Paychex

Optimizing Payroll Processing: AppDynamics Unified Monitoring Pays off for Paychex

Paychex, Inc. is a leader in the payroll, human resource and benefits outsourcing industry. The company offers customized payroll processing, retirement services, insurance and a fully outsourced human resource solution. These services are increasingly provided via web-based self-service applications. Paychex is known for simplifying payroll and benefits administration though efficient service delivery for customers of every size, making application updates and performance optimization a critical requirement. 

Challenge: Too many tools and poor visibility

With a growing services portfolio, Paychex is heavily involved in creating and updating applications. The company needed a tool to streamline troubleshooting during application development and testing, as well as a better way to monitor application performance during live operations. According to Jason Briggs, Monitoring Engineering Manager at Paychex, “We typically have a new code release three times a week. Application performance needs to be optimized during the development process and we need to quickly troubleshoot any application issues during and following a release.” Paychex wants to significantly increase the frequency of software updates, with an ultimate goal of updating code multiple times per day.

Briggs manages an engineering team responsible for all monitoring systems that support Paychex customer-facing applications and internal infrastructure. “We frankly had too many tools, and some of them weren’t performing to our expectations. For example, every time there was a release, our script would break in our previous monitoring software. In addition, we didn’t have the visibility we needed. The tools wouldn’t go deep enough into the code,” informs Briggs.  

In early 2014, Paychex began evaluating the three leading solutions as listed in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring (APM). Candidates included AppDynamics, Riverbed Technology and Compuware. Paychex development teams provided Briggs with an APM requirements wish-list, which initially exceeded 100 capabilities. After prioritizing the list, Paychex brought in the three APM solutions for an onsite “bakeoff.”

Solution: Simplified monitoring, management, and optimization of complex software environments

After a 2-week hands-on review of the solutions, AppDynamics came out on top. “Not only did AppDynamics have more capabilities, our research indicated it was more flexible and the company had a reputation for excellent support,” states Briggs. 

AppDynamics APM simplifies monitoring, management and optimization of complex software environments. This real-time application monitoring solution:

  • Traces transactions end-to-end across distributed applications, providing code-level visibility into production performance problems
  • Provides a single pane of glass and real-time visibility to developers, operations and executives
  • Helps eliminate code bottlenecks, memory leaks, slow database queries, infrastructure bottlenecks, slow third-party web services, and improves the end-user experience

AppDynamics replaced 5 tools we once used to try to troubleshoot application problems. Today, everyone goes to AppDynamics to quickly determine the root cause of the issue.

“AppDynamics replaced five tools we once used to try to troubleshoot application problems. Today, everyone goes to AppDynamics to quickly determine the root cause of the issue,” shared Briggs.

Benefits: The best tool with an even better support team

AppDynamics began delivering value from the start by quickly helping Paychex determine which service models comprised its business applications. Briggs recalls his first experience with AppDynamics’ “remarkable visibility.” “Once you start instrumenting, AppDynamics shows everything that’s connected within your whole environment on the flow map. It lets you look deep into the code. Our previous APM tools couldn’t do that. For example, we could never see Java Virtual Machine (JVM) Heap activity. Now we can observe JVM performance and make sure the proper amount of memory is allocated. That’s helped out a lot. And unlike our previous tools, AppDynamics doesn’t break scripts and it automatically picks up changes without manual intervention.”

Paychex currently hosts 15 Java and .NET applications which run on approximately 2,400 Windows servers and 3,000 Linux servers. In a growing environment, capacity planning and proactive application performance monitoring are essential. Briggs also looks forward to using the analytics capabilities in the new release of AppDynamics to better predict JVM performance needs.

In addition, AppDynamics has also improved utilization of the company’s engineering and troubleshooting resources. “Every time we have a client-impacting issue, we assemble a Red Team of operational personnel from our network group, Unix group and middleware group. AppDynamics helps us figure out exactly who needs to be involved and has helped us resolve issues much more quickly,” explains Briggs.

It didn’t take Briggs long to put AppDynamics’ support staff to the test. “Everyone customer that I interviewed raved about AppDynamics’ technical support. Now, I do too. I’ve called our AppDynamics Technical Account Manager at 2:00 a.m. during a deployment to figure out an issue. Our support from AppDynamics has been awesome!”

I’ve called our AppDynamics Technical Account Manager at 2:00 a.m. during a deployment to figure out an issue. Our support from AppDynamics has been awesome!

Paychex understands the value training plays in getting the most from its APM investment.  To date, approximately 100 people within Paychex’ development organization and about the same number in the operations organization have participated in AppDynamics on-site training. “I have 12 engineers on my team, but I don’t want to turn them into trainers—that’s not what they do, and they have other priorities. AppDynamics training helps DevOps and system operations people do their jobs much more efficiently, so it’s not surprising they gave the training sessions fantastic reviews,” recalls Briggs.

Paychex has also replaced another third-party vendor tool with AppDynamics Browser Real User Monitoring to optimize the web experience. According to Briggs, the solution, “shows a user transaction from start to finish, and is just a lot more detailed and flexible than our previous tool. The reporting is much more user-friendly.

When asked which type of company would benefit most from AppDynamics, Briggs quickly stated, “I recommend AppDynamics to any company that has customer-facing online applications. I tell all my friends in IT how much success we’re having with AppDynamics—and why they need to look at it.” 

[AppDynamics Browser Real User Monitoring] shows a user transaction from start to finish, and is just a lot more detailed and flexible than our previous tool. The reporting is much more user-friendly.

In addition to using AppDynamics APM and Browser Real User Monitoring, Paychex is also evaluating the AppDynamics Database Monitoring solution. 

I recommend AppDynamics to any company that has customer-facing online applications. I tell all my friends in IT how much success we’re having with AppDynamics—and why they need to look at it.