Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Chris Schwarz, Todd Matters, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Stackify Blog

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Machine Learning , Agile Computing, Release Management , @CloudExpo

Java IoT: Article

Case Study: It Takes More than a Tool

Swarovski’s 10 Requirements for Creating an APM Culture

Swarovski - the leading producer of cut crystal in the world - relies on its eCommerce store as much like other companies in the highly competitive eCommerce environment. Swarovski's story is no different from others in this space: They started with "Let's build a website to sell our products online" a couple of years ago and quickly progressed to "We sell to 60 million annual visitors across 23 countries in six languages." There were bumps along the road and they realized that it takes more than just a bunch of servers and tools to keep the site running.

Why APM and why you don't just need a tool
Swarovski relies on Intershop's eCommerce platform and faced several challenges as they rapidly grew. Their challenges required them to apply Application Performance Management (APM) practices to ensure they could fulfill the business requirements to keep pace with customer growth while maintaining an excellent user experience. The most insightful comment I heard was from René Neubacher, Senior eBusiness Technology Consultant at Swarovski: "APM is not just about software. APM is a culture, a mindset and a set of business processes. APM software supports that."

René recently discussed their Journey to APM, what their initial problems were and what requirements they ended up having on APM and the tools they needed to support their APM strategy. By now they reached the next level of maturity by establishing a Performance Center of Excellence. This allows them to tackle application performance proactively throughout the organization instead of putting out fires reactively in production.

This article describes the challenges they faced, the questions that arose and the new generation APM requirements that paved the way forward in their performance journey:

The Challenge!
Swarvoski had traditional system monitoring in place on all their systems across their delivery chain including web servers, application servers, SAP, database servers, external systems and the network. Knowing that each individual component is up and running 99.99% of the time is great but no longer sufficient. How might these individual component outages impact the user experience of their online shoppers? Who is actually responsible for the end user experience and how should you monitor the complete delivery chain and not just the individual components? These and other questions came up when the eCommerce site attracted more customers which was quickly followed by more complaints about their user experience:

APM includes getting a holistic view of the complete delivery chain and requires someone to be responsible for end user experience.

Questions that had no answers
In addition to "Who is responsible in case users complain?" the other questions that needed to be urgently addressed included:

  • How often is the service desk called before IT knows that there is a problem?
  • How much time is spent in searching for system errors versus building new features?
  • Do we have a process to find the root-cause when a customer reports a problem?
  • How do we visualize our services from the customer‘s point of view?
  • How much revenue, brand image and productivity are at risk or lost while IT is searching for the problem?
  • What to do when someone says "it‘s slow"?

The Ten Requirements
These unanswered questions triggered the need to move away from traditional system monitoring and develop the requirements for new generation APM and user experience management.

1: Support State-of-the-Art Architecture
Based on their current system architecture it was clear that Swarovski needed an approach that was able to work in their architecture, now and in the future. The rise of more interactive Web 2.0 and mobile applications had to be factored in to allow monitoring end users from many different devices and regardless of whether they used a web application or mobile native application as their access point.

Transactions need to be followed from the browser all the way back to the database. It is important to support distributed transactions. This approach also helps to spot architectural and deployment problems immediately

2: 100% transactions and clicks - No Averages
Based on their experience, Swarovski knew that looking at average values or sampled data would not be helpful when customers complained about bad performance. Responding to a customer complaint with "Our average user has no problem right now - sorry for your inconvenience" is not what you want your helpdesk engineers to use as a standard phrase. Averages or sampling also hides the real problems you have in your system. Check out the blog post Why Averages Suck by Michael Kopp for more detail.

Measuring end user performance of every customer interaction allows for quick identification of regional problems with CDNs, Third Parties or Latency.

Having 100% user interactions and transactions available makes it easy to identify the root cause for individual users

3: Business Visibility
As the business had a growing interest in the success of the eCommerce platform, IT had to demonstrate to the business what it took to fulfill their requirements and how business requirements are impacted by the availability or the lack of investment in the application delivery chain.

Correlating the number of Visits with Performance on incoming Orders illustrates the measurable impact of performance on revenue and what it takes to support business requirements.

4: Impact of 3rd Parties and CDNs
It was important to not only track transactions involving their own Data Center but all user interactions with their web site - even those delivered through CDNs or third parties. All of these interactions make up the user experience and therefore all of it needs to be analyzed.

Seeing the actual load impact of third-party components or content delivered from CDNs enables IT to pinpoint user experience problems that originate outside their own data center.

5: Across the life cycle - supporting collaboration and tearing down silos
The APM initiative was started because Swarovski reacted to problems happening in production. Fixing these problems in production is only the first step. Their ultimate goal is to become pro-active by finding and fixing problems in development or testing-before they spill over into production. Instead of relying on different sets of tools with different capabilities, the requirement is to use one single solution that is designed to be used across the application lifecycle (Developer Workstation, Continuous Integration, Testing, Staging and Production). It will make it easier to share application performance data between lifecycle stages allowing individuals to not only easily look at data from other stages but also compare data to verify impact and behavior of code changes between version updates.

Continuously catching regressions in Development by analyzing unit and performance tests allows application teams to become more proactive.

Pinpointing integration and scalability issues, continuously, in acceptance and load testing makes testing more efficient and prevents problems from reaching production.

6: Down to the source code
In order to speed up problem resolution Swarovski's operations and development teams require as much code-level insight as possible - not only for their own engineers who are extending the Intershop eCommerce Platform but also for Intershop to improve their product. Knowing what part of the application code is not performing well with which input parameters or under which specific load on the system eliminates tedious reproduction of the problem. The requirement is to lower the Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) from as much as several days down to only a couple of hours.

The SAP Connector turned out to have a performance problem. This method-level detailed information was captured without changing any code.

7: Zero/Acceptable overhead
"Who are we kidding? There is nothing like zero overhead especially when you need 100% coverage!" - Just the words from René when you explained that requirement. And he is right: once you start collecting information from a production system you add a certain amount of overhead. A better term for this would be "imperceptible overhead" - overhead that's so small, you don't notice it.

What is the exact number? It depends on your business and your users. The number should be worked out from the impact on the end user experience, rather than additional CPU, memory or network bandwidth required in the data center. Swarovski knew they had to achieve less than 2% overhead on page load times in production, as anything more would have hurt their business; and that's what they achieved.

8: Centralized data collection and administration
Running a distributed eCommerce application that gets potentially extended to additional geographical locations requires an APM system with a centralized data collection and administration option. It is not feasible to collect different types of performance information from different systems, servers or even data centers. It would either require multiple different analysis tools or data transformation to a single format to use it for proper analysis.

Instead of this approach, a single unified APM system was required by Swarovski. Central administration is equally important as they need to eliminate the need to rely on remote IT administrators to make changes to the monitored system, for example, simple tasks such as changing the level of captured data or upgrading to a new version.

By storing and accessing performance data from a single, centralized repository, enables fast and powerful analytic and visualization. For example, system metrics such as CPU utilization can be correlated with end-user response time or database execution time - all displayed on one single dashboard.

9: Auto-Adapting Instrumentation without digging through code
As the majority of the application code is not developed in-house but provided by Intershop, it is mandatory to get insight into the application without doing any manual code changes. The APM system must auto-adapt to changes so that no manual configuration change is necessary when a new version of the application is deployed.

This means Swarovski can focus on making their applications positively contribute to business outcomes; rather than spend time maintaining IT systems.

10: Ability to extend
Their application is an always growing an ever-changing IT environment. Where everything might have been deployed on physical boxes it might be moved to virtualized environments or even into a public cloud environment.

Whatever the extension may be - the APM solution must be able to adapt to these changes and also be extensible to consume new types of data sources, e.g., performance metrics from Amazon Cloud Services or VMware, Cassandra or other Big Data Solutions or even extend to legacy Mainframe applications and then bring these metrics into the centralized data repository and provide new insights into the application's performance.

Extending the application monitoring capabilities to Amazon EC2, Microsoft Windows Azure, a public or private cloud enables the analysis of the performance impact of these virtualized environments on end user experience.

The Solution and the Way Forward
Needless to say that Swarovski took the first step in implementing APM as a new process and mindset in their organization. They are now in the next phase of implementing a Performance Center of Excellence. This allows them moving from Reactive Performance Troubleshooting to Proactive Performance Prevention.

Stay tuned for more blog posts on the Performance Center of Excellence and how you can build one in your own organization. The key message is that it is not about just using a bunch of tools. It is about living and breathing performance throughout the organization. If you are interested in this check out the blogs by Steve Wilson: Proactive vs Reactive: How to prevent problems instead of fixing them faster and Performance in Development is the Chief Cornerstone.

More Stories By Andreas Grabner

Andreas Grabner has been helping companies improve their application performance for 15+ years. He is a regular contributor within Web Performance and DevOps communities and a prolific speaker at user groups and conferences around the world. Reach him at @grabnerandi

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Colocation is a central pillar of modern enterprise infrastructure planning because it provides greater control, insight, and performance than managed platforms. In spite of the inexorable rise of the cloud, most businesses with extensive IT hardware requirements choose to host their infrastructure in colocation data centers. According to a recent IDC survey, more than half of the businesses questioned use colocation services, and the number is even higher among established businesses and busine...
For most organizations, the move to hybrid cloud is now a question of when, not if. Fully 82% of enterprises plan to have a hybrid cloud strategy this year, according to Infoholic Research. The worldwide hybrid cloud computing market is expected to grow about 34% annually over the next five years, reaching $241.13 billion by 2022. Companies are embracing hybrid cloud because of the many advantages it offers compared to relying on a single provider for all of their cloud needs. Hybrid offers bala...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo taking place Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 21st International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is ...
"We are a monitoring company. We work with Salesforce, BBC, and quite a few other big logos. We basically provide monitoring for them, structure for their cloud services and we fit into the DevOps world" explained David Gildeh, Co-founder and CEO of Outlyer, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
For organizations that have amassed large sums of software complexity, taking a microservices approach is the first step toward DevOps and continuous improvement / development. Integrating system-level analysis with microservices makes it easier to change and add functionality to applications at any time without the increase of risk. Before you start big transformation projects or a cloud migration, make sure these changes won’t take down your entire organization.
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Microservices are increasingly used in the development world as developers work to create larger, more complex applications that are better developed and managed as a combination of smaller services that work cohesively together for larger, application-wide functionality. Tools such as Service Fabric are rising to meet the need to think about and build apps using a piece-by-piece methodology that is, frankly, less mind-boggling than considering the whole of the application at once. Today, we'll ...
What's the role of an IT self-service portal when you get to continuous delivery and Infrastructure as Code? This general session showed how to create the continuous delivery culture and eight accelerators for leading the change. Don Demcsak is a DevOps and Cloud Native Modernization Principal for Dell EMC based out of New Jersey. He is a former, long time, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, specializing in building and architecting Application Delivery Pipelines for hybrid legacy, and cloud ...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann and Aruna Ravichandran have been named Co-Chairs of @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley which will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "DevOps is at the intersection of technology and business-optimizing tools, organizations and processes to bring measurable improvements in productivity and profitability," said Aruna Ravichandran, vice president, DevOps product and solutions marketing...
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, an entertainment executive/TV producer turned serial entrepreneur, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to ma...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
There's a lot to gain from cloud computing, but success requires a thoughtful and enterprise focused approach. Cloud computing decouples data and information from the infrastructure on which it lies. A process that is a LOT more involved than dragging some folders from your desktop to a shared drive. Cloud computing as a mission transformation activity, not a technological one. As an organization moves from local information hosting to the cloud, one of the most important challenges is addressi...
In the decade following his article, cloud computing further cemented Carr’s perspective. Compute, storage, and network resources have become simple utilities, available at the proverbial turn of the faucet. The value they provide is immense, but the cloud playing field is amazingly level. Carr’s quote above presaged the cloud to a T. Today, however, we’re in the digital era. Mark Andreesen’s ‘software is eating the world’ prognostication is coming to pass, as enterprises realize they must be...
Hybrid IT is today’s reality, and while its implementation may seem daunting at times, more and more organizations are migrating to the cloud. In fact, according to SolarWinds 2017 IT Trends Index: Portrait of a Hybrid IT Organization 95 percent of organizations have migrated crucial applications to the cloud in the past year. As such, it’s in every IT professional’s best interest to know what to expect.
Both SaaS vendors and SaaS buyers are going “all-in” to hyperscale IaaS platforms such as AWS, which is disrupting the SaaS value proposition. Why should the enterprise SaaS consumer pay for the SaaS service if their data is resident in adjacent AWS S3 buckets? If both SaaS sellers and buyers are using the same cloud tools, automation and pay-per-transaction model offered by IaaS platforms, then why not host the “shrink-wrapped” software in the customers’ cloud? Further, serverless computing, cl...
A common misconception about the cloud is that one size fits all. Companies expecting to run all of their operations using one cloud solution or service must realize that doing so is akin to forcing the totality of their business functionality into a straightjacket. Unlocking the full potential of the cloud means embracing the multi-cloud future where businesses use their own cloud, and/or clouds from different vendors, to support separate functions or product groups. There is no single cloud so...
The taxi industry never saw Uber coming. Startups are a threat to incumbents like never before, and a major enabler for startups is that they are instantly “cloud ready.” If innovation moves at the pace of IT, then your company is in trouble. Why? Because your data center will not keep up with frenetic pace AWS, Microsoft and Google are rolling out new capabilities. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Don Browning, VP of Cloud Architecture at Turner, posited that disruption is inevitable for comp...
Companies have always been concerned that traditional enterprise software is slow and complex to install, often disrupting critical and time-sensitive operations during roll-out. With the growing need to integrate new digital technologies into the enterprise to transform business processes, this concern has become even more pressing. A 2016 Panorama Consulting Solutions study revealed that enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects took an average of 21 months to install, with 57 percent of th...
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Doug Vanderweide, an instructor at Linux Academy, discussed why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers wit...