PagerDuty helps technical operations teams quickly address IT incidents

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Founded by geeks for geeks, PagerDuty pioneered an independent, highly reliable, cloud-based alerting service that works with almost all existing IT monitoring tools. By selecting Twilio as its primary communications provider, PagerDuty easily scaled to hundreds of thousands of SMS and voice alerts a month.

Your network fails in the middle of the night. But there’s no need to panic. Thanks to a robust alerting system, your team of alpha geeks is on it in an instant. For years, that has been the Hollywood version of incident response. In reality, most alerting systems were either complex, capital-intensive enterprise projects or unreliable, jury-rigged hacks that were as likely to fail themselves as the systems they monitored.

PagerDuty CEO Alex Solomon and the two other founders, Andrew Miklas and Baskar Puvanasathan, wanted to make alerting not only highly reliable but also simple and accessible. With PagerDuty, they built a cloud-based service that could aggregate incidents from multiple IT monitoring systems.

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Solution & Results

A rock-solid telecommunications service was crucial to PagerDuty’s success, which is why the team selected Twilio as their primary provider. “We absolutely can not go down,” said Owen Kim, one of PagerDuty’s lead engineers.

Twilio also offered the flexibility of escalating from SMS to voice notifications, as well as a very straightforward API that eased the pain of integrating PagerDuty with monitoring services like Nagios, Pingdom, Splunk, and Zenoss. “The Twilio integration was one of the easiest I have ever done,” Kim said.

“Twilio was one of the easiest integrations I have ever done.”

Owen Kim Software Engineer

With PagerDuty, users have just one place to go to set up sophisticated alerting rules with multiple levels of coverage. If a primary contact doesn’t respond, the alert is escalated to a secondary contact. Responding is easy—users simply reply to an SMS notification. Or, with voice alerts, they select an option from a voice menu.

Users can follow similar steps to immediately escalate an alert directly from their phones via a cross-platform mobile site or native iOS and Android apps.

Thanks to the ease of use and dependability of PagerDuty’s service, the company was able to grow market share for the first three years based solely on word-of-mouth recommendations. Customers include famous tech brands like Adobe, eBay, Etsy and Square.

“In my experience, PagerDuty is the ‘only’ way to get reliable, real-time alerts sent to techs with iPhones,” said Jesse Newland, CTO of Rails Machine. “The interface is slick and easy to work with, alerts are fast and reliable, and escalation policies are flexible and powerful,” observed Adam Wiggins, founder of Heroku.

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PagerDuty’s Twilio-powered communications platform easily scaled to hundreds of thousands of alerts a month. The ability to obtain a short code through Twilio, which allows Pager Duty to send up to 30 messages a second, was another example of how choosing to build on Twilio helped accelerate growth.

Now in its fifth year, PagerDuty recently raised nearly $11 million in funding in a round led by top-tier VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. Another milestone was the recent release of native iOS and Android apps that make managing your IT infrastructure even easier.

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How they built it

PagerDuty built its front-end on Ruby on Rails, while its back-end is written in Scala using Cassandra as a distributed database and Zookeeper for distributed synchronization. The Twilio-powered alerting app is integrated into Rails.

For Kim, the best part of building alerts on top of Twilio was the quality of its documentation. “I’ve run into documentation that’s out of date or just flat wrong,” he said. “Twilio has a much more developer-friendly and developer-oriented attitude and it’s evident in the quality of the documentation.”

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