Ramping up for More Online Traffic

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The e-commerce arm of American Greetings, AG Interactive, acquired Cardstore.com last year and needed help gearing up the Web site in time for Halloween. The goal was to increase the site's capacity to support the rise in daily traffic it was expected to receive. The only way to ensure Cardstore.com could meet AG Interactive's marketing and scalability goals was to have a tool that could quickly identify bottlenecks and architectural issues.

AG Interactive discovered dynaTrace (acquired by Compuware) through the company's free AJAX edition, according to David Snyder, enterprise architect at American Greetings and AG Interactive. When the need for a full application performance management (APM) solution arose, the software vendor was "first on our list" due to the quality of its AJAX offering, Snyder says.

"Our development team had been making some performance improvements to the site in the two or three weeks prior, so we had the Compuware dynaTrace engineers test a version of the application that did not have any of these changes," Snyder explains. "To our surprise, they found every one of the major issues our team had in only a few hours of testing and analysis. This was a clear indication that Compuware dynaTrace could give us the edge we needed to meet our performance and scalability goals in time for the holiday peak season."

According to Snyder, the APM solution gave his team deep visibility into where time was being spent during performance and load testing. It also gave them a tool to verify that the synthetic or simulated traffic matched the profile of actual traffic they could expect during the marketing campaigns.

"It is always a challenge to match reality with synthetic load, and Compuware dynaTrace helped us get as close as possible to ensure we were fixing issues that may occur in the real world," Snyder notes. It made "identifying bottlenecks nearly instantaneous, [and] streamlined the identification of the root cause of those bottlenecks."

Compuware dynaTrace also served as a tool to discover and understand Cardstore.com's architecture—a useful feature for the new team that was now supporting the application.

The software was producing results even before AG Interactive had purchased the solution, Snyder maintains, since a number of actionable items were identified during the proof of concept that the team went on to fix. "Compuware dynaTrace is almost like cheating in that it made the process of drilling down into application issues so easy compared to the 'old' way of digging through log files and homegrown monitoring," Snyder says.

The initial plan called for six sets of two-week tests. The company's goals were met nearly a month early, and the holiday campaigns were successfully launched.

In addition, the team had to allocate only one third of the hardware initially estimated to achieve these goals, amounting to a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital and operational expenses. Snyder also notes that the amount of time a customer had to wait for a preview of a greeting card to load was slashed from four seconds to one second, and that the times for other transactions were reduced between 10 and 25 percent.

Snyder says AG Interactive will install the provider's solutions for production monitoring as well. "I am looking forward to expanding its use to our other applications."

The Payoff

With help from Compuware dynaTrace, AG Interactive was able to:

  • meet its goals nearly a month early;
  • save hundreds of thousands of dollars by allocating only 33 percent of the hardware initially estimated; and
  • reduce the load time for a greeting card preview from four seconds to one.

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