Imagine the "situation room": IT executives are staring at a wall of screens that depict the real-time performance of applications and transactions. Does this sound like science fiction? It isn't anymore, as a spate of end-to-end monitoring tools makes its way to market.
Announcements this month from such companies as Compuware Corp., Precise Software Solutions Inc. and Microsoft -- along with offerings from Correlsense Ltd., Veeam Software Corp. and Quest Software Inc.'s Vizioncore -- promise promise to make visible network performance on private and hybrid clouds, capabilities that have been sorely missing, analysts say. These end-to-end monitoring tools will reduce the amount of time it takes IT staff to locate and fix problems, freeing them from troubleshooting mode and enabling them to focus on adding value to the business.
Monitoring the network end to end
When Phil West, CIO of Gainsco Inc., a Dallas-based provider of nonstandard automobile insurance, arrives at his situation room in the morning, he dims the lights, fires up a Correlsense SharePath console and monitors the network environment. "We can look at any number of things to see what's going on," he said. "It's real time, and we keep it up all day long."
Gainsco doesn't sell insurance directly, but operates a key portal from which 4,000 agents can obtain insurance quotes and policy information. The company's sales have quadrupled in five years, and it constantly reviews its IT strategy. In late 2009 it rearchitected its portal systems and processes to add transaction management and security, but it began to experience latency, which frustrated the agents.
Before the SharePath solution, West's staff had to crack code open and insert catchpoint code to troubleshoot the system. "If the catchpoints were in the wrong spot, we had to put them somewhere else," he said. With SharePath he is able to drill down with a few mouse clicks to find a problem in "five or ten" minutes that might have taken days before, he added.
"This tool really allows you to see what's going on in your world real-time, down to a detailed level," West said. In fact, Gainsco plans to use the end-to-end monitoring in test and development applications, so that "if we're making changes, we can see before putting it into production what will happen," he said. "The hardest thing to manage is change in an environment, and this allows us to do it with no surprises."
Recent developments in monitoring tools, in a nutshell
When problems in a private or a hybrid cloud are difficult to resolve, the quality of an enterprise's service and its overall productivity and revenue are affected directly, according to Jean-Pierre Garbani, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Such problems are also a source of unplanned work for IT, with big consequences in operational costs -- another reason why end-to-end monitoring tools have gained in importance over the past year. It's an area that several vendors are looking to address:
We are pretty swamped; troubleshooting is where it's at.
Joseph Bobarsky, manager of SAP services, Graybar Services Inc.
• This week, Correlsense Ltd. in Framingham, Mass. announced a partnership with San Diego-based Coradiant Inc. to provide enterprises with an end-to-end view of application performance within and outside a firewall. Under the agreement, Coradiant's TrueSight end-user experience management software will work seamlessly with Correlsense's SharePath IT reliability platform, officials said.
• Last week, Compuware Corp. announced Gomez First Mile, a Software-as-a-Service application performance management (APM) solution that the vendor says will allow organizations, together with Gomez outside-in monitoring, to determine instantly whether the cause of a problem resides in the data center, on the Internet, with a third-party provider, or with the user's browser or device.
• LogMeIn Inc. unveiled a release of LogMeIn Central, the company's Web-based management console, that it says will help IT professionals better access and manage tens, hundreds or thousands of computers across distributed work environments. The new release introduces end-to-end automation for remote management.
• Microsoft announced its purchase of APM vendor AVIcode Inc. Gartner analysts believe AVIcode's portfolio will be offered as part of Microsoft's System Center Server Management Suite, to provide a management suite for the entire Microsoft stack.
• At VMworld 2010, Precise Software announced Precise for Cloud, a transaction performance management solution that does problem isolation and resolution. In addition, Veeam Software's Veeam Monitor took home honors from VMworld 2010 for troubleshooting and issue resolution.
• Earlier this year, Vizioncore, a Quest Software company, was placed on Gartner's Magic Quadrant for application performance monitoring.
End to end forensic analysis
For Joseph Bobarsky, manager of SAP services at Graybar Services Inc., an electronics distributor based in St. Louis, advances in end-to-end monitoring are a welcome development. Not long after Graybar went live with SAP in some of its sales districts, its IT department found the platform lacking in tools for troubleshooting or reporting a problem, he said. For example, the distributor wanted to keep performance statistics over weeks and months; SAP keeps a lot of detailed statistics, but that level of detail is short-lived, he said.
"Most of our problems are performance problems," Bobarsky said of an SAP implementation that enables 8,000 users to tie into the supply chain: "We realized the need for a performance management tool, and looked at several vendors that had [features] that would augment the SAP tools." Graybar chose Precise Software's monitoring software, which allowed the company to "keep that data in a warehouse that we could provide reports from." The software has been especially helpful with forensics after a problem, he said.
"One time, we discovered that an index on the database would help a [data] transaction enormously," Bobarsky said. "We determined in Oracle what the cost benefit would be, and then I turned it over to our database group." Precise software also helped Graybar determine whether indexes were needed in the database, and how they would affect other transactions. "You can hurt one and help the other," he said. "With this, we could see what kind of impact it would have." Another time, Graybar had a circuit problem that showed up as a networking problem. The end-to-end monitoring tool confirmed it was happening, "and told us where to focus further with SAP," he said.
Graybar has a dedicated group that handles the monitoring, and there's a lot more they could do -- alert monitoring, trending analysis, capacity planning -- but it's a matter of managing resources, according to Bobarsky. "We are pretty swamped," he said. "Troubleshooting is where it's at."
Let us know what you think about the story; email Laura Smith, Features Writer.