Charter Communications

Charter Communications Drives Digital Transformation While Delivering Outstanding Performance and Customer Experience With AppDynamics

Charter Communications, Inc., is the fourth-largest cable operator in the United States, serving more than six million customers in 28 states with video, internet, and telephone services for home and business; it is a Fortune 500 company with 23,000 employees.

Charter’s products are 100 percent digital, and its software stack includes a number of interactive websites, streaming apps and other product apps for customers, and a host of applications that support customer accounts and manage backend operations. Performance of these applications is critical to Charter’s success — so much so that performance and availability issues are considered worse for the company than cable outages.

Challenges: Develop, deliver, delight

Charter faces a trio of daunting challenges. First in importance, driving improvements in customer experience at every opportunity is a competitive imperative. To do so, the IT team is perennially in development, deploying new code daily, so the pressure is constant to make sure new releases work as intended and don’t break anything. Finally, finding and resolving issues in production applications is an ongoing challenge. Accomplishing these goals prior to the deployment of AppDynamics was a catch-as-catch-can process involving a good deal of detective work.

“Most of the telemetry that we had prior to AppDynamics was red-yellow-green,” said Jeff Gutterman, vice president of IT infrastructure at Charter. “It would give you an indication that there was a problem, but wouldn’t really point you in the right direction. It would require additional troubleshooting and investigation through the logs to pinpoint the problem, which takes some time.”

To get to the root cause of an issue, Charter employed a combination of custom scripts, log file analysis, and individual tools specific to particular applications or databases. There was no single solution to monitor health and performance across their application ecosystem, and no way to quickly zero in on issues or trouble spots. And the only issues ever found were the ones they were looking for— there was no way to identify other unrelated or low-level issues until they became bigger, potentially more damaging problems.

We looked at some of the other solutions around and nothing came close to what AppDynamics is already doing.

Solution: Unified Monitoring, from user to datacenter

Charter employs a Unified Monitoring solution from AppDynamics that includes Application Performance Management (APM) and End-User Monitoring (EUM) for desktop and mobile, in the data center and in the cloud, as well as database monitoring. As with every digital business, Charter finds mobile playing a bigger and bigger role as more users consume content and manage their accounts from their mobile devices.

AppDynamics solutions are deployed to monitor and manage a significant and growing portion of Charter’s consumer-facing and internal applications, both in development and in production. Approximately 150–200 Charter team members utilize AppDynamics APM and EUM for troubleshooting, proactively managing application performance and customer experience, and improving the overall quality of their applications. Together, these solutions help Charter execute on their goals around digital transformation.

“The type of development Charter produces is very customized. It’s advanced, it’s new technology, it’s stuff that has never been done before,” Gutterman said. “What you’re seeing as you sit at home and watch TV, and as you surf the internet, and as you talk on the phone, are all supported by AppDynamics in some way. Monitoring the databases, the Web services, the things that populate customer entitlements — this generates important information, and to get that information delivered to you quickly is key. We have a lot of mobile applications now and they require you to connect information and integrate it from other sources. With AppDynamics, you can keep an eyeball on all the sources.”

Mean time to resolution would probably be the biggest value. If you have things setup right, certainly you can cut your time by more than half with AppDynamics in place for troubleshooting.

Benefits: Better apps, faster troubleshooting, intelligent reporting

Charter’s most visible, and perhaps most valuable, use case in production is getting to root cause and resolving performance issues quickly.

“The biggest savings is the time to troubleshoot,” Gutterman said. “That’s your biggest bang for your buck. AppDynamics has assisted in that area quite considerably. Mean time to resolution would probably be the biggest value. If you have things setup right, certainly you can cut your time by more than half with AppDynamics in place for troubleshooting.”

On the development side, AppDynamics gives teams confidence to push their applications to the next level, knowing that the solution helps deliver improved functionality and performance.

“We are constantly in development and deploying new code every day,” Gutterman said. “AppDynamics gives us the ability to identify problems with accepting the code before we go to production. We can see things that will cause problems, and even after you deploy it, you can see what the environmental differences are, and see where a problem is actually happening. It has saved us huge amounts of time identifying problems.”

Gutterman cited a number of other advantages AppDynamics delivers for Charter, including ease of deployment, intuitive interfaces that make team adoption effortless, and solid reporting and analytics that are easy to share with leadership. His favorite feature is transaction snapshots that let him adjust the time window and see exactly when and how a transaction went south.

It adds up to AppDynamics being the best solution to meet the needs of a fast-paced, fully digital, customer-centric company like Charter.

“We looked at some of the other solutions around and nothing came close to what AppDynamics is already doing,” Gutterman said. “I’m a happy customer and I wouldn’t just say that. We’ve had a lot of IT vendors over the years, and this one, AppDynamics, has great value for us.”

Learn more about what AppDynamics can do for your company.

It has saved us huge amounts of time identifying problems.