The world’s greatest athletes perform in stadiums packed with avid fans. Their touchdowns and goals, dunks and dingers, knockout punches and record-breaking times are watched by millions on TV, and followed by millions more online. But most got their starts in front of the bleachers, giving their all for local crowds, dreaming of one day making it big.

Bleacher report logoBleacher Report started small, too. In October 2007, this digital destination for team-specific sports content and real-time sports-event coverage was drawing just 50,000 unique monthly visits. Today, that number tops 80 million, with more than 100 fresh pieces of content published daily. “We want to be the go-to destination for every sports fan,” says Eddie Dombrowski, senior software engineer for Bleacher Report.

Now the second-largest sports website in the world, Bleacher Report has made it big. But just as athletes face new challenges and pressures when they make it to the big leagues, the San Francisco-based company has had to scale up fast—and smart. For Bleacher Report, that means embracing microservices, DevOps, and New Relic.

Immediate, specific insight

Back in 2007, recalls Vice President of Engineering Tung Nguyen in a recent episode of The New Stack @ Scale podcast, the tech situation at Bleacher Report was “terribly disorganized.” Hosted on a virtual machine somewhere in Australia, the site was, unbeknownst to Tung, going offline for 30 minutes every evening while that VM went through its nightly reboot.

tung nguyen bleacher report

Tung Nguyen, VP of Engineering, Bleacher Report

For a site that generates all of its income through advertising, even short spells of downtime can be extremely costly. And, of course, downtime drives away users, too. “People want news fast,” says Tung. “They won’t come back to your site if you don’t deliver the experience they expect.” Once he realized what was going on, Tung moved quickly to find a new remote hosting solution.

Then there’s the night in 2009 when, faced at 3 a.m. with a site that was crashing repeatedly, Tung decided to give New Relic a try. After New Relic gave him “immediate, specific insight” into the problems behind the crashes, Tung decided to make New Relic a permanent feature of the Bleacher Report toolkit.

Seven years later, that’s still the case. Load testing, capacity planning, performance benchmarking, proactive troubleshooting—tools like New Relic APM and New Relic Servers make it all possible. “I use New Relic every day,” says Eddie Dombrowski. “It helps me find ways to make our application perform better and prioritize which areas to address.”

Microservices and DevOps, too

As Bleacher Report’s audience continued to grow, Tung recognized the need to adapt. “I said, ‘We need more data to make good decisions, and we need to start breaking up the application.’” He knew the transition from a monolithic web application to a microservices architecture would require a simultaneous adoption of a DevOps approach. (Today, Bleacher Report runs on 20 microservices, and four of the company’s 32 engineers are devoted purely to DevOps.) And he knew that New Relic could help smooth the transition to the new architecture.

For example, by building a customized internal data collection tool using New Relic, Tung discovered that 80% of requests being processed by the application weren’t web requests, as he’d thought, but read-only API requests delivering adjacent payloads. This invaluable information, he says, “helped us to scale tremendously.”

Focus and commitment

Bleacher Report’s rapid rise to the big leagues has necessitated a fierce commitment to growing, learning, adapting, and evolving. According to Tung, staying competitive means embracing the feeling of uneasiness, and maintaining tight focus on the core product: giving sports fans what they want, when they want it.

“With more and more microservices talking to each other, we’re going to have to be even more diligent about how we measure and track performance,” he says. “New Relic will help us do that.”

To find out more about Bleacher Report’s amazing growth, read the full Bleacher Report customer case study and watch the video below:

 

Also, be sure to listen to The New Stack @ Scale Podcast: Talking Microservices and DevOPs with Bleacher Report’s Tung Nguyen.

Check out all New Relic case studies here.

B.J. Hinshaw is a freelance writer based in Northern California. View posts by .

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