Okta is Driving Fast, but with Eyes Wide Open

The new “speed” conversation

When you’ve been writing marketing about tech companies since the dawn of the millennium, as I have, you hear the topic of speed come up a lot. And rightfully so. It is, of course, a vital metric and, in a marketing sense, a crucial differentiator when selling your product to the masses.

5X faster than the competition.

Fastest throughput.

Etc.

It’s been interesting to watch those performance metrics explode. But a funny thing has happened to the speed discussion. More and more, it’s not really in terms of the measurable, like speeds and feeds. Now, it’s more conceptual. It’s about how fast you’re innovating or responding to changes in the industry landscape and with the demands of customers. This is the direct result of technology no longer servicing the business, but driving the business.

Yeah, your stuff is really fast. But everyone’s stuff is really fast, so it’s not as much of a focus of differentiation anymore. How many of us even seriously consider the performance specs of a laptop before buying it…with one click…on Amazon Prime…hoping you ordered it fast enough so it comes tomorrow and not — gasp — the day after tomorrow.

“Oh! I can get it same day? Meh. How many hours is that going to take?”

It’s not about being fast, because fast is a given. It’s being fast all the time, and being faster to innovate, and being fast enough to stay just ahead of the competition. Because, let’s face it, pretty much no one gets out way ahead and stays there.

Yeah, tech marketing is way different these days. And so much more exciting.

On this trip together

One company that’s very exciting these days is Okta, an identity management company and an AppDynamics customer. They use AppDynamics application performance management to help them follow through on what Hector Aguilar, Okta’s CTO and SVP of Engineering, describes as their “always on” culture. “Always On” even appears in the tab on your web browser when you go to okta.com.

We’ve recently posted a video that was featured at AppSphere 2016, as well as written a success story about our great relationship with Okta.

In the video, Mr. Aguilar payed us one of the most flattering and clever compliments we could have hoped for:

“If we don’t have AppDynamics, where we’re using it, it would be really like driving a car at 100 miles per hour with your eyes closed.”

And there it is again — speed. But not of their product (which is, of course, always on), but the speed in which Okta is moving within the industry. The speed at which they have to operate to meet the expectations of their customers — and their customers’ customers, employees and partners, who are all touch points of Okta’s solutions.

We’re incredibly proud to be helping Okta and other industry leaders concentrate on this incredibly fast-moving, twisty road that we’re all on together.

Please be sure to read the story.

Comparing Healthcare.gov performance improvement vs. J Crew.com slowdown

Each week, we measure the website home page performance of about 30 consumer sites using our Browser Synthetic Monitoring (Beta) tool. A summary of the results with the complete rankings and data for each of the sites is published each week by MobileStrategies360.com.

It’s incredibly interesting to see how these sites change over time and how those changes affect the performance of the site. This week’s results show an interesting contrast in the changes between performance improvements in the HealthCare.gov home page and a slow down at JCrew.com.

When the HealthCare.gov site launched a couple of years ago, it rightly took a lot of criticism for the overall poor performance of the site. This week, at least the home page made significant improvement, moving up eight spots in the weekly ranking from 18th to 10th with an improvement in the speed score, mostly by optimizing the size to reduce the page load size by over half a megabyte (as seen in the graph below).

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.07.44 PM.png

There was also a modest reduction in the number of resources loaded on average by six (each additional resource loaded carries a distinct “resource tax” for the performance of the site). The reduction in the page load size had immediate effect on improving the speed of the visually complete time, the first render time, and the overall speed score of the page (as seen in the graph below).

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.09.10 PM.png

This represents a standard method of improving site performance by optimizing your content to make it as compact as possible to reduce the amount of data that needs to be transmitted, resulting in faster page load times.

The second interesting movement in this week’s data is that J. Crew went from the fourth position in 3G to eighth almost entirely due to an increase in visually complete time from 8.1 to 9.7 seconds.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.16.23 PM.png

This diagram shows the sudden increase in the visually complete time mid-week while the first render and speed score stayed fairly consistent.

The degradation in performance occurred despite the fact that the page weight decreased from 1.5 to 0.89 MB. The elements loaded remained constant and the first render time and speed score were consistent at 5.1 and approximately 5.6, respectively. The diagram below shows the decrease in the page weight over the course of the week.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.13.40 PM.png

This visual represents a bit of a conundrum since you would normally expect that a fairly reasonable decrease in total page weight of 600 KB would result in a performance improvement.

If we investigate further, examining individual snapshots from before and after, one of the causes could be an increase in the response available time of the server. It includes the server connection time and the time it takes the server to respond with the first byte of data.

Looking at the two timing diagrams below, we can see that there is a significant increase in the J. Crew server available response time:

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.30.09 PM.png

 

Looking at this snapshot from earlier in the week, the server response available time is on the order of one second.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.27.38 PM.png

The server response available time in this snapshot from later in the week is closer to 12 seconds.

Similarly, if we look at the individual resource timing from earlier in the week versus later in the week, the following two diagrams show a large increase in the time it takes to create the J. Crew index.jsp (Java Server) page–the main container page for the homepage content.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.32.34 PM.png

This resource waterfall timing diagram shows the index.jsp page was taking about 1.7 seconds to download.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.31.13 PM.png

This resource waterfall diagram shows the index.jsp of the J. Crew homepage taking about 14 seconds to download.

While these particular snapshots show the extreme changes over the week, they are generally indicative of the trend that occurred over the course of the week that contributed to the increase in visually complete time, which resulted in J. Crew moving down in the index.

Without instrumenting the backend of the website, it can’t be known what might have contributed to the increased time it takes to create the index.jsp. That could be due to a change in the logic used to create the page or some other design change, which resulted in the change. It is critical for companies to understand how changes in website design, architecture, or infrastructure changes can affect the performance of their websites, especially as perceived by the end user. 

Users share their AppDynamics Lite for .NET Experiences

A week has passed since we officially launched our free version of AppDynamics Lite for .NET to the public, and so far its been garnering attention and positive reviews from the APM community. For example, someone from a major Canadian telecommunications company downloaded .NET Lite and informed us on how quickly they were able to gain value from using it.

We’re equally impressed and delighted that they’re heavily pushing our Lite product internally and on the path to becoming an AppDynamics Pro user. Even though we hear praises from customers often, it’s always satisfying to hear about our products delivering real, quantifiable results in under 24 hours.

We also received this blog review from another .NET Lite user just the other day. They deployed AppDynamics Lite to monitor their overall site performance called Everymarket.ru – an open e-commerce market that connects resellers with a community of buyers for products that are discounted when purchased in bulk. The users of Lite are also able to monitor the outbound web service calls to VK.com which is Russia’s version of Facebook to ensure outbound requests to the social site are responsive.

EveryMarket.ru Describes the Entire .NET Lite Experience

AppDynamics Lite looks nice and catchy. Right after installation we started to obtain information about our application and performance metrics immediately. The following screenshot nicely illustrates that there are some hidden errors occurring for three of the business transactions in the following list. We have actually seen these errors before, but it was quite hard to estimate their frequency and severity. Now it can be easily understood from this view here and on the Business Transactions view, though it is limited to only 20 transactions.

The first thing I did after the installation, I decreased the snapshot frequency from 100 to 50. It was more out of curiosity without much purpose. It’s nice to see the historical information about errors and requests presented on one screen. We then changed the default sorting “By timestamp” in order to see errors as they happened by recency.

In this case, the error in question didn’t involve a SQL query. The Bad Request details were quite simple and repeated what we could find in a set of stack trace logs. However, the main advantage for us is that AppDynamics can catch these errors and notify our team immediately by email. Once inside the tool, the information is well organized for faster root cause diagnosis.

In general I found it very useful that AppDynamics operates with business transaction logic. The semantic of transaction is easy to understand and one can have a detailed overview of a precise transaction. And of course the “red bar” matters. In case of many errors it is straightforward that “more red” means “look first”.

From two examples you can see that our .NET Lite users are able to install and run our product with ease while gaining insight into their application’s health and performance bottlenecks to improve upon for faster runtime. If you have a success story using AppDynamics Lite, please let us know!

Customer Success at AppDynamics is More Than Just Software

“Support from AppDynamics is the best I’ve ever received from any vendor. Once again, you’ve met your norm. Thank you for the excellence so many other vendors no longer offer.”   -AppDynamics Customer

If you’ve been following our blogs regularly, you might have noticed we enjoy highlighting quantifiable benefits our customers have gained from using AppDynamics to manage their critical business applications in production. We take pride in their successes – and their success helps not only their organization, but also their personal careers as well. So in today’s blog, I’d like to highlight some of the top-notch work our Customer Success team does.

  • Proactive Engagement
  • Timely Resolution

Proactive Engagement

When it comes to being proactive it’s not just our software that stays ahead of the curve but also our support team that remains engaged every step of the way through effective and rapid resolution. Below are just some examples:

One customer identified a performance issue in their application but were unsure of which remediation was best. Our support team looked at the performance issue and suggested the optimal JVM settings which resulted in 5% improvement in overall application performance for the customer.

Another customer had an incident during their peak traffic time where their servers were periodically hanging, and at the time they weren’t using our product. Once again, using the superhero capabilities of AppDynamics, the support team discovered that they were doing too many minor garbage collections, which was hurting their JVM performance during primetime. This was an issue that had been plaguing their business for three months.

AppDynamics support not only told them where and what the issue was, but also found a number of other issues that which could have lead to serious performance problems in the future such as: slow running queries, a native logger was taking too long to log a message and an inefficient resultset iteration.

Timely Resolution

If you’re a customer and you contact AppDynamics support, you should expect no less than excellent customer support. If your ticket is urgent, our SLAs require that we respond under 4 hours. Zendesk actually released some benchmarks as to how we measure up against the software industry and other companies as a whole. Take a look.

Benchmark Metrics produced by Zendesk based on data from 80 million tickets

But don’t just take our word for it, take a look at what some of our customers have said about our Customer Support team:

“Customer Support is very prompt and to the point answers.”

Timely. Personnel desire to be helpful”

“Very quick and responsive. Far and above other vendors I deal with.” 

Quick answer. Very good service. Thanks!”

“They have been very responsive and in cases proactive.” 

“Great follow through getting a solution to my production issue quickly.”  

Excellent, timely and effective

“Very responsive”

Excellent. All the necessary items were discussed and resolved in a timely manner

Excellent speed and accuracy”

10 on 10!!! Very quick and to the point responses”

As you can see, customer success is what AppDynamics is about. We religiously measure and manage it so we deliver a service which is unrivaled in the APM market. While we can’t guarantee that our software will never have bugs (as no software company ever could), we’ll always guarantee to be there when you need us 24/7.