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IT's big picture: Ensuring business certainty

This column explores the importance of ensuring the performance of mission-critical applications with the help of application service level solutions.

As information technology (IT) departments become bogged down trying to ensure compliance, streamline processes and find creative ways to produce and leverage cost-effective infrastructures, the "big picture" can easily be lost. Ultimately, companies depend on their IT organizations to deliver business certainty. The certainty that they can readily identify and remedy any hardware and software resource malfunctions that are negatively affecting critical application service levels and causing costly business interruptions.

Negative impact of application performance issues

It's hard to overstate the importance of ensuring the performance of mission-critical applications. When business applications falter or fail, companies lose customers, revenue and resources that could be spent elsewhere. It is estimated that it takes on average 26 hours for most companies to resolve application service issues. This is unacceptable for most end-users particularly those that are trying to execute time-sensitive transactions such as trading stocks online. In some cases, IT may have no visibility into the problems an end-user is experiencing unless the end-user contacts the help desk.

Challenges of performance management

The increasing complexity, cost and criticality of applications has contributed directly to the lengthy process of application service level (ASL) management and injected a level of uncertainty into business. Unfortunately, most ASL alerting capabilities are ineffective because they simply push every known threshold violation from every instrument monitoring the thousands of metrics in a company's infrastructure to the IT staff. This overwhelms and burdens IT managers with the daunting task of trying to understand, correlate and act upon volumes of alert data so vast that it becomes meaningless. As a result, many IT managers set thresholds artificially high to reduce the amount of unimportant alerts or avoid them altogether.

Re-gain confidence in applications: Alert and identify issues readily

Ideally, companies should seek application service level management solutions that not only alert a company to application service level problems before customers find them, but also automatically and intelligently identify which application resources are the likely causes of service level violations, narrowing the guesswork. To do this, performance management solutions must be collecting data and metrics in real-time and running production environments that represent the real user against the system. In this way, IT managers can monitor in real-time and correlate both the end-user's perception of what an application is doing in conjunction with analysis of various low-level application measurements from the network, databases or Web to resolve issues more quickly. ASL management solutions that have the capability to analyze and correlate abnormal measurements using deterministic, statistical and predictive models against the normal business environment will be better able to pinpoint causes of application service level degradation.

Correct and validate: Fix the problem

Taking it a step further, advanced ASL solutions can not only alert and identify issues but also correct and validate results. With ASL solutions that suggest corrective actions to application service level problems and validate that those corrective actions have restored desired service levels, IT manager can take the guesswork out of business certainty. In this way, IT managers can choose to have the ASL solution automatically correct low-level issues as they occur and manually correct more critical issues, focusing their time on the mission-critical issues that matter most to them.

For example, ASL management solutions can help with provisioning needs by adapting the application environment to meet the demands of end-users by automatically bringing online other servers as needed. This allows IT managers to use resources more efficiently and eliminate the cost of over-provisioning of the server environment to avoid running out of server capacity.

In order to validate that corrective actions have worked, IT managers must have an ASL management solution that has been monitoring service levels from the beginning and has established a baseline. By doing this, IT managers can see if service levels have shifted from the baseline. Without a monitoring mechanism to become aware of a problem or to see what an end-user is experiencing then there's less certainty of knowing if the problem was accurately resolved. In addition, by analyzing past service level performance and application infrastructure, businesses can better anticipate future needs and requirements to start new marketing initiatives or meet increased business goals.

Ensuring business certainty

Business certainty means narrowing the time it takes to do problem resolution so that when application service problems occur, and they will, businesses can minimize the negative impact to their organization. To ensure business certainty, businesses need an ASL management solution that takes a holistic approach by linking application service levels to the "health" of hardware and software resources in real-time. Business certainty means mission-critical applications will remain up and running to provide customers with the best possible user experience and businesses with invaluable real-time insight. That kind of business certainty is priceless.
About the Author:
Kent Mingus is currently Director of Product Marketing at VIEO. He has been marketing Application Performance Management (APM) solutions for over six years with leading companies such as Precise and VERITAS. Prior to his marketing career, Mr. Mingus practiced in the software engineering field for many years on a wide array of projects that included the Iridium satellite project and the F-16 Fighter avionics upgrade program.

About VIEO
VIEO is a real-time application service level management company that improves business-critical application certainty to minimize business interruptions. VIEO dramatically streamlines the process of resolving application service level problems and ensures that application environments consistently deliver the expected performance and availability to support the business. Using VIEO solutions, IT organizations can improve service delivery while reducing costs and complexity.

This was last published in April 2005

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