Q

How to select a performance monitoring tool

A performance monitoring tool would help you be proactive and avoid serious problems, but what should you consider before making a purchase? Jasmine Noel offers her advice.

What factors should be considered when deciding on a performance monitoring product for Web-based applications?

A good performance monitoring solution takes tons of performance data generated by the production infrastructure and users and analyzes it in the context of the application being delivered. However, performance monitoring for Web-based applications is different from traditional applications built with monolithic architectures. Web-based application architectures are tiered with each tier residing on its own infrastructure (Web server, application server, database, etc.)

The Web application transactions also often flow through infrastructure such as firewalls or application accelerators, which rarely appear on the software architectural diagrams. Therefore, the solution must be able to collect and consolidate key performance indicators from a wide variety of infrastructure.

The solution must also provide a good understanding of the user's experience with the application, as many Web applications are customer- and partner-facing and poor performance usually has an immediate financial impact to the business. There are several alternatives, each with tradeoffs.

Running synthetic transactions can quickly provide a performance baseline for a specific application transaction, but that may not be useful for websites with complex highly interactive applications. A correctly placed monitoring appliance can provide a good approximation of the user experience when the application processing is conducted primarily on corporate infrastructure. However, Web 2.0 technology such as Ajax that allows more client-side processing may necessitate browser-based monitoring capabilities.

Another consideration is that in many cases the application user is another application. Application-to-application transactions often occur at much faster rates, which will put enormous pressure on the performance monitoring solution to rapidly collect and analyze data.

The solution must be able to analyze the user and infrastructure data in context. To do this, it must understand how different types of infrastructure interact to deliver the Web application. When the infrastructure performance data is analyzed with this relationship map, it helps IT staff to quickly understand how infrastructure issues will affect the behavior of the application as a whole. When the user experience data is analyzed in this context, it helps IT staff troubleshoot more complex root causes such as architectural issues or functional errors.

 

This was first published in August 2008

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