Privalia

Privalia Migrates to Microservices, Cuts Production Errors by 68% with AppDynamics

The leisurely world of fashion shows and sample sales has acquired a need for speed that is turning the IT teams behind leading eCommerce websites like Privalia into gurus of application performance.

Founded in 2006 in Barcelona, Privalia holds short, single-brand campaigns of three to five days that allow members in Spain, Italy, Brazil, and Mexico to buy highly desirable designer items at deep discounts, while providing brands an efficient way to close out excess inventory.

Challenges

Philippe Donon, head of the core platform and performance team at Privalia, knows that the success of a sale depends on the responsiveness of Privalia’s websites, which places an enormous responsibility on his team. “The user experience is very important in eCommerce,” Donon says. “It has a direct impact on the conversion rate.”

Privalia’s geography diversity—it is the market leader in the four countries in which it operates—created a special challenge. How could Privalia ensure a customer in Rio de Janeiro receives the same level of service as one in Milan, given the range of telecommunications providers, varying bandwidth availability, and regional traffic spikes created by country-specific sales events?

AppDynamics Business iQ shows exactly how application performance impacts business outcomes.

Solution

During the last year, Donon led two major initiatives to improve performance. He oversaw a migration to a microservices-based architecture, and he deployed AppDynamics to monitor the new cloud-based application platform. AppDynamics allows him to manage the dependencies that exist between microservices—unlike a previous application monitoring solution—and reveals the transaction flow that shows the impact each of Privalia’s applications has on other microservices.

AppDynamics Microservices iQ gives us unprecedented insight.

“We can see everything inside both our dynamic container infrastructure and the microservices running inside the containers,” he says. “AppDynamics Microservices iQ gives us unprecedented insight.”

"We use AppDynamics for monitoring PHP and Java applications, as well as our infrastructure—our databases, our servers, and our messaging systems. This allows precise control of the application platform and the ability to monitor reactions in real time,” Donon says.

The payoff? Donon not only achieved the control and speed he was seeking, he was also able to orchestrate a convergence between business and IT by providing real insight into how application performance affects key business metrics.

Increased collaboration with the business

“One of the AppDynamics features that is very, very interesting is the ability to extract data within the execution of the code in the case of a bug,” Donon explains. “In addition, this same ability lets us collect business metrics such as the total price of a shopping basket, the number of additions to the basket, and the total number of users on the platform.”

Custom-built dashboards allow the business team to stay abreast of performance issues that can affect revenue. For example, if a large number of users is not accompanied by an equal increase in basket additions that can signal possible issues in the conversion funnel.

Synthetic Monitoring gives us the confidence we will be able to identify a performance issue before it affects a customer’s experience.

“It used to be very hard for business people to get this information,” Donon says. “Now, with AppDynamics Business iQ, we have all this information in real time, and we know exactly how application performance impacts business outcomes.”

One key relationship revealed by AppDynamics is the link between load time and the number of pages viewed per session. “AppDynamics shows that a 32% reduction in load time increases the number of pages per session by 12%,” Donon says. That means customers are viewing more items. The effect on the business is higher conversion rates and rising sales,” Donon says.

To ensure that customers in Brazil, Italy, Mexico, and Spain experience similar load times, Privalia relies on a combination of Real User Monitoring and Synthetic Monitoring. Real User monitoring reveals differences in the behavior of the site in response to actual users, while Synthetic Monitoring enables Donon to run tests around the clock. “Synthetic monitoring gives us the confidence that we will be able to identify a performance issue before it affects a customer’s experience,” Donon says.

DevOps dashboards

Donon also appreciates the degree that AppDynamics has helped drive a DevOps strategy. In order to promote widespread adoption, Donon ordered customized dashboards for each development team, along with a central dashboard with all the important KPIs such as response time, errors rate, throughput, and user experience.

“Thanks to AppDynamics, all development teams are involved from the beginning to the end of the development cycle,” Donon says. “They monitor the behavior of their code in pre-production, and of course in production, once the code has been delivered. And even when we have unforeseen events in production, they are able to react very quickly and provide us with all the information so we can solve the problems as soon as possible.”

Fewer errors in production

Donon says one of his favorite AppDynamics features is the ability to compare two releases. Before deploying new code, the team carries out a load test on the current application. “Then we run exactly the same load test on the new code that we want to deliver,” Donon says. “Thanks to the “compare releases” feature, we can see if the performance is the same and measure the impact on databases and internal search engines.”

Once the code is deployed, the team relies on alerts triggered by the dynamic baseline functionality. “If we see a divergence—a 2% increase in the number of errors or a significant increase in load or response time—we can react immediately,” Donon says. “This saves us a lot of time because we do not need to set up custom metrics for each application, which would have to be updated every time an application behaved differently.”

The results add up to cleaner code. “Since deploying AppDynamics, we’ve experienced 68% fewer errors in production,” Donon says.

Positioned for growth

Looking forward, Donon says his mission is clear: “Our goal is to make the platform hold more and more simultaneous users so that the business can make more acquisitions and the company can grow,” he says. So far, he’s proud to say his team is on track. A recent AppDynamics load test analysis revealed a 325% increase in the platform’s capacity to serve simultaneous users. Privalia can safely fling open its virtual doors.