Getting to the Root of Swisscom Application Performance

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Here’s a guest blog from one of AppDynamics’ international partners, Stefan Zoltai from sysPerform. Stefan wanted to write about how he used AppDynamics to solve a performance problem for a major telecom company in Switzerland—and we said, sure!  Take it away, Stefan…

I’d like to talk about how we used AppDynamics for a major production troubleshooting exercise—and how AppDynamics passed with flying colors.

Swisscom is the leading telecommunications company in Switzerland with about 5.7 million mobile customers and 1.8 million broadband connections. Swisscom is present on the Swiss market with a full portfolio of wireless, wire- and IP-based data and voice-based communication services.

Swisscom’s (Internet) Messaging had engaged sysPerform to assist with the analysis of their Tomcat 6 / Java 1.6 based WebMail application. WebMail has been under scrutiny for about a year now—ever since it manifested both performance and stability problems. Prior analysis efforts, conducted with a number of available tools, did not lead to the determination of the actual root cause(s) since the aforementioned problems only occurred in production under load and could not be reproduced in other environments. WebMail is rated at a throughput of 300 tx/sec.

We realized immediately that without a deep, detailed view into the application’s runtime, in production and under load, we would not be able to determine the actual root cause.

To analyze the application, we selected AppDynamics’ application performance management solution.  Since this solution has been developed specifically for high throughput, distributed production environments, we were able to obtain a high-level overview of the application as well as conduct a deep root cause analysis down to code-level execution without generating measurable overhead. Again, we did all of this at 300 transactions per second of throughput.

Thanks to AppDynamics’ ability to create a dynamic baseline of application performance, we were able to isolate the major bottlenecks on the first day and discuss a solution with the developers at Swisscom.  We were able to quickly learn the application’s performance and stability characteristics — and after only 5 days of development, we deployed a specific, major fix to address the main issue and massively improve performance.  At the moment, we are continuing our analysis efforts since stability and performance are the focus of an ongoing quality process.

[UPDATE: For Swisscom’s perspective on the use of AppDynamics, check out Mika Borner’s blog]

This example clearly demonstrates that operating a modern, distributed application without an adequate monitoring solution is effectively the same as “flying blind.” 60%-80% of all performance problems are caused by the application itself, and need to be analyzed from the inside out. We can confirm these numbers from many of other engagements with similar customers. External causes like hardware or network issues have become increasingly rare; it’s the problems deep inside the application that truly matter.

Intelligent application performance management however is not a means to itself, but must be evaluated in terms of economical considerations as well. Our experience indicates that an APM solution shows an ROI within just a few months. Among the reasons for such a quick ROI is the aforementioned extremely fast root cause analysis.

If you’re reading this in Switzerland, feel free to contact me with questions!

— Stefan Zoltai, Founder, SysPerform GmbH