Proactive Middleware Monitoring: How It Keeps Business Humming
September 21, 2011
Charley Rich
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It’s no surprise that as businesses grow and take on more orders, their transaction processing demands grow. And it might not be surprising that the process to monitor and ensure the smooth operation of the applications that manage those transactions becomes more difficult. Without effective and operational transaction processing, day-to-day business will come to a screeching halt. The applications that ensure this don’t communicate with each other through middleware. What you might not realize, however, is that enterprises need to pay as much attention to keeping their middleware running smoothly as they do to their applications.

Middleware is computer software that interconnects applications. It consists of a set of services that allow multiple processes running on one or more machines to interact. Essentially, it connects two or more applications that need to exchange data. Common middleware types include: J2EE, messaging, .NET, CICS and the new cloud messaging technologies.

Key to success in handling this business growth is the ability to ensure that the ever-growing transaction load is processed rapidly, thus avoiding customer attrition or regulatory penalties. This, in turn, means an ongoing effort to reduce latency and improve performance.

Low-latency middleware monitoring is particularly difficult as the tolerances are low and the risk of negatively affecting performance through measurement is high. In addition, the resources necessary to handle the load in a global environment are not uniform. Demand may increase in the US, decrease in northern Europe and increase in Asia Pacific, for example, and then suddenly change again.

Scaling up the hardware in every location is not cost effective. In fact, it is cost prohibitive. The solution to this is elasticity. This means having the capability to handle changing loads; grow when the load increases and correspondingly shrink when it is not needed. Using today’s cloud-based infrastructure, a shared pool of resources can provision the necessary computer processing power and middleware throughput when needed and de-provision it, so it can be used by other locations when it is no longer needed.

To achieve the lowest latency, organizations can augment existing middleware software with network-based middleware appliances when managing business processes via cloud architecture. However, organizations may face a number of issues in order to effectively deliver their service to the enterprise. Such issues include: business growth, additional regulation, a requirement for consolidation and mobility of applications. Another alternative to help address these core issues is the usage of SaaS for cloud based middleware. This can be especially helpful in connecting the edges of the enterprise such as headquarters, branch offices and trading partners.

Often, organizations employ several different monitoring tools for their middleware estate that are not integrated into one central system. This setup makes it difficult for IT to come to actionable, early warning conclusions about application availability and performance as they only see a partial view of the enterprise environment. Integrated middleware monitoring allows organizations to better manage its low-latency processes, turning the unknown into a competitive advantage.

These same enterprises utilize different tools for diagnostics during the QA and user acceptance testing (UAT) stages of the application lifecycle. This is problematic when we look at how much time QA spends trying to reproduce production problems. With a different set of tooling this becomes quite difficult. Standardizing on the same tooling for QA diagnostics and production can help reduce the cost to release new versions of applications and their support costs.

Solutions for Circumventing Hang Ups

In order for organizations to best bring all their issues into clearer view, they need one monitoring/diagnostic solution that proactively identifies these issues. To handle the “good problem” of business growth, organizations can utilize an active data grid to transparently share resources in their private cloud. Instead of constantly installing “fat clients” when users needed access, they can be provided with a web dashboard.

Consolidation can be handled via one monitoring system that proactively monitors applications. Subsuming information feeds from existing tools creates a single point of control for all middleware, resulting in reduced costs for management and resolution of problems.

The requirement to support mobility can now be handled by the elasticity of the middleware solution delivered by new appliances. And in kind, the new monitoring solution will scale elastically to handle the changing loads.

Lessons Learned

For middleware monitoring to provide real world business benefits, it needs to be proactive and identify problems before users are affected and business processes are disrupted. In fact, it should provide a closed-loop methodology for managing known problems and preventing the impact of their reoccurrence. This is considered a cycle for continuous monitoring improvement and is one of the most effective ways to improve productivity and reduce the cost of ITIL problem management.

Competitive Advantages

Fast performance with minimal latency and maximum reliability is increasingly touted as a competitive advantage for firms that manage fund transfers and other financial processes.
Firms like those that embrace global middleware monitoring can tout their ability to offer minimal latency and maximum reliability while maintaining the exponentially rising flow of data across multiple interrelated applications.

Organizations that utilize monitoring are better equipped to interact with the biggest and most demanding customers and juggle the dynamic changes in load that a private cloud infrastructure makes possible. Performance not only saves cash but also makes money. The business with the least latency in its financial process wins. Organizations that provide the highest levels of service to their customers retain them. Plus, higher levels of service and the available resources to create new ones will attract additional business.

About Charley Rich

Charley Rich, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing at Nastel, is a software product management professional who brings over 27 years of technical hands-on experience working with large-scale customers to meet their application and systems management requirements. Earlier in his career he held positions as Director of Strategy and Planning and later Vice President of Field Marketing for eCommerce firm InterWorld. Charley is a sought after technical speaker and a published author.

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