Case Study: Online Educator Quizlet Knows Academic Performance and Web Performance Go Hand in Hand

Quizlet logoAs one of the world’s largest educational websites, Quizlet knows the importance of web performance. Founded in 2005 by 15 year old Andrew Sutherland, the company has more than doubled its user base every year for six consecutive years. With that rate of growth, the company is under constant pressure to keep pace with growing demand.

“Over the past 12 months, we’ve welcomed 70 million visitors,” says Quizlet CEO Dave Margulius. “Over the next 12, we expect 150 million. Many of those users are in grade school, high school or college – an audience especially impatient with slow website performance. They just expect the site to work and work fast.”

Data reliability is another major concern for the company. Each hour, their users upload huge amounts of data to the Quizlet site. “From the user’s perspective, a significant portion of our reputation rests on storing and protecting their hard work,” says Dave. “A reliable storage system that’s available all the time, with no unplanned outages, is an absolute necessity for us.”

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Enter Joyent
The Quizlet team looked for a first rate cloud provider that could scale quickly and easily to meet user demand, and provide 100% uptime for their users. Joyent soon emerged as the most obvious choice. “The functionality we get from Joyent’s SmartMachines gives us a totally robust, reliable cloud environment that can handle big bursts in traffic,” says Ryan Gordon, DevOps and Backend Engineer at Quizlet. “It’s so easy to boot up our cloud servers, then resize them when we need to. We’re also working with Joyent to establish a virtual LAN so that we can increase security, communicate between multiple servers and rely on instant failover in the event of an outage.”

New Relic helps Quizlet monitor performance across all their web servers, taking a deep dive whenever intensive troubleshooting is needed. “I don’t know how I’d do my job without these analytics tools,” says Ryan. “I use them every single day. When I log into New Relic, the first thing I see is the throughput, then the error rate, then the app server’s response time. All three of those are crucial for assessing the overall health of the site. And we use that throughput data to plan the implementation of heavy duty database changes, because we want to make sure that any adjustment will impact a relatively small number of users.”

Benefits of Being Proactive
Screenshot of Quizlet on the iPhoneWith Joyent and New Relic onboard, the Quizlet team can pinpoint the source of any problem within their increasingly complex code base. And today, the company is in a better position to manage its application performance then ever before. “These days, it’s unusual for users to catch a network issue or coding issue before we do,” continues Ryan. “And because we can diagnose those issues more quickly than ever, we can put far less energy into troubleshooting and more energy into strategic tasks that enhance the Quizlet experience for our users.”

Dave sums it up this way, “… Quizlet is here to create learning tools that every student on earth can use, no matter where they live and no matter how affluent they may be. And we’re committed to using the best technologies to help us grow and to give our users the best possible online experience. The Joyent cloud, optimized with New Relic monitoring, help us operate with the kind of efficiency and flexibility we need to deliver an even better product to even more people.”

Read More
Read the full case study to see how Joyent and New Relic help Quizlet scale to meet user demand and diagnose performance issues in real time.

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