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8×8 Delivers Exceptional Cloud Services by Standardizing on Wavefront for Cloud Analytics and Monitoring

I’m very excited to share the story of how engineering teams at SaaS leader, 8×8, have standardized on Wavefront for cloud services analytics and monitoring.

Introduction

Pioneering the Communications Cloud with over 140 patents earned, 8×8 provides unified cloud-based communications and contact center solutions to more than 50,000 businesses operating in 150+ countries worldwide, also recognized as a 6-time Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for Unified Communications as a Service. For cloud communications with seamless integration and reliable performance, 8×8 turned to Wavefront to help them scale their microservices faster, enabling greater cross-team collaboration, and extended options for innovation and growth.

The Challenge

For 8×8, a public-traded company founded in the late eighties, ongoing business growth and need for rapid scaling drove a software transition from monolith to service-oriented to microservices architectures, all while adding thousands of customers. The focus therefore had to be on the overall manageability, performance and reliability of production systems.

The company has a small architecture team that has complete oversight over various product lines across multiple system components. Their role is to set standard practices across development teams for all product lines. 8×8 has many back-end services and microservices that are owned and managed by developers. A key practice for providing reliability to those services is well-defined metrics instrumented within their code. The company first had to resolve the complex problem of dealing with agile teams and microservices teams each with their own time series database and metrics environments. With hundreds of microservices in different environments, they initially adopted an open source tooling approach using OpenTSDB and InfluxDB. But as they scaled – and for thousands of metrics – this proved to be very time-consuming, complicated, and expensive to maintain.

8×8’s engineering teams wanted instead to focus on their business and scaling their service rather than dealing with an internal ’holy war’ re which open source technologies to use while developers spent too much time on information searching, log grepping, and resolving metric inconsistencies, instead of focusing on meeting their customer needs and innovating.

The Wavefront Solution

Edgar Nidome, Principal Architect of Site Reliability at 8×8, came to know Wavefront prior to joining 8×8, noting Wavefront’s novel and collaborative approach to monitoring. He’s a long time advocate of giving all engineers easy access to production metrics, but in a way that avoids large upfront costs of standing-up monitoring systems, training teams to use monitoring, and maintaining those systems. He knew their developers had to spend more time on innovating products. Their DevOps functions helped by advancing their CI/CD pipeline. Then Wavefront met their need for turn-key, SaaS-based metric data, providing accurate visibility into all of 8×8’s microservices.

In a couple of weeks, developers within 8×8’s application teams were able to wrap around the Wavefront libraries, allowing them to code and emit their metrics from their custom applications directly into Wavefront. They found Wavefront’s implementation to be very thorough and solid, supporting their enterprise-grade needs. Wavefront turned out to be an immediate solution for most development teams and for more than 100 engineers.

At 8×8, the engineering teams found that Wavefront did just a great job with time series metrics data that it empowered developers to manage their own metrics “in a first-class way“, addressing issues, be it errors or latency, without any of the previous tedious and expensive procedures they had to resort to before using Wavefront.

The Results

Besides visibility, the main impact of working with Wavefront is that it allows developers to be more proactive about production monitoring and capacity planning, and also to react with greater precision when it comes to issue detection with code in production. They found troubleshooting time is dramatically reduced since developers are empowered to create their own self-service metric data. After designing, implementing and working with their metrics against the production environment, developers can promote them and inform the production engineers about them. They have a much greater understanding of customer usage, and with their well-tuned alert criteria and escalation process, Wavefront helps them reduce alert fatigue for on-call staff supporting their cloud services.

In the event that certain metrics exhibit unexpected behavior, or reach specific alert criteria, the NOC team follows the provided instructions, often without having to contact developers. This has given developers time back to focus on enhancing services, while support teams are empowered to resolve issues themselves.

One interesting “learning moment” for 8×8 happened after a particular microservice was started (and for a company like 8×8 with thousands of customers, it’s a slow step-function rollout as customers start to use the service), a latency metric for some set of MySQL queries tracked as hundreds of milliseconds. This first seemed unimportant since there were initially few customers active, but later with more customers, the latency increased to seconds. And so it became a standard practice for engineering teams to watch real-time performance of the onboarding process for new microservices at the onsite, so they can be more proactive about emerging problems and focus on resolutions earlier, avoiding full escalation of bigger, customer-wide problems.

Without the metrics and time series data analytics in Wavefront, it would be much harder for 8×8 to deal with such issues. Such slow-evolving issues directly impact customer experience. 8×8 seeks 100% of their customers to have problem-free cloud communications. This is why 8×8 monitors all their customers’ services in great detail for high service levels, and with detailed views on service performance and reliability. With rigid SLAs and support from Wavefront, 8×8 finds it possible to keep track of detailed customer metrics helping all their teams deliver exceptional service.

8×8 continues to advance its use of Wavefront, anticipating even more advanced analytics features to be released soon that will help its development teams to work faster, using more automation, to facilitate how its developers consume metrics-driven insights. With that, 8×8 developers will become even more productive – to the satisfaction of both 8×8 and its fast-growing customer base. Now that’s something to communicate about!

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Stela Udovicic is the product marketing lead for Wavefront by VMware (VMware acquired Wavefront). Before VMware, while at Wavefront, as Sr. Director, Product Marketing, Stela lead Product, Solutions and Partner Marketing. Prior to Wavefront, Stela ran Splunk's DevOps solutions marketing and executed the DevOps campaign, one of the best performing campaigns at Splunk. She led marketing activities with key strategic partnerships in DevOps space including Atlassian, Puppet, and others. Before DevOps, Stela was driving product marketing of Stream and Splunk's key applications including Splunk Apps for NetApp, Cisco ACI, Microsoft Exchange, all SDN apps. She was a marketing lead for Cisco, NetApp, and other strategic partners. She holds an MSc in Electrical Engineering. She has presented at many major conferences, including Splunk.conf, Cisco Live, RSA, DevOps Days, PuppetConf, VMworld, NetApp Insight, and others.

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