With over 24,000 students and four campuses, Saxion is one of the largest institutions of higher education in the Netherlands. Students can enroll in a variety of programs ranging from Associate’s Degrees to Master’s Degrees. All of these students can find course information and results in a single web application, which during peak loads experiences 149 calls per minute, or 188,000 calls per day.
Challenges: Finding Problems is Impossible
Lex Koopman, System Engineer at Saxion, is in charge of managing the performance of this application. Because the application code was written by a third party vendor, Koopman and his team often ran into difficulties troubleshooting what was essentially a blackbox application. “Whenever we have a performance problem there was always a long discussion about where the issue lay,” Koopman said. When the hardware and the database weren’t experiencing any problems, Koopman often had to go directly to the 3rd party vendor.
Saxion had monitoring tools in production but they were infrastructure focused rather than application focused. As a result, many problems simply went unsolved. “Without visibility into the application it was impossible to find the problems,” Koopman said. “We needed to be able to monitor with transaction context, not with server context, to see why user requests were slow. That’s the only way we’d be able to identify, isolate and resolve the problems.”
Solution: Visibility for Everyone
As it turned out, the 3rd party vendor was evaluating some new software to troubleshoot the performance of their application, and they recommended it to Koopman. “Our vendor tested AppDynamics and were really excited about it, and they told us it would be a great idea to implement it in our environment. So we did,” he said. “Now we’re able to tell them exactly where problems are occurring. In fact, we actually gave them access to AppDynamics so they can monitor it for themselves.”
Benefits: 20 Minutes to Root Cause
Today Saxion is able to solve performance problems much more quickly. “Now when something’s going wrong, I can tell right away which transaction is impacted along with which application tier and line of code is responsible,” he said. “We can now solve pretty much any problem within 20 minutes.”
One such problem happened a few weeks ago. “We noticed that a lot of business transactions were stalling,” Koopman said. “Soon we discovered with AppDynamics that connectivity to our Novell LDAP server for authentication was experiencing problems. This was causing many of our business transactions to stall. Without AppDynamics we wouldn’t be able to see that kind of information – we would’ve been extremely lucky to identify and isolate that LDAP was the source of the problem.”
With AppDynamics, Koopman has been able to find and solve performance problems much more easily than ever before, even for application code built by their 3rd party vendor. This has ultimately made the students’ experience with the application much better. “From the moment a student signs up for a class until they leave school, they do everything through this application,” Koopman said. “With AppDynamics we can help ensure that their user experience at Saxion is a good one.”