Multimedia pioneer optimizes application performance with AppDynamics

TiVo created a brand-new product and service category by developing the world's first digital video recorder (DVR). Today, the company continues to revolutionize the way consumers watch and access home entertainment by making the TiVo DVR the focal point of the digital living room. The TiVo DVR is a center for sharing and experiencing television, movies, video downloads, music, photos and more.

Challenge: Complex Java applications required ongoing monitoring

TiVo is powered by hundreds of individual Java and proprietary applications, designed to work together to deliver services to its customers. To keep the system running smoothly, TiVo needed to replace its manual, error-prone application performance management (APM) process. “We used to spend hours troubleshooting issues,” recalls Richard Rothschild, Senior Director of IT, TiVo. “If a service was running slowly and we didn't know the cause, finding the cause was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We needed something fast and automated.”

Speedy installation, instant feedback convinced skeptics

Rothschild first met with AppDynamics in April 2010. Weeks later, he launched a product trial and watched in awe as the solution made an immediate impact. “We're usually pretty skeptical about sales pitches, but the AppDynamics product is one of the few we've demoed that has made both our developers and operations staff say, ‘Wow, we need to buy this right now,'” said Rothschild. “That tells you how much value we saw in getting instant feedback on application performance.” Once TiVo decided to purchase the AppDynamics APM solution, implementation took just hours—in stark contrast to competitive solutions that required days or weeks of implementation and configuration. “With AppDynamics APM, you just load the program, it injects into the Java code, you restart the server, and it's working,” Rothschild explained. “Our staff hasn't had to adjust at all—this is a completely non-disruptive solution.”

Increased software reliability and uptime supports growing business

With the AppDynamics solution, TiVo shaved hours off of its troubleshooting process, eliminated emergency performance issues and dramatically improved its code development process. Benefits to TiVo included:

AppDynamics helps us prevent many problems from entering our applications in the first place. This makes a huge difference in our ability to produce higher quality code faster.

Accelerated troubleshooting

TiVo's operations staff used the AppDynamics solution to maintain total visibility into performance problems. Engineers monitored performance down to the class and method level, enabling them to diagnose problems more quickly. “With AppDynamics APM, we've reduced the time to find the root cause of significant application problems from six hours to 10 minutes,” says Rothschild. “There's no more trial and error—and very little overhead added to our technical environment.”

Enhanced productivity

Hard-to-define performance issues used to leave TiVo's engineers overworked and frustrated. With the AppDynamics platform, TiVo eliminated this problem. “Before, it wasn't uncommon for five or six engineers to work well into the night to resolve a performance issue,” Rothschild explains. “We would then see a major decrease in their productivity the next day. With AppDynamics APM, we either prevent these issues, or assign one developer to fix them within minutes.”

With AppDynamics, we've reduced the time to find the root cause of significant application problems from six hours to 10 minutes. There's no more trial and error.

Improved code quality

Before AppDynamics, TiVo developers had to check in, compile and run code to find out how it performed. And when performance issues came up with code in production, the operations team would have to dig through the code to find and fix problems. “The AppDynamics platform helps us prevent many problems from entering our applications in the first place,” says Rothschild. “This makes a huge difference in our ability to produce higher quality code faster.” TiVo developers used the AppDynamics solution within a development sandbox on their desktops and, as they wrote code, the platform's application mapping feature provided feedback on how their additions would affect performance. By showing developers the exact lines of code that were causing performance issues, such as memory leaks and slow thread processing, it streamlined code fixes.

Boosted output without adding headcount

No longer hamstrung by elusive code issues, TiVo's development team could spend more time working on the company's strategic initiatives. TiVo was forming partnerships with other multimedia companies around the globe, and each one had its own series of aggressive deadlines for new code. The development team was able to meet deadlines easily—without hiring more people—thanks to the AppDynamics platform. “AppDynamics APM helps us deliver better software on time and keep it running well, which makes our partners happy,” said Rothschild. “We've already seen a big improvement in the reliability and uptime of our services. Anything that simplifies our job in this complex environment makes us feel much more confident about signing new deals.” “AppDynamics is a great business partner,” Rothschild concluded. “Not only do they never force us to buy things we don't need, but they also listen to our suggestions and turn around code changes within a few weeks. I have complete confidence that if we need something in the future, they're going to make it happen.”