Watching the Web Apps

    Date16 Nov 2004
    4905
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    You're hot, flushed with anxiety. A critical Web system has failed. All agree the service is in trouble, but try to pinpoint the problem and consensus goes out the window. You sit in a meeting as co-workers paw performance reports like jumpy Chihuahuas. All eyes turn to you as the boss asks, "Why is it broken, and what's the fix?" . . . You're hot, flushed with anxiety. A critical Web system has failed. All agree the service is in trouble, but try to pinpoint the problem and consensus goes out the window. You sit in a meeting as co-workers paw performance reports like jumpy Chihuahuas. All eyes turn to you as the boss asks, "Why is it broken, and what's the fix?"

    The boss has reason to worry. If the failed system affects the speed at which your servers dish up pages, you could lose customers. Consumers are less willing to wait for Web pages compared with last year, according to DoubleClick, and shopping cart abandonment rates reached 57 percent in the third quarter of 2004.

    Companies know this, but they can't identify the points of failure. Systems, network and database performance logs offer volumes of data, but nothing definitive. Point-of-failure determination becomes a time suck involving manual correlation by lots of people with better things to do. That's because performance data comprises too much information about too many nuts and bolts. Business owners who consume IT services want a reliable up or down service view. Systems administrators need detailed but focused performance data. IT operations sits in between, calling for enough information to ascertain which domain needs to begin diagnostics but not so much that problem determination is delayed by a flood of alerts.

    This alert flood has been stemmed using fault-management correlation--effective as long as you're willing to commit resources to maintain the rules required to make sense of the data deluge. But now performance-management vendors offer another approach, one that bridges deep-dive domain-specific performance metrics with end-service views to offer operations just enough information to perform problem determination. An added benefit is that all three constituencies will stay (we hope) on the same page through the use of consistent data collection and performance presentation.

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