Sunday, July 5, 2009

IT Reliability through Business Transaction Management

I just got back from a regional CMG conference where the majority of attendees identify themselves as IT performance and capacity professionals. Ultimately the objective of their work is to make the organization’s IT systems more reliable.
  • By planning for tomorrow’s capacity they ensure that the applications that our co-workers and customers rely on will continue to be reliable throughout increased usage and new changes.
  • By managing IT performance they enable the day to day reliability of these applications so that revenue can be generated and growth achieved.
By focusing our efforts on the greater goal of IT reliability we are able to heal the great disconnect that happens much too often between the business and IT. Showing the business graphs of increased CPU consumption or bandwidth utilization does not enable them to relate to the performance and capacity issues that they are concerned with. IT resource consumption metrics may be the “vital signs” of IT systems, but this is kind of like checking a patient’s pulse and respiratory rate and saying that they are healthy enough even though the patient may be suffering from a terminal disease. The lights may be on, but are the IT systems you manage perceived as reliable by the end users and the business?

Put yourself in the shoes of the end user; you want any action that you perform within an application to have a quick and valid response. That is reliability in the eyes of the business and the end user and that is exactly what your work as a performance or capacity professional is seeking to enable.

What connects between all of the various parts of the puzzle? What links the business, the end users, the network, firewalls, proxy servers, web servers, application servers, load balancers, message brokers, databases, and mainframes? Transactions.
When posing the question "how do YOU define a transaction?" to a room full of IT professionals you are likely to receive a handful of different answers.
Typically one would define an HTTP request, database call, CICS transaction or SOAP request as a transaction. In this paper these are defined as transaction segments that are part of a greater transaction.
A transaction is the most elementary unit of work that can be performed by a user of an application. Whenever a user clicks a button within an application, they have performed a “transaction activation”. This “transaction activation” can trigger any number of IT processes within the datacenter that are used to get the work done. A transaction could be a transfer of funds, a purchase, an update of information, or the opening of a new account – any user interaction with the application – also known as a business service or unit of work.

To be continued next week...

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