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Case Study: Inaka deploys Boundary to monitor its Amazon Cloud and Storm On Demand servers

Posted by on December 21st, 2012

App consulting firm’s need for real-time visibility into client apps is solved after deploying Boundary to monitor its Amazon Cloud and Storm On Demand servers.

About Inaka

Inaka launched in 2008, when founder Chad DePue started a U.S.-based consulting group with a development team in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The remote web and mobile app developer today has large media clients such as Fox and MTV/Viacom as well as many startups. Inaka develops iOS and Android-based media and messaging apps for its customers. The firm also hosts the app infrastructure using third-party cloud services including Amazon and Storm On Demand. MTV WatchWith is a fast-growing social media app Inaka built in partnership with San Francisco startup Rogue Paper. Inaka also developed and hosts social media site Whisper. The company’s developers specialize in Erlang, Ruby on Rails, Riak and CouchDB languages and platforms.

Before Boundary

In supporting Viacom’s apps, Inaka was struggling with high bandwidth costs. Those costs could not be passed along to clients, under the firm’s user-based pricing. Even though Inaka was using a few monitoring tools already, including ones from Amazon and Nagios, they weren’t able to fully understand the network’s impact on application performance.  Inaka wanted to optimize bandwidth consumption, particularly during high-volume award shows and other online events that its clients hosted through Inaka. “Big special event shows generate massive users for a short period time, so we really needed tools to help us monitor these spikes in activity,” says DePue. “Even five minutes of downtime during an event is a total disaster. We desperately need real-time visibility into performance.”

An even more pressing problem for Inaka was scaling its service as Whisper grew. The amount of users signing up on the site daily has been stratospheric, according to DePue. When Inaka began to notice an increase in the frequency of database timeouts, the team looked under every cover to find the cause. Eventually, they resorted to more drastic measures. “We started rewriting code, and adding servers, which was actually making the problem worse,” he says. DePue was worried that without resolving the issue, their relationship with Whisper could suffer or even cease altogether if Inaka couldn’t support the site’s growth.

How Boundary Helped

Inaka first deployed Boundary to resolve the bandwidth spikes occurring in the MTV app.

  • Boundary’s data showed Inaka that network traffic was exploding when new users downloaded content after purchasing the app.
  • Inaka decided to preload content in the app instead, which drastically reduced the bandwidth needs. This modification is saving Inaka roughly $2000 a month in networking charges.

Resolving the issue with Riak, the database behind Whisper, was a bit more complicated. Inaka’s engineering team could not determine how to debug the database and was even communicating with Riak’s development team for answers.

  • After running Boundary’s real-time monitoring service against Riak, they discovered that the database was sending massive traffic back and forth between servers, which was overloading the network. Inaka decided to switch to the MySQL database.
  • By late 2012, traffic to the Whisper site had grown 10 times, while performance remained stable, according to DePue.

“This is a really rare, subtle issue called TCP Incast and ultimately we decided that Riak was not the best fit for Whisper due to the high volume of Map/Reduce queries,” DePue explains. Inaka has built a large monitoring screen in its development facility to show system indicators across all of its applications and servers. DePue plans to add Boundary feeds of real-time network statistics into the dashboard soon.

Quotes:

“Using Boundary is saving our company weeks of troubleshooting and a lot of head banging.” DePue says. “At a higher level, Boundary has minimized our bandwidth costs and improved our ability to diagnose problems, delivers real-time monitoring of big events that our customers host, and helped us resolve a critical database issue. With Boundary, we can operate much more effectively as a remotely-based application development and services firm.”

 

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