Priceline Group provides online travel services in more than 200 countries in Europe, North America, South America, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa. In the U.S., Priceline.com gives leisure travelers multiple ways to save on their airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, vacation packages and cruises.

Challenge: Homegrown tools limited ability to monitor performance

Millions of people visited Priceline.com each year in search of discount airfares and hotel rooms. They expected the website to deliver precise information without delay—and if it didn't, they'd surf to a competitor. To retain customers and keep them coming back, Priceline.com made performance a top priority for its multi-tier web application.

As transaction volume continued to grow, the company wanted to ensure a positive end user experience by accelerating mean time to resolution (MTTR) for common problems, correlating user requests with business transactions and maintaining a consistent view of performance across its multi-tiered environment. But Priceline's homegrown monitoring solution and assortment of third-party tools couldn't support these goals.

“Our in-house monitoring solutions gave us only limited ability to visualize and trace transactions,” explains Giri Nathan, Vice President of Engineering and Priceline.com. “We also weren't satisfied with our level of visibility into our custom container.”

Low-overhead solution for a high-volume environment

Focusing on several key requirements, Priceline.com evaluated application performance management (APM) solutions. Because of its high-volume environment, any solution needed to run with low overhead. Priceline.com required the visibility to trace calls and distributed transactions as well as trigger diagnostics automatically whenever there was a policy violation. The company also wanted to be able to measure performance changes from a central location and capture statistical information from its in-house custom applications.

With these needs in mind, Priceline.com evaluated the AppDynamics APM solution in a rigorous proof of concept.

Right from the start, they've been willing to listen to our specific technology requirements. In some cases, they have even become a virtual member of our triage team. For these reasons, I strongly recommend AppDynamics to friends and colleagues.

Nathan immediately liked what he saw. The AppDynamics platform validated an overhead rate of less than 1 percent, provided a distributed transaction view and deep diagnostic approach and stood up to load and stability tests. AppDynamics also exceeded Priceline.com's expectations for vendor responsiveness.

“During the proof of concept, we asked for two things the AppDynamics product didn't already have: transaction correlation over JBoss RMI, and an API to instrument our custom container,” says Nathan. “I was amazed when the AppDynamics engineering team turned around both of these requests in less than one month. Their responsiveness was as big a factor as anything else in convincing us that AppDynamics was the right choice.”

Zeroing-in on problems reduced MTTR and improved site performance

Priceline.com's support agents and engineers used the AppDynamics platform to monitor performance across its highly distributed application, zeroing in on the exact lines of code that were causing problems. By using the platform to dynamically discover and instrument its distributed application, Priceline gained an end-to-end view of its business transactions.

The AppDynamics solution's fast, easy implementation gave Priceline.com the flexibility to deploy it in both its staging and full production environments.

AppDynamics increases our agility by letting us instrument new code on the fly. We can monitor everything from servlets and Enterprise JavaBeans entry points to JDBC exit points, which gives us an end-to-end view of our transactions.

Every month, Priceline.com pushes about 2,500 new builds into production. In this agile environment, keeping up with manual instrumentation would have been impossible.

“The AppDynamics APM solution increases our agility by letting us instrument any new code on the fly,” says Nathan. “We can monitor everything from servlets and Enterprise JavaBeans entry points to JDBC exit points, which gives us an end-to-end view of our transactions.”

Using the AppDynamics solution, Priceline.com made major improvements in two key areas: reducing MTTR and analyzing trends. Because support agents and engineers could examine the code closely, they proactively addressed slow SQL responses, slow business transaction responses, stalls and hangs, out of memory errors and other common issues. Meanwhile, Priceline.com's support agents analyzed trends with an eye for spotting specific changes in the company's configurations, hardware, software and code.

“The AppDynamics platform gives us an eagle-eye view for slow-running methods and queries,” says Nathan. “It also provides historical data, so we can get a baseline for normal performance and then trigger diagnostics if there's a major deviation.”

“AppDynamics APM is ideal for our high-volume, distributed environment,” Nathan explains. “Right from the start, they've been willing to listen to our specific technology requirements. In some cases, they have even become a virtual member of our triage team. For these reasons, I strongly recommend AppDynamics to friends and colleagues.”