March 18, 2012, 7:44 AM — As Super Bowl XLVI approached this year, Cars.com was facing a thorny issue. For the third year in a row it was running a big-budget ad during the game. In 2010 and 2011 the high-profile ads drew huge numbers of car shoppers to its site--a definite win--but the spike also slowed performance to a crawl. This year, armed with new application performance management (APM) tools, Cars.com CTO Kayne Grau and enterprise architect Jim Houska knew things would be different.
"The first two years we did our Super Bowl campaign, we had very significant performance issues," Grau explains. "Not only the day of the game, but following."
2012 was no exception in terms of surging traffic, but this year the team managed to provide an optimal user experience for those visitors despite their huge numbers.
APM Helps Cars.com Deal with Traffic Spikes
"Immediately following the commercial, we saw roughly an 1,800% spike in page views," Houska says. "As that started to die down, we were running approximately 40% above our normal peak workload for about three weeks."
And Cars.com is no slouch when it comes to traffic. The site averages more than 10 million car shoppers a month. However, unlike past years, this year Cars.com was able to handle the increase in traffic without a hitch.
"The first two years we did our Super Bowl campaign were very, very manual," Grau says. "This year, I felt confident going into the Super Bowl. We had the right tools."
Houska adds, "It's essentially like flying blind and then suddenly having eagle-eye vision. It's very exciting to have that kind of visibility that you never had before."
The difference was that two weeks before Super Bowl XLVI, Cars.com deployed Compuware dynaTrace for its continuous, real-time APM. Grau's team had been testing it for six weeks prior to deployment.
"For the most part, from the time we chose the product to the time we were running it in production was about a month," Houska says. "We were getting value out of the product before we even purchased it just in the visibility we gained through the POC [proof of concept]."
Grau adds, "The stuff we were seeing in the trial and the POC, we saw the immediate business benefit. We knew the gaps the tool was exposing in our applications were huge."
Houska notes the APM tool allowed the team to proactively identify and address performance bottlenecks prior to the Super Bowl. He says it has aided with capacity planning by providing visibility into transaction volume and response time in applications, giving the team the ability to properly size capacity based on upcoming business issues. Additionally, developers are able to gauge performance up front in the development process, taking that onus away from QA teams and allowing them to focus on other issues.