App Watchers Abound

Tools to monitor app performance help smoke out memory leaks, infinite loops, and other performance killers
Another vendor, Shunra Software, tries to overcome the inherent difficulties of troubleshooting in production environments by generating a duplicate virtual environment, installing the application server, databases, and other system software in the duplicate setting and applying its Virtual Enterprise diagnostic tools.

After the production environment has been mimicked on Virtual Enterprise, user activity is simulated through scripted transactions. The testers may establish preferred service levels, such as completing successful user logons within seven seconds, then generate user traffic until that limit is reached or broken, telling the testers something they wouldn't be happy to discover in production systems, says Amichai Lesser, product marketing director.

One drawback of simulated environments is that applications run on a network that looks little like the network within the production environment. "Trying to re-create the network is more difficult. It never comes close to the real network" with its geographically scattered devices and user traffic streaming in from many locations, Lesser says.

But the advantage lies in repeating a problem under simulated conditions where it can be closely monitored, he says. Intensive monitoring in a production environment disrupts the application and can skew results. In a simulated environment, an application problem can be repeated under different conditions until a solution is found.

Useful Purposes

Annual rate at which the app-deployment software market will grow over the next five years.
Another area in which performance diagnostic and management tools are useful is when a business is doing load testing on its applications, a task that requires applications be reconfigured for the test, then reinstalled as production systems, TrueCredit's Metzger says. A few months ago, "we changed the production configuration in various ways for test purposes, then switched them back. But our initial test transactions [for the production environment] didn't complete properly," he says. His WebLogic Mission Control Suite and Acsera tools identified the error and helped bring the production systems back online in a timely manner.

Every production environment has memory leaks and other problems that are hard to duplicate in a laboratory or troubleshooting environment, Metzger says. They show up best where you don't want them, in the applications being seen by users.

That's why Nix at the University of Kansas Hospital believes his application diagnostic tools are worth what he's spending on them. The $15,000 he saved with Siemens, he says, paid for half the cost of nGenius "in one event."

Photo by Getty Images

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