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10/11/2007
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Market Analysis: Holistic Application Performance Management

Compuware pulls together multiple collection methods and makes a good showing in our APM Rolling Review.

THE UPSHOT
CLAIM:  Compuware offers broad collection capabilities and an ability to aggregate data into business views. Vantage's synthetic transactions, probe-based traffic capture, server and application agents, and remote monitoring help find and fix application problems before they affect the business.

CONTEXT:  The application performance management market has evolved, but the goal remains: predicting problems before they affect customers. With Vantage, Compuware seeks to deliver every data collection approach while integrating with other systems.

CREDIBILITY:  Vantage delivers on its promise to pull monitoring methods into one consolidated view. Users can drill down for detailed transaction and traffic capture data. But, as with most APM products, finding problems still requires an application administrator.

The fourth entry in our application performance management Rolling Review is Compuware's Vantage 10. In our APM kickoff, we explored the myriad options vendors provide to collect application performance information. No matter what data collection tack you take, Compuware is ready, offering several synthetic transaction, server, and application agents; remote agentless collection; and probe-based traffic-capture options.

While each version of Vantage--ServerVantage, NetworkVantage, and ClientVantage--can be implemented singly, we found that they integrate smoothly into the VantageView Web-based console. From this single view, you can configure reports and see alerts across all Vantage monitoring databases.

In fact, the best part of Vantage is its VantageView central monitoring, alerting, and reporting capability. Through the Web-based GUI, we were able to define real-time monitoring and historical reports from across all collection mechanisms and assign them to specific roles and users. We also configured Compuware's concept of dashboards to roll up performance and availability alerts from each of the client, network, and server monitoring methods. We configured a couple of parent-child dashboards and links from them to reports we had created earlier. While this linking flexibility was powerful, we did believe that object placement and the look and feel of the dashboards were static in relation to the portal capabilities of some competitors.

The Vantage server is only supported on Windows platforms, Microsoft SQL database, and Microsoft Internet Information Server. However, Vantage server agents and remote monitoring support most versions of Unix as well as mainframes. Of course, synthetic and real transactions can be captured to and from Web applications on any platform, and the NetworkVantage probe can track any type of traffic.

The Vantage 10 release, priced starting at $50,000, adds end-to-end Web application monitoring through integration with Compuware's End User Experience and Java/.Net monitoring tools. It also adds correlation of service degradation with affected users through the company's Business Impact Monitor. With some increased application environment intelligence, including voice over IP, Oracle Forms, and WebSphere MQ, Compuware builds on its event management advancements for better event handling and integration with external systems.

As you may have surmised, because of the multiple components that make up ClientVantage, NetworkVantage, ServerVantage, ApplicationVantage, and QACenter, installation is not as straightforward as clicking a button. Before purchase, a Vantage deployment needs to be well planned, with the architecture based primarily on the expected load on each probe, agent, or collector. Compuware has professional services available to help with architecture planning before purchase.

THE DETAILS
FEATURED PRODUCT:
Compuware Vantage 10

ABOUT THIS ROLLING REVIEW:
Application performance management products are being tested at our Real-World Labs at Windward Consulting Group. We're assessing the breadth of support for existing applications, how well the product detects and reports on performance problems, how well the architecture supports distributed application performance monitoring, and more.

ALREADY TESTED:
Indicative, NetIQ, NetQoS

NEXT UP:
Nimsoft

OTHER VENDORS INVITED:
BMC, CA/Wily, Compuware, HP/Mercury, EMC/Smarts, IBM, Infovista, NetScout, Network General, Oracle, ProactiveNet, Quest Software, and Symantec
On the flip side, the complexity of this architecture also provides flexibility and scalability, and Compuware says its distributed management control layer also adds to Vantage's growth potential. For example, one ServerManager can support as many as 1,000 agents, but you may add multiple ServerManagers, then access and report from all of them in VantageView. Compuware is the most complete system we've reviewed so far in terms of data collection. We did not test the scalability of this three-tier agent, controller, and console architecture; however, we did validate how it can be distributed across machines.

RUNNING AND COLLECTING

Synthetic transaction monitoring is broken down into two phases. To support both business service and technically focused roles, Vantage allows business users to define monitoring of business rules through a step-by-step guide that creates applications that make up transactions. The technical role is then able to use the appropriate Compuware QACenter product to record a transaction via the GUI, and with some scripting expertise, configure it for monitoring and thresholds. All of this worked well for us, with a little support from Compuware inserting "checkpoints" into the script to track transaction progress.

The ServerVantage agent automatically discovered available counters from the server and our application. These included process availability, memory utilization, and authentication failures and file uploads. We then configured collection of a few counters, defined static threshold rules for alert generation, set up sampling intervals, and scheduled it all to run. This worked without issues, except that we found the requirement to type in process names or IDs for monitoring tedious. In other products, we've had process discovery and selection for this step.

InformationWeek's Rolling Reviews present a comprehensive look at a hot technology category, beginning with market analysis and wrapping up with a synopsis of our findings. See our kickoff and other reviews in this application performance management series at Rolling Reviews.

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