Monday, January 26, 2009

Service Level Management Made Easy with BTM

Implementing Service Level Management successfully requires appropriate technology support. Service Level Management involves both business processes and IT processes that need to be carried out. Business Transaction Management provides the tools that both the Business and IT need in order to perform the tasks that are critical for a successful implementation. This article reviews some of the steps that need to be taken in order to implement Service Level Management and how Business Transaction Management supports each one of those steps.

Service Level Management Step 1 – Review Existing Services

By auto-discovering all of the services that are being provided by a monitored system, Business Transaction Management makes this step an especially easy one. Believe it or not, most organizations aren't even aware of all of the services that they are providing. Since Business Transaction Management solutions see all of the services that are being provided - in the form of business transactions - all of the information about the services, what resources they consume, who is using them and how often they are being utilized is readily available.

Service Level Management Step 2 – Negotiating With Customers

Most organizations are not aware of the service level that they are providing – most customers have no idea what the service levels they are receiving are. Business Transaction Management solutions provide all of the metrics that are needed for this negotiation to occur in the most accurate fashion possible by providing in depth data about all of the service levels.

Service Level Management Step 3 – SLA Management and Monitoring

SLAs can be easily produced based on current metrics that are provided by the Business Transaction Management solution. Out of the box, SLAs are defined based on the average latencies that the system records. The SLAs can then be modified according to the outcome of the agreement between the customer and the IT service provider. The Service Level Agreements are then monitored for every single transaction activation - continuously. An alert is sent out the moment SLAs begin degrading so that they can be taken care of before a major service disruption occurs. SLA management becomes automatic once a BTM solution is implemented

Service Level Management Step 4 – Implementation of a Service Improvement Policy

Business Transaction Management is a key tool in improving service. It not only reports the service level – it also shows the breakdown of every single transaction across the entire infrastructure so that the areas that are in the greatest need of improvement can be identified.

Service Level Management Step 5 – Establishing Priorities

Business Transaction Management solutions provide Valuable metrics that aid in the establishment of priorities. Some examples of those metrics are; what users are using specific services, how many times a minute is a specific service being called upon and which services are in need of the greatest improvement.

Service Level Management Step 6 – Planning for Service Growth

Business Transaction Management solutions provide resource consumption metrics of services across all of the servers that they utilize making service capacity planning easy. The Service Level Manager can see what part of the total resource consumption is being consumed by an individual service. The consumption profile of an individual service can be seen across all tiers and the breakdown of how the service is consuming resources at each tier can be seen. With the help of this data the Service Level Manager can accurately plan for service growth.

Service Level Management Step 7 – Charging for Services

Business Transaction Management solutions provide the IP address of each and every service call making chargeback easy. If a specific user name is needed this can also be provided. The level of service being provided is monitored continuously so that SLAs can be easily proved out.

Availability Management and SLA Management

Traditionally availability management looks at the availability of individual silos. The problem with performing availability management in this manner is that even if each one of the silos is managed to an availability of 99.9% the actual availability of a service that depends on four separate silos is 99.9%^4 or 99.5%. Therefore the only kind of availability management that truly keeps the business in mind is SLA Management.

The First Step towards Service Level Management – BTM

In conclusion; Business Transaction Management supports Service Level Management's responsibilities by:

  • ensuring that agreed IT services are delivered when and where they are supposed to be
  • liaising between Availability Management, Capacity Management, Incident Management and Problem Management to ensure that SLAs are achieved within the resources that are defined by the Business Management
  • Provide data that will help produce and maintain a service catalog
  • Helping to ensure that services are provided in a cost effective, secure and efficient manner



Thursday, January 22, 2009

BTM vs. Traditional Monitoring

Business Transaction Management (BTM) is an IT systems management paradigm that seeks to manage IT from the business perspective. The transactions that Customers and Employees execute represent the Business. The IT department's number one goal is to ensure that those transactions are being executed in a timely and reliable manner. BTM solutions are able to trace the path of these business transactions throughout the Data Center, across all of the tiers, so that if something goes wrong the exact problematic location is identified instantly.

While traditional monitoring tools seek to monitor the health of individual components, BTM solutions monitor the organization's bottom line – the transaction. The measurement granularity of traditional tools is limited, the can only measure total resource consumption for a specific server, BTM's measurement granularity is a single event which could be a web service call, SQL statement or HTTP request.

Traditional tools monitor performance as server up time, the problem with this is that while "all lights are green" for a specific server, the transactions that are flowing through that server are not necessarily doing so in a timely manner. BTM tools monitor the performance of what really counts – the user's quality of experience.

Friday, January 16, 2009

End to End Transaction Monitoring

The term "end to end" - in relation to transaction monitoring is very over used. "End to end" Website monitoring, "end to end" Server performance monitoring, "End to end" Database monitoring, monitoring traffic, "end to end" Network performance monitoring; the list goes on of tools that claim to provide "end to end" monitoring solutions when in fact they only provide monitoring for one small part of the bigger picture - the diagram below explains it all.

Why True End to End Transaction Monitoring is Different than Monitoring Server Performance

Monitoring server performance traditionally means that you are trying to make sure that CPU utilization and memory consumption are not maxed out, ensuring that resources are not maxing out does not promise true availability of applications. Traditional "end to end" monitoring tools provide a dashboard that shows the health of each one of the individual components within the data center. But what if someone forgot to re-connect a network cable after maintenance or what if a load balancer was configured incorrectly and is not executing a proper round robin? An alert will indicate that something is wrong with the servers that are still connected when in fact the problem is that traffic is simply not being equally distributed. You could implement some sort of network performance monitoring solution which would aid by monitoring the usage of the network, but that is not a single end to end solution anymore.

What if a runaway process in one server is "bombing" second server with requests? The server monitoring solution will blame the poor server that is being bombed by the server which has a runaway process running on it as opposed to indicating the source of the problem.

Real User Monitoring – An End to End Solution?

If you only take the user's tier into account, real user monitoring could be considered an end to end solution for that tier alone. You could also say that with real user monitoring you can see both ends of a transaction – hence the claim to provide "end to end". What about everything in the middle? What action is to be taken when a problem is detected by the end user experience tool? What if the root of the problem resides within the database or the mainframe? Shouldn't an end to end solution be able to take care of everything, including triage within the datacenter? Website performance monitoring is important for understanding the quality of service that your customers are receiving and there is a lot of value in that, but an end to end solution should also help you find the cause of the problem along with simply reporting its existence.

End to End Transaction Monitoring Tools Deliver

What do the following components have in common – the User Desktop, a Firewall, a Proxy, a Load Balancer, a Web Server, an Application Server, a message broker, a Database and a Mainframe? The answer is - you guessed it - transactions. The only way to provide a true end to end solution is by monitoring every transaction from the moment any user clicks any button and all the way through all of the different tiers and only business transaction management solutions can promise that.

Performance monitoring tools that are not showing end user performance are not focusing on what is most important to the business. Website monitoring tools that send synthetic transactions to the website and check response times are not showing what users are really experiencing or monitoring the usage of different services. Database monitoring is important but without knowing the context of that problematic SQL server transaction, resolution can be a shot in the dark.

Transaction Monitoring With Business Transaction Management

End to end solutions must be able to monitor all of the infrastructure's components. Transaction monitoring solutions do that automatically since they monitor the object that ties all of those different components together – the transactions. Business transaction management solutions enable a drill down that begins from each transaction type that is running on the system and ends with the smallest event that composes a single transaction instance. In this manner, not only are you ensuring that everything is running smoothly, but when things start to go wrong you can perform immediate triage and resolution.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Application Performance Management Solutions - Quick Tips

Any organization that is running business critical – time sensitive applications is in need of some sort of performance management system. When looking into what type of performance management tool to invest in - things can get confusing – surfing the web throws you into a sea of empty marketing messages. The label “application performance management” is vastly over used; the following article covers a few things that are not to be missed when considering an application performance management solution.

An Application Performance Management Offering Must Include an End User Monitoring Capability

How else can you know how your application is really performing?

End user monitoring tools provide a wonderful presentation of the bottom line of how your applications are performing. When it comes to web application management there is a long list of network appliances that serve the purpose - giving you a plug and play solution – with no need to install anything on the user’s desktop. But what happens when the end user monitoring tool that you are using for your web application management shows that latencies have gone wild?

You need an application performance management solution that knows how to connect between the latencies that your users are seeing and problem that is causing the latency in the data center.

Now of course in these troubled times the performance management system that you may be looking to invest in must not eat up your entire IT budget. Purchasing more than one performance management tool is simply out of the question and network appliances cannot make that full connection, enabling true application performance management.

An Application Performance Management Tool should aid with Data Center Management

Why settle for an application performance management tool that sees only the application server?

True application performance management cannot be done with your run of the mill server management software; true performance management solutions offer the ability to perform data center management. The need for application performance monitoring tools to provide data center management comes from the complex, distributed and interdependent nature of applications these days. Application performance monitoring solutions must take into consideration the entire data center if they are to perform proper triage of a problem. A lot of data center management tools these days utilize information that is collected from server management software that is installed on various tiers, the problem with this is that you end up collecting a whole bunch of resource consumption metrics that do not correlate to what the end user sees which directly reflects your performance. Not monitoring what the end user sees means that your users could be experiencing major problems with the application which you will only hear about if those users take the time to call customer service. Since there are many cases where server management software shows that availability is fine but transactions are taking too long to process.

Application Performance Management – Monitoring Network Performance

What is your application without the network that it is sitting on?

Monitoring network performance also plays a role in application performance management. Imagine that your end user monitoring tool shows that latencies are too high while the latencies that you measure within your application server are only a small percentage of the total latency that your users are seeing. Only by monitoring network performance will your application performance management tool provide the performance management solution that will cover all of your bases.

Only Business Transaction Management Provides the Single Solution

Monitoring every single transaction from the end user - through the network and all the way to the back end of the data center is the only way for an application performance management solution to cover all of the bases that are listed above. The discipline of doing this is called Business Transaction Management or BTM.