FineGround helps admins manage app traffic

A new tool from FineGround attempts to help admins monitor multi-step Web application transactions or business processes by showing exactly where latency occurs.

Network administrators know that LAN or WAN problems are often to blame for latency in browser-based applications, but app slowness is just as easily caused by end users or the applications themselves.

Unfortunately, a long line of admins have thrown their hands in the air because monitoring tools are often unable to pinpoint where latency problems originate.

Aiming to provide some relief, application performance management vendor FineGround Networks Inc. today is unveiling a new dashboard feature for its Enterprise Application Delivery (EAD) Suite that will target exactly where Web apps slow down.

The Campbell, Calif.-based vendor has been in the application performance management market for four years. Its EAD Suite combines an appliance that monitors, accelerates and secures data from applications made by IBM Lotus, Oracle Corp., SAP AG, Siebel Systems Inc. and others with complementary client-based software tools for keeping an eye on performance.

The Linux-based appliance serves as a reverse application proxy, analyzing incoming and outgoing application server data. Based on a customer's needs, the appliance can perform three major functions.

Its condenser optimizes Web-based and XML traffic to reduce the number of packets and network traversals, decreasing bandwidth usage for some applications by 90%.

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The monitoring system records response times from the application server through the network to the end-user desktop in real-time without the use of network agents.

The third element, an application firewall, prevents buffer overflow, cross-site scripting and other types of attacks by using stateful content inspection to block content that violates security policies.

FineGround's new dashboard feature enhances its tracking tools by enabling a user to monitor multi-step transactions or business processes. Currently, a user can monitor latency in conjunction with individual Web application URLs, but when the new dashboard is released early next year, a company can, for instance, measure how quickly an application can produce a sales quote that involved several steps and pinpoint where performance bogs down.

Jay Mellman, FineGround's vice president of marketing, said the enhancement helps administrators make the leap from monitoring packets and pages to seeing how the network impacts complete business processes.

"This gives someone a much easier way to communicate what's going on, instead of building reports from raw data," Mellman said. "It aggregates network and application data into something that's meaningful for the business."

Additionally, the dashboard's transaction builder helps users establish the processes they want to monitor, and offers high-level trend summaries and executive reports.

The dashboard will be available with the next version of the EAD Suite. Pricing starts at $15,000 and ranges up to $50,000, depending on hardware and software requirements.

Richard Ptak, co-founder of Amherst, N.H.-based research firm Ptak, Noel & Associates, said without a clear market leader, FineGround is competing against a myriad of small vendors and venerable software firms such as BMC Software Inc., Computer Associates International Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. However, Mellman said his company partners with BMC and others.

Ptak said application performance management is becoming more important to enterprises now that the tools are capable of quickly providing relevant information.

"Until recently, trying to track down where problems are in the process -- the infrastructure, network or end user -- has been very problematic, expensive and difficult do in real time," Ptak said. "But the technology has gotten better and the presentation of the information has become more useful."

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