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Case study: PropFuel

MySQL expertise as an extension of your team

PropFuel is a conversational engagement platform that helps member-based organizations communicate with their members. Prior to PlanetScale, PropFuel was an Amazon RDS user. Unhappy with Amazon RDS due to downtime and support issues, they decided to explore PlanetScale. Since then, PlanetScale has provided PropFuel with extensive support, MySQL expertise, and the confidence to easily make changes to the database.

More than a technology platform

Cameron Aubuchon is the co-founder and CTO of PropFuel. When considering PlanetScale, PropFuel was a 12-person team. On the engineering side, Cameron was the only technical team member. Due to this, he was doing all of the coding and database administration while being on-call 24/7. This was difficult for Cameron and something he knew needed to change as the company scaled.

I’m onboarding the technology platform, but also a team of experts that know way beyond what I do about databases.

This was when PlanetScale became the right choice for PropFuel. Evaluating, lifting, and shifting your application to a new database is always challenging. But Cameron saw PlanetScale as something more than a technology platform: He saw our team as the MySQL experts in the field. He wasn’t purchasing a technology but a partnership.

“This was one of the main drivers for us liking PlanetScale. I’m onboarding the technology platform, but also a team of experts that know way beyond what I do about databases. I haven’t looked at a server load graph for the database since we’ve onboarded.”

With PlanetScale, MySQL expertise is just a Slack message away.

PHP, Laravel, and PlanetScale

PropFuel is a PHP and Laravel shop. With 15+ years of PHP experience, Cameron finds the combination of PHP and the Laravel framework is the quickest way to get their application to market.

This is also one of the reasons why PropFuel liked PlanetScale. It’s a MySQL database that works out of the box with Laravel. It doesn’t require a special driver. To switch over, PropFuel had to change the credentials from their previous setup and make some minor tweaks to some queries.

We liked PlanetScale because it’s a MySQL database. It really wasn’t any significant level of effort to migrate [to PlanetScale]. It was like a plug and play.

Improved support and less downtime

PropFuel were Amazon RDS users before PlanetScale. They paid for AWS business support, which made up 10% of their bill and $100s a month to be able to put in a support ticket. Unfortunately, there were numerous instances where no one responded to their support request. Even when they did get a response, it wasn’t very helpful.

In one particular instance, PropFuel had a couple of system outages that lasted about an hour. AWS support could not find the root cause of the issue. Even after a two-month long root cause analysis, the suggestions were not helpful.

With PlanetScale, Cameron was confident he’d receive more timely and helpful support.

The PlanetScale team has been super responsive anytime we had questions or needed help. Having our Slack channel where I could reach out and someone would get back to me within a couple minutes has been super helpful. Not just during the sales and onboarding process, but all the way through.

RDS was also the cause of numerous instances of downtime for PropFuel. Due to this risk of downtime, PropFuel refrained from making schema changes. There were a few schema changes Cameron knew needed to be made, but because they were on tables with millions of rows, he didn’t do them to avoid downtime.

When migrating to PlanetScale, Cameron wanted to find the best way to cutover with minimal downtime. To do this, they ran a few tests with the help of the PlanetScale team. Due to PropFuel’s old environment setup, the PlanetScale migration tool was incompatible, and there was no way to make the database publicly accessible. The migration process would have to be long and manual.

Despite this, the migration process only took two weeks. Cameron recalls the PlanetScale team being responsive and hands-on during this process.

PlanetScale gives us a lot more confidence in schema changes.

With zero downtime and excellent support, PropFuel is very confident with their database. Making changes to the database can be daunting, but schema changes are no longer a risk for PropFuel.

Identifying a single query out of millions

In PropFuel’s previous setup, they had no insight into query performance. This is something that Cameron could have instrumented, but it wasn’t his area of expertise. Thus, PropFuel never had granular insight into the active queries running against the database.

With PlanetScale Insights, PropFuel now has insight into all queries.

This is very important to PropFuel. With this insight, they’ve been able to make schema changes, add indexes, and redo the data model to have more confidence in their application performance. On top of this, it’s been helpful to run these ideas by the PlanetScale team.

“PlanetScale has the expertise to say yeah, the best practice would be this. They give experienced advice. I’m a developer that has to deal with the database because you have to store data somewhere. I’m not a database geek.”

Cameron recounts an instance where PlanetScale Insights helped him discover a single query running three times a day out of millions of queries. This single query was discoverable because Insights gives a view into the active queries running against the database. Had PropFuel randomly sampled these queries, this single query could have been missed.

Additionally, being able to identify how often queries are running has helped Cameron identify where in the code it’s running. This isn’t always an obvious connection. Diagnosing these issues is only possible when you have insight into production query performance.

“The most important thing with any database is that it works. All the cool features in the world aren’t worth anything if your database goes down.” Insights have been an essential feature for PropFuel to keep everything running smoothly. “Reliability and performance are baseline things that are there with PlanetScale.”

PlanetScale as an extension of the PropFuel team

MySQL expertise is just a Slack message away for PropFuel. Cameron sees PlanetScale as an extension of PropFuel’s team.

“It doesn’t make sense to go out and hire a DBA. It’s hard to find a full-stack developer who can write, design frontend and backend code, and all the other stuff we need to do with a small team. With PlanetScale, those resources are available to us.”

On top of database expertise, Cameron loves PlanetScale’s constant product velocity and the speed at which new features are added. Before PlanetScale, he saw MySQL as a 20-year old technology with little innovation. Now, he’s excited to get access to all the new features being shipped.

PlanetScale’s product velocity inspires new ideas on how to deliver value to our customers at the end of the day.

Previous Database
Amazon RDS
Achieved with PlanetScale
Power and Velocity

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