Interview with a Large, U.S.-Based Retailer: A Case Study Q&A

The interview below shows how AppDynamics’ analytics can combine with ease of deployment and administration to adapt to ongoing conditions of change and demand in a DevOps context. 

Would you describe your role and your organization?

“I am the senior manger in our performance team. We test and evaluate all application projects that are in pre-production and certify when they are ready for production. As such we work with development—running load tests and other tests to validate when they’re production-ready. We also do production-level performance monitoring for our back-end order management system, which is based off an IBM platform. In terms of people, our performance management team is about 30 people in the U.S. and India, but all the applications are hosted in the U.S.” 

Can you say more about the application projects you support?

“We have done about 70–80 application projects a year recently, but the number continues to increase as we become more efficient. For instance in just the last nine months, this year we’ve done 89 application projects. Many of the applications are customer-facing and so critical to running our business. Some of the projects involve new applications, but most are enhancements. Generally what we see are new features being introduced that haven’t been there before. 

“The applications span eight different verticals. When we say vertical, we refer areas such as ‘order management systems/e-commerce,’ etc.” 

We have done about 70–80 application projects a year recently, but the number continues to increase as we become more efficient.

Who within your IT organization is currently using AppDynamics?

“Our group is the core group, but the use of AppDynamics is spreading. For instance about 20% of production is using AppDynamics, and it is also being used by development in the sense that we share issues with them through the dashboard, and developers can access the AppDynamics dashboard whenever they want to. Some of the people in development use AppDynamics on a daily basis. 

“But AppDynamics is like bread and butter for us. We depend on it 100% to do our jobs and continue to improve in efficiency and effectiveness.” 

What were some of the drivers for moving to AppDynamics?

“Back in 2007 we began searching for an APM solution that would help us to break through our dependency on more siloed tools. Finally, around 2011, we looked at a leading AppDynamics competitor and AppDynamics after evaluating the broader market. AppDynamics gave us licenses to try their solution and provided good, open communication about their product. We found that AppDynamics was the better choice for us—in particular in terms of deployment and administrative efficiency. There was too much overhead associated with the other product by comparison at that time. 

“Now we’re able to get a much more holistic set of insights into performance issues. We’re not just going back to development and pointing out problems—we’re able to tell them where and what the problems are. To be specific, we can do triage across the board with AppDynamics, and then go all the way to diagnostics about 40% of the time. For the other 60% we depend on point solutions such as DB2 snapshot, or Oracle, or other point-specific tools.” 

What are some of the things you like most about AppDynamics currently?

“One of the best features is the ease of implementation—which is especially important for us since every application project requires its own unique set of parameters. We couldn’t possibly do our jobs if it took two weeks or more to configure our APM solution every time a new project came our way. It has to be pretty much instant. 

With AppDynamics it is also very easy to visualize what and where the problems are. The dashboard shows me all the exit points of the application system. 

One of the best features is the ease of implementation— which is especially important for us since every application project requires its own unique set of parameters.

We’re also able to define custom exit points, say, to monitor a payment system. Moreover, AppDynamics doesn’t throw in all the data and overload you, but shows you what’s relevant—what you need to see. Before we would have looked into each of the tools and done a line-by-line code review for everything that came our way, but now we’re able to seriously streamline that process.”