Case Study

#customers

Plex uses Axiom for real-time visibility into their vast streaming service


Customer Case Study Screenshot

“Axiom easily integrated into our project with their Vercel integration and allowed us to hit the ground running with custom dashboards and alerts.”

Eric Matthys

Principal Software Engineer

Takeaways:

  • Affordable cost — Axiom’s pricing scales well to meet expanding needs and new uses.
  • Easy start, custom dashboards — Integrating with Vercel proved both fast and flexible.
  • End-to-end observability — Axiom’s dashboards and intuitive search box let Plex see how configuration changes affect traffic in real time, find the sources of problems, and track end-to-end performance from the viewpoint of the entire Vercel project.

About Plex:

Plex is the only app to connect you to all your favorite streaming services and augment your own personal media collections, plus 50,000+ free movies & shows, and 600+ free Live TV channels. It also provides live OTA TV with DVR capabilities with Plex Media Server. Watch Plex instantly online from your personal computer or on any internet-connected device that offers the Plex app. That includes streaming media players (Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, etc.), smart TVs (LG, Hisense, Samsung, VIZIO, etc.), smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and more.

The Challenge: Analyze logs from a streaming media site with millions of users

Plex adopted the Vercel platform to deploy watch.plex.tv, their streaming video site. They needed a way to monitor and analyze event logs that would integrate easily with Vercel, let them affordably ingest, store and query all events, and create custom dashboards specific to Plex’s service.

Streaming video combines the need for high bandwidth and low latency. Customers are neither patient nor tolerant with flaky service. Plex’s existing monitoring tools could report response times from their own services, but engineers wanted to track end-to-end response times across all of them.

Moreover, watch.plex.tv provides an SEO-focused catalog to attract new viewers and make it easy to find what’s available on Plex. But search engine bots can hammer a site’s infrastructure and run up unnecessary bills if the site isn’t configured just right. Engineers wanted to see how their configuration changes affected bot behavior in real time.

“We can see performance end-to-end, as the entire Vercel project sees it.”

Eric Matthys

Principal Software Engineer

The Solution: Dashboards for end-to-end metrics, pricing that scales well

Axiom’s Vercel integration includes a turnkey Vercel dashboard, which Plex engineers found easy to fork off into new custom dashboards. Axiom’s combination of performance and affordability lets Plex engineers monitor activity in real time, with end-to-end visibility of network activity that doesn’t miss a point along the way. They can monitor requests from specific user agents, and include custom logs of their own that help them understand how Plex’s catalog is being crawled and watched.

In one case, Axiom dashboards showed that end-to-end response times were unusually elevated, far beyond what they were seeing within the backend service. That tipped them off that it was a networking issue. They found that a Cloudflare tiered cache was rerouting requests to a different city instead of the local edge server.

Axiom’s pricing scaled better than alternatives, too. Some other services they looked at were relatively cheap at a small scale, but quickly became expensive to capture the number of logs Plex wanted to send.

Plex currently has three main Axiom dashboards: One tracks general activity including bot traffic, another watches web vitals and serverless execution time (another source of surprise bills), and a third watches the performance of their internal services end-to-end, so they can see performance as the entire Vercel project sees it rather than as internal components. Axiom lets them keep an eye on everything in real-time without log latency — as important to engineers as a hiccup-free video stream is to their customers.

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