Web Server Load Balancing with NGINX Plus


Enabling Rapid Troubleshooting by Providing Critical Insights into Web Traffic
Salt Lake City, Utah
Use Cases

FamilySearch is a worldwide genealogy searching service with over 4 billion cataloged names.


Managing the traffic for a high‑speed event monitoring system.


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Captured 100% of Serious Issue Metrics

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Met Performance Needs Without Suffering Slowdown

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Exposed Inefficiencies in Apps and Services Elsewhere in System


Running a giant database of over 4 billion people is a big enough challenge, but FamilySearch goes the added distance of making that information store publicly searchable for free. With 24/7 access, free phone support, and a wealth of data to make available, is an online genealogy search engine with some of the same usage numbers and demands as commercial search offerings. The service also includes images and history allowing users to find their distant relatives and perhaps even to see what they looked like.


Don Stringham, Senior Software Engineer at FamilySearch International, said that the internal systems at required better monitoring and logging. Thus, the internal team began working on building out an event management system for logging and tracking issues, and for sending out alerts to IT staff when problems arose.

This internally developed monitoring system was not capturing all of the priority 1 event information that the team needed to effectively manage and track issues. This meant that 67% of major issues were being lost entirely before being logged by the event management system.

In addition, the team was unable to gather the metrics it needed from this monitoring system, and thus could not properly determine if the monitoring system itself was performing as needed. Was this new system up to snuff? Did it scale as needed? These questions were not answerable in the first iteration of the event monitoring service.


Within this monitoring system, Stringham said the team eventually chose to use NGINX Plus. The decision was made based on the metrics capabilities and the performance. When the move was made, the team went from missing 67% of P1 events to capturing 100% of them.

The team working on the event management system had initially built without NGINX Plus. Upon switching to using NGINX Plus, however, they quickly learned the shortcomings of the other components of their system. NGINX Plus was fast enough to expose the bottlenecks that existed in the services where it served as reverse proxy, and it turned out those other aspects of the system were not scaling properly.

“One thing we did learn in capturing the 100% of the P1’s was that this event monitoring system did not scale. It wasn’t sufficient. So we made it sufficient by purchasing NGINX Plus. We’re going to continue to use and expand our use of NGINX Plus in the future. It’s a great performer and it scales very well,” said Stringham.


Stringham sums up the value of NGINX succinctly: “We chose NGINX Plus for two main features. The first one is the metrics that it provides on the Web interface and through an API. The second one was for the ability to scale Docker containers based on Web traffic.” The team at FamilySearch plans on expanding its use of NGINX Plus in the future thanks to its reliability and performance.

About FamilySearch International

Originally created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch International is a massive database dedicated to genealogy. The service is offered free of charge as a resource to users looking to research their own family history. The service includes over 4 billion names in its searchable database, 24/7 phone support, and over 4,000 physical locations around the world.