"Think big, start small." That's the advice Tommy Hvid Jørgensen offers to organizations that are contemplating an application performance management solution. And, added the section leader for Web technology infrastructure at JN Data A/S in Denmark, "Have a clear vision when you put in APM."
JN Data is a data center jointly owned by two Danish financial services institutions, Nykredit and Jyske Bank. "We provide wall-to-wall IT operations for our two customers," Jørgensen explained. "They develop the new financial applications, and we integrate and implement them into secure solutions, in the infrastructure. We cover some 20,000 internal PC users, and some 250,000 end users."
Like all data centers, Jørgensen said, they grapple with the ability to proactively find performance issues before they reach production, and determine if the problem is with the application, the infrastructure, or both. And like all data centers, he added, JN Data faced the problem of the "blame game."
Also like many data centers facing a performance issue, "when we couldn't trace what the actual root cause was, we just added capacity; we put in additional hardware. That's a traditional maneuver from a data center perspective. It's the easiest way, but it's not a good way from a rational perspective," he said.
Their efforts to trace root causes of problems were isolated, he said, using niche products and requiring a great deal of human resources. They did have a surveillance console that indicated if systems were up or down, "but we didn't have anything to cover performance aspects." Now, he said, "We have taken a more strategic approach."
That strategic approach includes the use of the CA Wily APM solution, consisting of CA Wily Introscope and CA Wily Customer Experience Manager (CEM). Introscope, which supports both Java and .NET applications, enables organizations to detect, triage and diagnose performance problems in complex, composite and Web application environments. CEM measures Web application performance for each individual customer by user name.
In addition to researching APM products, Jørgensen saw Introscope in action at Nykredit, which he said had brought in the product to help with "some database request problems and the application aspects [of that]," he said. Jørgensen was convinced to bring Introscope into JN Data because "the proof of concept results [at Nykredit] were amazing."
He explained, "It had a concrete impact, so we decided to deploy it immediately [in production], supported by CA. We put it into production without crashing anything."
JN Data deployed immediately because they had been chasing a performance problem in a multipart Java application that was connected with SOA components, including .NET, Jørgensen explained. "It was very difficult for us to trace," he said. "And the other thing was it was distributed to a large amount of other banks and financial institutions in Denmark, so it was a very critical application."
Within four hours of deploying Introscope, "we had a very good view of the actual root cause," he said, and were able to come up with a solution for the developers. "There were multiple code changes and some application architecture maneuvers were corrected," he said.
JN Data considered that a great success, Jørgensen said. "Of course, we structured [the Introscope deployment] more after that, but we were excited with the product's readiness for being deployed that quickly." He said they put Introscope "on all our strategic systems with the basic settings, which is giving us a lot of visibility."
He added, "Complexity and context understanding are very important for web infrastructure. From a data center perspective we have a large span of control to address, and it can be very confusing. The main thing Wily [Introscope] did was it gave both development and infrastructure a very good overview of what was going on and where."
JN Data is now in the process of implementing the CEM product. "Our whole approach is to cover both production and preproduction and test environments," he said. The idea is to be able to use APM both reactively and proactively. Also, he said, "We were aware the end user wasn't covered, so we were meaning from the start to either implement CEM or another product, but [we chose] CEM because it has integration [with Introscope]."
Going forward, Jørgensen like to see a deeper integration between Introsocpe and CEM. Also, he said, CEM currently ships with hardware. "We don't want 50 to 70 boxes; we need that brought down. The amount of units is important for us for green IT." Along those lines, he also wants the ability to run the products on virtual hardware, which he expects to see in the next version.
For other organizations contemplating APM, Jørgensen suggests thinking through the APM proposition clearly: "How do you connect to your SOA governance strategy? How do you connect to your testing facilities and test cycles? How many users do you want to make it connected to?"
Also, he said, consider which metrics are important. "If you bring in performance tools, how much do you want to see? When you add data to the system, what do you want to do with it? Do you have rules in place that the data is dependent upon?"
He continued, "Look wall to wall. Think of the end users as one part, web complexity as another, and think of the mainframe and the connected back-end system as the third part."
Finally, he said, "Deploy [APM] into production; then you can use it in other, proactive places like test management. We are getting more and more control of the reactive problems, the blame game, but we're moving to and getting greater benefit on the development side, before application code reaches production."