System performance no game to IGN Entertainment

Relies on New Relic application performance management SaaS to keep its website humming

If you run a Web operation with a target audience of young male gamers between the ages of 18 and 35, you know you're talking about the need for the utmost in system performance.

That's definitely what's required at IGN Entertainment, a leading online media and services company and News Corp. division "obsessed with gaming, entertainment and everything that guys enjoy," says David Ting, vice president of engineering at the San Francisco company.

The IGN site gets more than 40 million unique visitors monthly, reaching one out of every four males in its target demographic. At its peak, as measured by real-time Web analytics service Chartbeat, IGN catered to 122,000 unique users visiting its site at the same time with about 100,000 concurrent streams running simultaneously, Ting says. (The peak event? IGN's live streaming from E3 2011 of Nintendo's Wii 2 announcement.)

BACKGROUND: Former AOL chief back in the saddle at News Corp.

"Our system needs to be on time and scaled very quickly as it's under a lot of stress and demand," Ting says.

But the environment is complex. On the backend, IGN uses CloudStack, the open source cloud software, throughout most of its infrastructure, so has the LAMP stack and open source software like MySQL and MongoDB. However, it also has somewhat of a Microsoft server footprint with which to contend as well, Ting says. In the middle tier it also uses open source software, including memcached, as well as some proprietary caching. And on the front end, it uses a combination of Java Server Pages, Java Servlets, PHP and Ruby development, he adds.

Historically, IGN relied on multiple application monitoring tools, each optimized for a particular application stack running in the company's heterogeneous environment. In addition, it used to require individual tools for application, database, Web page and Web services performance monitoring, Ting says.

But these needs disappeared when IGN discovered and began using New Relic's application performance management software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering about two years ago, Ting says. "We're so pleased New Relic could extend its feature set to be able to cover all these technologies. We use it quite a bit to make sure our systems perform well and that we have enough capacity. We also use it to diagnose whenever there's a part of the site that's slow," he says.

New Relic, which recently introduced real user monitoring capability, ties everything together in a single dashboard. "There we can see when something is performing out of the norm and drill down to determine which part of the stack has a problem. IT saves a lot of time figuring out what the issues are," Ting says.

For example, New Relic enabled IGN to get to the root of a performance degradation problem during the E3 event in less than 10 minutes, Ting says. "And most of that time was spent on resolving the issue rather than on diagnosing and tracing where the problem was," he adds.

With New Relic, Ting says, "we're a lot more agile than ever before."

Schultz is a longtime IT journalist, and currently editor in chief of This is her last Network/Systems Management entry.

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