New Relic Apdex: The Best Reason So Far to Use New Relic

Since we first signed up with New Relic about six months ago, they’ve impressed me with the constant stream of features that they have added to their software on a monthly basis. When we first signed up, they were a pretty vanilla monitoring solution, and impressed me little more than FiveRuns had previously. They basically let you see longest running actions sorted by average time consumed, and they let you see throughput, but beyond that, there was little reason to get excited at the time.

Since then, they’ve been heaping on great additions. First, they added a new view (requested by yours truly, amongst others) that let actions be sorted not just by the average time taken, but by the arguably more important “Time taken * times called,” which tends to give a better bang-per-buck idea of where optimization time should be spent.

They’ve also been rearranging which features are available at which levels, which has made “Silver” level a much more tempting proposition, with both the “Controller Summary” (described last paragraph) and “Transaction Traces,” which allows you to see which specific database calls are taking longest to complete.screenhunter_05-may-07-1504screenhunter_06-may-07-1504screenhunter_07-may-07-15041

But by far my favorite New Relic feature added is their brand new “Apdex” feature. If you’re a busy web programmer or operator, the last thing you want to do is spend time creating subjective criteria to prioritize which parts of your application should be optimized first. You also don’t want to spend time determining when, exactly, an action has become slow enough that it warrants optimization time. Apdex provides a terrific way to answer both of these prickly, subjective questions, and it does it in typical New Relic fashion — with a very coherent and readable graphical interface.

I’ve included some screenshots of the Apdex for one of our slower actions at right. These show (from top to bottom) the actions in our application; ordered from most to least “dissatisfying,” the performance breakdown of one of our more dissatisfying actions; and the degree to which this action has been dissatisfying today, broken down by hour, and put onto a color coded scale that ranges from “Excellent” (not dissatisfying) down to poor. Apdex measures “dissatisfaction” as a combination of the number of times that a controller action has been “tolerable” (takes 2-8 seconds to complete) and “frustrating” (takes more than 8 seconds to complete).

New Relic is to be commended for tackling an extremely subjective problem (when and where to optimize) and creating a very sensible, objective framework through which to filter that decision. Bravo, guys. Now, hopefully after Railsconf they can spend a couple hours running Apdex on their Apdex window, since the rendering time for the window generally falls into their “dissatisfaction” range (greater than 8 seconds) 🙂

But I’m more than willing to cut them some slack for an addition this useful (and this new).