BlueStripe Blog

What Does Application Aware mean for IT Operations?

April 15, 2014 7:00 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Gartner recently released a new paper written by Jonah Kowall that explores the growth of Application-Aware Infrastructure Performance Monitoring, or AA-IPM. Jonah wrote about the report in his blog. Bernd Harzog from the Virtualization Practice discusses the topic here.

The new report outlines something that our customers have told us for years. While APM tools are useful for developers, and network mapping tools are useful for network engineers, neither is quite as useful for IT Operations teams. The people who are tasked with the care and feeding of production application systems (IT Ops) have specific management requirements:

  1. Automatic application topology and dependency discovery. Application-aware solutions automatically identify the infrastructure components that make up specific applications, as well as the dependencies between those components. They also update the architecture topology (and their dependencies) automatically as those applications change.
  2. Transaction response time monitoring. By monitoring individual transactions as they flow across the infrastructure, application-aware solutions can tell the IT Operations team the exact response times of each application, individual tiers within each application, down to the individual machines and the connections between machines. Response time tells where performance slow-downs occur, and where IT Operations teams need to focus their attention.
  3. Application performance visualization. Once the application topology has been discovered, and the response times of the transactions have been monitored, the resulting information must be shared. AA-IPM solutions display application information in ways that are accessible and customizable to each application stakeholder – as application maps with response time alerts for admins, as service level dashboards with overall health status for IT Directors and CIO’s, and application-specific dashboards for business owners. Each receives a unique view of the applications that shows what they must know to do their jobs.

Application-Aware Infrastructure Performance Monitoring has the potential to transform the way IT organizations work with each other, and with their business counterparts. For IT Operations, it can transform their jobs from constant firefighting to strategic execution. Next week, we’ll talk about the difference between simple and dynamic application maps.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


So You've Got Live Distributed Application views in System Center - Now What?

March 17, 2014 10:57 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

At BlueStripe, we talk a lot about bringing live distributed applications to System Center. Using FactFinder you can automatically discover which servers make up which applications; then push those distributed application views (along with response time alerts) directly into Operations Manager.

The impact is great and immediate – by using FactFinder to build and maintain the DA views, companies can use the full power of System Center to manage application performance instead of just infrastructure availability. This sounds good – but what does it mean in concrete terms? Here are some examples of what’s possible:

  1. Monitor application service levels. IT organizations exist to deliver business services. But many monitoring programs are designed to deliver working servers. Bringing application context to your monitoring programs lets you focus your programs on what matters.
  2. Prioritize alert responses by their impact on delivery of services. All alerts are not created equal. A server failure that takes down the internal building maintenance scheduling application is not the same as a server failure that takes down the company’s ERP system. Know the difference and prioritize accordingly.
  3. Stakeholder Dashboards. Applications have lots of stakeholders – the business units that rely on them, the teams responsible for the different infrastructure tiers, finance, marketing, and not least, the leadership of the IT organization. All of these people want to know how things are performing. When you bring application context into System Center, you can build dashboards that show exactly what’s happening – at the server, tier, and overall application performance levels.

Over the next several weeks we’ll be developing this theme further. To see a great example of how applications in System Center can transform how your IT Operations team operates, take a look at this recorded presentation.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


New From Gartner - How to Leverage Application-Aware Infrastructure Performance Monitoring to Simplify Root Cause Analysis

March 11, 2014 12:02 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

 

This week Gartner released a new Impact Appraisal titled “How to Leverage Application-Aware Infrastructure Performance Monitoring to Simplify Root Cause Analysis.”

Gartner’s new report identifies the three groups within the IT department, and describes the types of tools that exist for each.

  • Developers – the target group for Application Performance Management (APM) tools.
  • Network engineers – the target group for Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics (NPMD) tools.
  • IT Operations professionals – the target for a new class of tools that is emerging called Application Aware-Infrastructure Performance Monitoring (AA-IPM) tools.

Of the three product groups in the report, the third group – AA-IPM – is new to Gartner’s market topology, and is where BlueStripe fits. Our goal has always been to give IT Operations Teams the visibility they need to deliver high-performing business application services, without having to rely on resources from the development or network groups. You can read more about the report here.

Next week – what "Application-Aware " means for IT Operations.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


System Center + Bluestripe - See it in Action

February 26, 2014 9:34 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

We recently participated in two major events highlighting the combined System Center + BlueStripe solution. If you want to learn more about how BlueStripe brings applications and response-time alerting to System Center, you have two new simple options:

First, spend a few minutes watching BlueStripe VP of Product Management Nick Burling’s System Center Universe presentation on YouTube. This 20-minute introduction tells you what you need to know to understand how it works, and how application context can change your IT Operations processes for the better.

Second, watch the recording of BlueStripe Product Manager David Seidman’s recent webcast, titled “Bringing Applications To System Center – A Deep Dive into the System Center + BlueStripe Solution.” The webcast gives a more in-depth tour of FactFinder and the System Center integration.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Looking forward in 2014 - building on a great year

January 27, 2014 7:10 AM | Posted By: Chris Neal

Today we announced our results from 2013 – another great year of customer growth and product innovation. You can read the entire announcement here, but I want to call out two items in particular.

This past year we grew our customer base by nearly 25% and more than doubled our repeat business to existing customers. Both of these stats speak to the immediate value that IT Operations teams get from BlueStripe FactFinder. We’re honored that our customers choose us, and are dedicated to continuing to build on this foundation.

Looking forward into 2014, we see three major trends driving the day-to-day activities of IT Operations teams:

  1. Application complexity will continue to grow.
  2. More companies will adopt hybrid-cloud architectures for critical business applications.
  3. Distributed business applications will become even more important to business success than ever before.

Given these trends, the ability for IT Operations teams to map, monitor, and fix their critical business applications has never been more important. We’re thrilled to be a part of the solution for such a large and growing number of companies.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


The Year in Review - Making Distributed Applications Work

December 30, 2013 5:46 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

This year at BlueStripe we’ve had a great time writing this blog.

Based on your readership, we’ve selected five posts that highlight different approaches to how to solve our customers’ fundamental problem – the need to map, monitor, and fix complex distributed applications.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as we did writing them:
 

  1. “It's Tough to be Strategic When Your Pants are on Fire”
    That quote from Ron Kifer, HP’s VP of Global IT, serves as the title for our upcoming webcast. The quote sums up the problem that senior IT leaders face in today’s business environment...
    Read More >>
     
  2. “Monitoring Third-Party Services and FIX Transactions”
    The common currency of global finance is not the dollar, the euro, or the yuan. Potentially the most important element of today’s globally linked, real-time transaction-based financial trading system is the FIX transaction protocol... 
    Read more >>
     
  3. “Microsoft, State Auto, and BlueStripe - A Customer Case Study”
    At BlueStripe, we have great partners and great customers. This Thursday we will see two of these come together for a special live presentation. Microsoft’s Daniel Savage is the Principal Program Manager for System Center. Shawn Pearson runs State Auto’s Enterprise Monitoring Group. Together, they will present on how System Center and BlueStripe’s FactFinder combine to delivery first class application monitoring and alerting... 
    Read more >>
     
  4. “Moving into Azure PaaS Hybrid Cloud - The Management Challenge”
    Earlier this month, we were down at the Microsoft TechEd Conference. What a great 4 days of tremendous energy – we talked to all kinds of organizations and people about their efforts working with new products and technologies. We heard from a lot of companies who are moving quickly to move the web tiers of their public-facing applications into the Azure PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) Hybrid Cloud environment. The benefits are clear – with a hybrid cloud deployment you get data and system security along with the flexibility and cost savings of adding and reducing front-end capacity as demand requires… 
    Read more >>
     
  5. “Service-Oriented Problem Solving – Shutting Down the Bridge Call”
    Recently, we introduced the idea of Service-Oriented IT Operations, or SOITO. This week I want to talk about applying the Service-Oriented approach to the biggest single headache that IT Operations teams face – problem solving. “The application is slow” is among the more common complaints that IT Operations team get. Nothing specific, no hint as to what the problem might be. Fortunately, the Service-Oriented approach to problem solving can take care of even the least informative performance complaints...
    Read More >>
     

Thanks again for letting us help your IT team deliver on business system performance promises!

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Raymond James - Managing Infrastructure vs. Delivering Business Services

November 19, 2013 9:00 AM | Posted By: Chris Neal

When we talk to BlueStripe customers we hear the same thing over and over. The IT Operations teams tell us about how they worked before FactFinder and after FactFinder.

Typically, the “before FactFinder” world involves using several different infrastructure management tools to monitor the health of individual components. The result is lots of metrics about individual server performance – and a focus on resource availability.

The “after FactFinder” world describes a transition from focus on machine resources to a focus on the delivery of business services. Instead of worrying about CPU and memory utilization, teams focus on the actual delivery of services against SLAs.

This week we have another customer announcement – Raymond James describes their use of FactFinder and the operational transitions they have executed as a result. In a couple weeks, we’ll hear from Raymond James live in a webcast about the details. In the meantime, you can read about it here.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


BlueStripe and System Center - the Integrated Solution

October 30, 2013 12:05 PM | Posted By: Chris Neal

Lately, we’ve made quite a few announcements about BlueStripe’s integration with Microsoft System Center. This morning we announced FactFinder support for System Center 2012 R2, ensuring that the integrated BlueStripe + System Center solution is readily available to all System Center users.

The benefits of the integrated solution can be summarized with four key points:

  1. Application maps and response time alerts in Operations Manager
  2. Cross-System Coverage – for Windows and non-Windows based systems
  3. Cross-Platform Coverage – for components using physical, virtual, cloud and hybrid cloud architectures
  4. Solve Performance Issues with your most important applications

Our goal is to make applications run better. Using FactFinder and System Center together, IT Operations teams can tackle performance issues in any application (custom code or pre-packaged). So you can quickly find the source of application slowdowns or failures in your key applications – including packaged apps like PeopleSoft, SAP, and Dynamics, and customer-built applications as well.

To see more about how FactFinder and System Center work together, take a look at this recent web presentation from our joint customer – State Auto Insurance. Or contact us today to talk about how we can help.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


Seven Habits of DevOps - an IT Operations Perspective

October 18, 2013 4:00 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

A September, 2013 Forrester Research, Inc. report titled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective DevOps” highlights a number of challenges facing IT Operations teams, regardless of whether they have embraced the DevOps movement or not. Three trends jump out:

Rising Service Complexity

“Service complexity is inexorably accelerating. This complexity means it is now virtually impossible for any one person — or any one group — to possess sufficient visibility and knowledge of the service. Even the developers — who once knew everything about their applications — are left with a visibility deficit.”

We see this with our customers regularly. A bank that grows through acquisition might find itself with online banking applications that employ thousands of components running in different datacenters and with different public cloud providers, using different operating systems, message broker platforms and databases. As new companies are acquired, and new service offerings rolled out, the complexity only gets worse.

Lowering Service Quality

“Business leaders…have repeatedly invested heavily in the systems and people who provide technology-based services, yet the payoff continues to elude them…It is no surprise that business leaders are seeking alternatives more openly and aggressively than in the past. Cloud based service providers now offer increasingly viable options. Failure of IT to increase value delivery and service quality at competitive cost will lead to an increase in outsourcing entire IT functions and the jobs along with them.”

This point was made real in a recent webcast with Unum Insurance. Unum’s David Fitzgerald described how business customers of his operations teams complained about their lack of speed in providing requested servers – and became a catalyst for his team’s efforts to change their processes. When Amazon AWS, Azure, or similar providers can provide a live server environment in 15 minutes with just a credit card, IT Operations has to step up its game.

Poor Information Flow Between Dev and Ops

“The life cycle followed in most enterprises is, in fact, not much of a life cycle at all. It is mostly a one- way flow with little or no feedback and limits to the feed-forward. This flow is riddled with problems. Most notable is the wall prior to Ops, where information is lost, hampering the ability of Ops to manage the services.”

In the report, Forrester makes an interesting point about the flow of information across the application lifecycle. Developers and QA staff have a deep working knowledge of the components of the application after writing and testing them for months. Unfortunately, during the hand-off to Operations, this information is either lost or poorly documented. As a result, Operations is left trying to manage a complex IT service, with little data about its topology or normal performance thresholds.

Whether DevOps is the answer to these challenges remains to be seen. In the mean time, IT Operations teams can combat rising complexity and limited application documentation with better tools that give them the visibility to implement improved processes. Our FactFinder transaction monitoring solution discovers and maps the topology of complex applications and monitors their performance at all stages of the application lifecycle.

Learn more about FactFinder Transaction Monitoring Solutions for IT Operations or Request a Trial.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Managing Applications: Warning Overload

October 14, 2013 11:44 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

An Operations events console is like a private Inbox for your infrastructure. Messages come from all over – servers, devices, apps, processes – and can be anything from a piece of data to a warning or alert. The larger your environment, the more frequently the messages appear.

For many enterprises, the message count can easily hit tens of thousands for a single event. When dealing with that many messages either as a whole, or as they come into the message center, it’s critical that IT Operations teams can prioritize these messages effectively.

To do so, most companies have some form of event management automation. Typically these tools filter alerts based on assumptions about what combination of infrastructure availability metrics will indicate a problem. This approach doesn’t incorporate either real-time application discovery and mapping, or response time alerting.

In contrast, BlueStripe makes it possible to turbo-charge the event management process by incorporating both. Because you (and your systems) always know exactly which servers are part of which applications, you can manage IT Operations based on how well applications are delivering business services rather than just looking at infrastructure availability.

That’s just one of the benefits of using BlueStripe Transaction Monitoring within a broader IT Management strategy. With BlueStripe bridging the gap between applications and the infrastructure systems underneath, IT Operations has a way of prioritizing which systems (and messages) get first priority.

Bonus Integration

Of course, we’ve actually gone a step further with Microsoft System Center, putting real-time dynamic application maps directly into the System Center Suite. IT Operations not only get an understanding of which messages to deal with, they have an ALWAYS ACCURATE view of exactly how applications and infrastructure systems interact.

Check out this Webcast from State Auto that shows exactly how System Center and BlueStripe work together to “turbo-charge” IT Monitoring.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Microsoft, State Auto, and BlueStripe - A Customer Case Study

October 2, 2013 2:37 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

At BlueStripe, we have great partners and great customers. This Thursday we will see two of these come together for a special live presentation.

  • Microsoft’s Daniel Savage is the Principal Program Manager for System Center.
  • Shawn Pearson runs State Auto’s Enterprise Monitoring Group.

Together, they will present on how System Center and BlueStripe’s FactFinder combine to delivery first class application monitoring and alerting.

Software vendors spend lots of time and effort talking about their solutions. This presentation will give the public a chance to see our solutions in action, and to interact with two experts working in the field.

We hope you’ll join us Thursday for:
How State Auto Turbo-Charged Monitoring with Microsoft System Center and BlueStripe FactFinder

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Know the Failed and Rogue Connections Affecting your Server

September 9, 2013 8:00 AM | Posted By: Nick Burling

This is the third in a 3-part series about things you need to know when working to diagnose server performance problems. The previous discussions are about back-end dependencies and front-end connections.

When you’re investigating why a server is performing poorly, you need to know about failed connections and rogue connections.

Failed connections happen when an application server tries to connect to a machine that is down, or doesn't exist. This scenario is completely invisible to server tools. Servers can attempt thousands of connections an hour to unavailable services, causing a quiet, but large, impact on performance.

Rogue connections are unexpected connections between servers and remote systems or services. Examples of rogue connections include anti-virus updates or disk backups occurring during business hours. They also include application misconfigurations, like a production application still using a QA database.

Few IT teams ever know that rogue and failed connections are happening – they're virtually impossible to detect with standard server monitoring tools. To learn more, read our new whitepaper titled “Five Things Your Server Monitoring Tool Should Show You.”

Nick Burling is the Vice President of Product Management at BlueStripe Software. Nick has over 10 years of experience in complex systems architecture, application performance management, and IT Systems Management. In addition to BlueStripe, Nick has held leadership positions at IBM WebSphere and SOA divisions.


Server Monitoring: Know Each Server's Back-End Dependencies

September 3, 2013 8:00 AM | Posted By: Nick Burling

This is the second in a 3-part series about things you need to know when working to diagnose server performance problems. Last week, we discussed front-end connections.

When you’re investigating why a server is performing poorly, you need to know whether the problem is a slow back-end. Back-end dependencies are remote systems the server relies on to handle client requests. These include databases, authentication servers, and 3rd-party web services.

Back-end dependencies are critical to investigate during an incident. You need to know:

  • Which back-ends a server relies on
  • How often that back-end is called, and
  • The performance and availability of the back-end

Unfortunately, you can’t analyze back-end dependencies with most server monitoring tools. To learn more about what you should look for, read our new whitepaper, Five Things Your Server Monitoring Tool Should Show You.

Nick Burling is the Vice President of Product Management at BlueStripe Software. Nick has over 10 years of experience in complex systems architecture, application performance management, and IT Systems Management. In addition to BlueStripe, Nick has held leadership positions at IBM WebSphere and SOA divisions.


Server Monitoring: Know the Front-End Connections

August 26, 2013 8:00 AM | Posted By: Nick Burling

This is the first in a 3-part series about things you need to know when working to diagnose server performance problems.

When you’re investigating whether a server is the source of slow performance, you need to know how it fits within the larger distributed application. You need to see the front-end performance of the system, the performance of the upstream servers it relies on, and whether there are any unexpected or failing connections to other servers.

Front-end connections are the servers and ports that send traffic to each application on the server you’re investigating. If you want to track how your application is affecting a larger service, you need to know:

  • The clients of your application
  • What they are requesting
  • How quickly the application responded

Unfortunately, this data isn’t found in your typical server monitoring tools. To learn more about what you should look for, read our new whitepaper, “Five Things Your Server Monitoring Tool Should Show You.”

Nick Burling is the Vice President of Product Management at BlueStripe Software. Nick has over 10 years of experience in complex systems architecture, application performance management, and IT Systems Management. In addition to BlueStripe, Nick has held leadership positions at IBM WebSphere and SOA divisions.


Proactive Service Management - Anticipating and Solving Performance Problems Before the Customer Sees Them

August 15, 2013 8:00 AM | Posted By: Nick Burling

Here’s a question for anyone charged with supporting production applications: Do you want to be proactive in managing the performance and availability of the applications and services you support?

Most IT Operations leaders answer ‘of course’ to this question. Unfortunately, few are able to complete the move from reacting to customer complaints to anticipating problems and solving them before they fester. Why? From conversations with IT Operations leaders (regardless of industry or company size), the issue isn’t motivation or organizational capability, it’s visibility.

Visibility

Visibility means knowing which components make up the applications and services running in the datacenter. It means knowing exactly what is talking to what, from application components like IIS and WebSphere to DNS and LDAP connections. It means not only understanding what cross-system connections are being made, but also what goes on inside the operating system on the different nodes that make up the application topology.

With visibility, IT Operations teams can start thinking about being proactive. Today’s distributed applications are remarkably complex. Visibility means that you can understand how interactions deep within the interconnected application system you support can ripple through to impact the service levels you provide to your customers. With visibility, you can understand that an alert on failed DNS requests from a mid-tier system is critical to address before your customers’ experience degrades.

A Real World Case Study

Recently one of our customers made a strategic business change that greatly impacted their web-based application performance requirements. The customer conducts research studies for industry customers. In the past, the data itself was provided as part of a service – so the data was directly accessed only by company consultants, who then packaged it for use by the end customers. Under the new strategy, the company made the same data available directly to their customers via web-based applications backed by a complex set of application components and dynamic infrastructure.

The shift in company strategy produced a new challenge for the production support team: move from responding to internal user complaints to anticipating and fixing problems before external customers ever knew there might be an issue. In short: get proactive.

Prior to their shift in business strategy, the company had integrated FactFinder into its performance testing and production incident management processes. Using FactFinder in QA, performance test, and staging environments, the performance engineering team greatly reduced the number of issues that ever made it to production. When problems did occur in production, FactFinder gave them the rapid root-cause identification capabilities they had lacked with previous approaches.

The Key to Success

FactFinder provided visibility into all dependencies for their application system. Using FactFinder the team set up proactive alerting on critical application system dependencies, and integrated those alerts into their monitoring and support process – moving them down the path to proactive management.

With full visibility to all the interdependencies that make up a production application system, IT Operations has what it needs to help an organization take practical steps toward proactive service management. This has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working with our customers here at BlueStripe: seeing this evolution from putting out fires one at a time to systematically identifying and fixing issues before they lead to customer-impacting performance problems.

Nick Burling is the Vice President of Product Management at BlueStripe Software. Nick has over 10 years of experience in complex systems architecture, application performance management, and IT Systems Management. In addition to BlueStripe, Nick has held leadership positions at IBM WebSphere and SOA divisions.


Experimental to Operational: Getting IT Operations Ready for Hybrid Cloud

August 7, 2013 8:00 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Last week’s webcast with Forrester Analyst Dave Bartoletti provided a summary of the state of cloud adoption in 2013. Put simply, cloud adoption in all its flavors (SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS) is growing rapidly. Chances are your company is adding hybrid-cloud applications, with or without the help of your IT Operations teams.

The makeup of cloud-based applications is changing from largely internal and test/development applications to hybrid-cloud customer-facing critical business services.

Let’s look at one particular datapoint: in 2012, 85% of developers surveyed in 2012 said that they only built cloud applications using non-proprietary, non-business-critical data. By the end of 2013 that percentage will drop to 37%. As Bartoletti put in the presentation, “cloud is moving from being a QA/dev sandbox to being a core business platform.”

As any technology matures, it moves from the experimental stage to the operational. Much of the early adoption of Cloud has been driven by business needs and by technologic innovation. As applications become more business critical, IT Ops teams need to take over their operational management. Companies will succeed in the Cloud only if they can deliver great user experiences. IT Operations teams need to be involved early, and ensure that they can instrument and manage applications that span the different flavors of cloud, the datacenter, and even third party services.

To see the entire presentation, click here.

To learn more about managing distributed applications in the hybrid cloud environment, visit www.bluestripe.com.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


The 5 Second DNS Tax

August 2, 2013 4:23 PM | Posted By: Nick Burling

DNS issues are often hidden in complex infrastructure, contributing to transaction delays. In common cases this can show up as what we call the “5-second DNS tax”.

What IS the 5-Second DNS Tax?

When servers are misconfigured, they may request DNS entries that simply don't exist, or create large volumes of DNS requests. Timeouts on the requests don't occur until 5 seconds have passed – in the meantime a user may be losing patience. Requests such as DNS lookups, reverse lookups, and start of authority transactions can all be subject to these delays, and are often extremely difficult for IT Operations teams to see in the context of the applications and user transactions that depend on them.

What Happens to My Applications?

One recent example of the DNS tax that we saw occurred with a customer’s ERP application. As the DNS server became overloaded with traffic, DNS requests began to timeout after 5 seconds. These 5-second timeouts, across service locator requests and IPv4 address lookups, had an immediate effect on all the users of the ERP application - their user-level requests began to slow considerably, leading to a flurry of calls into their service desk. This issue was invisible to Operations without FactFinder, which saw that DNS was the culprit and took steps to make it more available.

What Causes the 5-Second DNS Tax?

Misconfigured servers are often the culprit – requesting DNS entries that don’t exist. Any DNS transaction can potentially cause this, such as IPv6 lookups, and performance issues can cascade. By using a monitoring solution that shows these failures in the context of critical applications and user transactions, your IT Operations team can identify these errors and take corrective action – often before the end-users have started to call the help line.

Nick Burling is the Vice President of Product Management at BlueStripe Software. Nick has over 10 years of experience in complex systems architecture, application performance management, and IT Systems Management. In addition to BlueStripe, Nick has held leadership positions at IBM WebSphere and SOA divisions.


Unpacking the Packaged App

July 25, 2013 2:07 PM | Posted By: Nick Burling

One of the most common challenges we hear about from IT Operations leaders is managing the performance and availability of packaged applications. Finding the cause of performance issues within applications like Siebel, PeopleSoft, SAP, InvestOne Investment Accounting, Microsoft Dynamics, etc. is difficult because they are often a black box to the teams that have to support them. Without in-depth knowledge of how the application actually works, how can you know which alerts in your dashboard are meaningful? Without factual evidence of architectural issues, how can you go back to the application vendor and prove when they have defects to resolve vs. problems with your hosting environment?

This is where we at BlueStripe come in: By providing a real-time view to all dependencies for any TCP-connected application, FactFinder shines a light in the black box. As our customers deploy FactFinder in the environments running any of the long list of enterprise packaged applications, they are continually amazed by what they are able to learn about how the application system actually works (or doesn’t in some cases).

One customer described the challenge they faced, and the value FactFinder provides, succinctly: “Before, it was like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle without the picture. Now I have the picture.”

Nick Burling is the Vice President of Product Management at BlueStripe Software. Nick has over 10 years of experience in complex systems architecture, application performance management, and IT Systems Management. In addition to BlueStripe, Nick has held leadership positions at IBM WebSphere and SOA divisions.


Moving into Azure PaaS Hybrid Cloud - The Management Challenge

June 25, 2013 8:00 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Earlier this month, we were down at the Microsoft TechEd Conference. What a great 4 days of tremendous energy – we talked to all kinds of organizations and people about their efforts working with new products and technologies.

We heard from a lot of companies who are moving quickly to move the web tiers of their public-facing applications into the Azure PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) Hybrid Cloud environment. The benefits are clear – with a hybrid cloud deployment you get data and system security along with the flexibility and cost savings of adding and reducing front-end capacity as demand requires.

The challenge with hybrid cloud operations is performance and availability management. Most conventional Application Management tools (particularly code-centric APM tools) can’t handle the hybrid environment – they can see cloud-based applications by themselves, or they can see datacenter-based applications by themselves, but they can't see the two pieces together. Hybrid PaaS based applications require visibility across the entire application infrastructure.

That’s where we come in. BlueStripe’s FactFinder automatically maps distributed applications regardless of where the components are based – cloud and on-premise. FactFinder is fully integrated into Azure’s PaaS system. When you application starts running in Azure PaaS, FactFinder immediately starts monitoring it – whether you add 1 server or one hundred servers, you’re covered. FactFinder starts tracking transactions, measuring response times, and delivering all the performance metrics you expect (and several that you never knew you needed – but won’t want to live without) automatically and immediately.

And FactFinder feeds the live map and data into System Center, so you can work with the two systems management tools together or use FactFinder in stand-alone mode. FactFinder shows you the entire application infrastructure – across Azure, the datacenter, and even out to third party services.

If your company is considering Azure PaaS, spend 3 minutes watching this video.  Then visit this page and let us know when you’re ready to get started.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Hybrid-Cloud Distributed Applications

June 18, 2013 11:05 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Back in December I wrote that for hybrid cloud to take off in 2013 three conditions needed to be met:

  • Operations and Development teams need to be comfortable
    deploying applications into virtual and Private Cloud environments
  • Public cloud vendors (Microsoft Azure and others) need to offer
    both Infrastructure as a Server (IAAS) and Platform as a Service (PAAS) options
  • Operations teams need to be able to manage hybrid applications that
    span across both cloud environments and on-premise components

The first two are very publicly on their way. One thing we heard regularly at Microsoft’s TechEd conference was the view that enterprise cloud deployments are simply the next step in virtualization. (Microsoft’s announcements about seamless application portability between Azure and on-premise Windows Server in Windows Server 2012 R2 show that these technologies are real.)

The third condition – the ability to manage hybrid cloud-based distributed applications – is available today.

Microsoft Channel 9’s Kevin Remde filmed this 3-minute interview at our booth at the recent TechEd conference – it’s worth a look.

 

BlueStripe’s FactFinder provides complete visibility into hybrid enterprise applications – across PaaS, IaaS, and on-premise system components, across every combination of platform. We provide a single management view for customers who deploy their presentation tiers in Azure, with the rest of their applications running combined systems using Linux, Windows, and mainframes within their datacenter.

And most recently we’ve announced our integration with Microsoft’s System Center 2012. Customers who use System Center Operations Manager as their management console can get the full benefit of FactFinder’s automatic discovery and mapping and response time performance alerting – across all of their platforms. It works seamlessly for physical, virtual, and cloud based components.

Hybrid Cloud is the next step in virtualization. FactFinder's Azure Monitoring can help your IT Operations teams make it work.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Changing Your Point of View

June 13, 2013 11:54 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

I recently wrote a blog post for APMdigest titled "Managing Servers from the Distributed Application Perspective – The Value of a New Point of View." This is an issue that is near and dear to our hearts as it talks to the core challenges facing Server Admins – Application Complexity.

The full article can be found here, but for a quick summary, I discussed that Server Administrators face a huge challenge. They’re responsible for supporting the backbone of these complex applications, but the vast majority of these IT Operations team members have no knowledge of how a specific server fits within the production business applications. In many cases, they don’t even know which servers communicate directly with each other.

As I stated in APMdigest…It’s Time to Switch Their Point of View! (And I mean this literally.)

It’s not the Server Admins’ fault that they don’t have this information. The typical Server Monitoring tool just hasn't kept up with changes in application environments. For individual Server Admins, performance monitoring hasn’t grown much past Task Manager and Performance Monitor. Their tools provide commodity machine performance metrics (CPU, memory, disk I/O), but they can’t show which applications run on those machines, or anything about response times, or how individual applications connect to other machines within the infrastructure.

This creates a disconnect within many IT Operations teams where domain experts (Unix, Java, Database, etc.) have their own tools to determine how individual systems are operating, but there’s no larger picture of the application as a whole. The problem solving process is destined to fail before the first problem ever shows up. The team is responsible for delivering business services, but their tools don’t take those services into account when judging individual system performance.

This gets to the heart of why we created FactFinder Express. FactFinder Express is the first monitoring transaction and distributed application monitoring tool built specifically for Server and Systems Administrators. For any managed server, FactFinder Express shows how the specific server interacts with the distributed applications and transactions running across it. FactFinder Express opens up the application layer of the server for IT Operations administrators, giving them access to data that otherwise would require the use of development or code-centric application performance management tools.

But don’t just take our word for it. We invite you to sign up for a free 30-day trial at: http://bluestripe.com/express/server-monitoring.html.

Let us know your thoughts. We bet you’ll be surprised by what you find.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


My Server Does What?

June 4, 2013 3:15 PM | Posted By: Nick Burling

As many of you know, a few weeks ago we released a new offering
called FactFinder Express. We've had tremendous response to the product,
as well as the fact that we offer a thirty day free trial.

The following are quotes from several users telling us about their experience using our new FactFinder Express offering:

  • “I had no idea that my system was configured to talk to our domain controller in Ireland. Not a good choice for a production app server here in the states.” (IIS admin, Boston, MA)
  • “I saw several developer systems connecting in to our production database. Let’s just say that’s a major no no here.” (Oracle DBA, Austin, TX)
  • “It showed me that another management tool was opening hundreds of connections to my app server but wasn’t closing them so the system ran out of available connections.” (WebLogic admin, Seattle, WA)
  • “I quickly saw that 80% of the traffic was hitting only one of the four tomcat instances and it was thrashing. Contacted the F5 admin and got it balanced again.” (System Admin, Raleigh, NC)

I love these stories because they capture what I hear from all of our customers: By providing a view to every layer of a system, from the underlying OS, to the application AND everything that system connects to, FactFinder Express offers a new level of visibility into the applications and transactions your system supports and how they interact with the world around them.

Empowered with this new visibility, FactFinder Express customers undergo a consistent evolution:

  • Phase 1 is surprise at what they’re seeing and learning.
  • Phase 2 is curiosity at why they see what they see.
  • Phase 3 is confidence based on the knowledge that FactFinder Express will provide visibility into everything that their system impacts and is impacted by.

To learn more about FactFinder Express, visit http://bluestripe.com/express/server-monitoring.html.

Nick Burling is the Vice President of Product Management at BlueStripe Software. Nick has over 10 years of experience in complex systems architecture, application performance management, and IT Systems Management. In addition to BlueStripe, Nick has held leadership positions at IBM WebSphere and SOA divisions.


BlueStripe Integration with Microsoft System Center and Azure

May 24, 2013 9:46 AM | Posted By: Chris Neal

Last month, BlueStripe showed off our System Center Distributed Application Maps at the Microsoft Management Summit. Coming in June, we’ll have an even bigger presence at the Microsoft TechEd show in New Orleans. It’s no coincidence that we’re establishing an expanded presence in the Microsoft Systems Management World.

BlueStripe has supported integration with System Center Operations Manager for years, but our latest release of software includes support for broader use within the System Center 2012 family including Orchestrator and Service Manager.

We also released a Hybrid Cloud Monitoring capability that maps distributed applications across the Azure Cloud AND on-premise data center assets, which ties both sides together into complete applications and transactions. FactFinder works with both Iaas and PaaS – so no matter what you are trying to do with Azure, we can help manage it.

So stay tuned over the next few weeks. If you’re in New Orleans for TechEd, make sure you come see us. I promise you will be amazed at the new solutions, integration points, and programs we’ll be launching around the System Center and Microsoft community.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


Shaking Up Systems Management

April 17, 2013 11:17 AM | Posted By: Chris Neal

This week we’re launching a new product—FactFinder Express. We’re doing this with a single goal in mind – to make it easier for companies of all sizes to benefit from the remarkable transformation in IT Operations that FactFinder makes possible.

The change we’re talking about is the move to the Service-Oriented Approach to IT Operations. Companies that switch from managing machine performance (CPU, I/O, memory, etc.) to managing application and transaction response times achieve tremendous application performance improvements. And they do it with a much more efficient IT Operations staff.

With FactFinder Express, we took the award-winning core technology of our first product, FactFinder Enterprise, and focused it into a product designed for the needs of the individual server administrator. This opens up FactFinder for the small and mid-sized companies for whom a FactFinder Enterprise implementation might be overkill.

FactFinder Express is also a great fit for server and systems admins at larger companies who want to see how application and transaction management can impact their monitoring and performance initiatives. Anyone who wants to see what FactFinder can do for their company can simply download a fully-functional free 30-day trial of FactFinder Express and get started.

The download and setup time for FactFinder Express is about 10 minutes.

To try FactFinder Express yourself, just fill in the form to the right, or to learn more about the new offering, visit www.factfinderexpress.com. Install the collector software on the production server you need to monitor, the management server on your workstation, and FactFinder will do the rest. Within minutes you’ll see every application that runs across your server, all the client/URL requests coming to your server, and all the back-end systems and services that each application on your server connects to.

The result is real-time operational information that server and systems administrators have never seen before—all in a single tool. Server admins can see exactly which URL requests are coming in, which applications are running across the server, and the response times for each back-end server or service each application connects to.

For larger companies with more complex application architectures that are considering FactFinder, go ahead and install FactFinder Express on a production server and get your feet wet. You’ll quickly see how FactFinder can open up the application layer within individual servers—greatly enhancing your team’s understanding of the operational environment, and helping them get to the heart of application performance problems quickly.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


Service-Oriented Problem Solving - Shutting Down the Bridge Call

March 29, 2013 1:13 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Recently, we introduced the idea of Service-Oriented IT Operations, or SOITO. This week I want to talk about applying the Service-Oriented approach to the biggest single headache that IT Operations teams face – problem solving.

“The application is slow” is among the more common complaints that IT Operations team get. Nothing specific, no hint as to what the problem might be. Fortunately, the Service-Oriented approach to problem solving can take care of even the least informative performance complaints.

The typical process for solving application slowdowns is to convene a bridge call of SMEs for each of the components that make up the application in question. At larger firms with truly complex applications these calls can involve 100 people or more. The goal of these calls is to isolate the source of the problem. The key metric used is “MTTI” or Mean Time to Isolate – although one analyst points out that these meetings often turn into finger-pointing exercises, so MTTI should stand for “Mean Time To Innocence”. The calls are often frustrating for participants, as most of the people on the call end up not being involved in the problem at hand.

Not a great way to run a railroad. Service-Oriented Problem Solving offers a better solution. With the proper tools, a single person from the IT Operations team can focus on how each component of the application impacts transaction response times – and isolate the problem component without ever moving to the bridge call.

To apply the Service-Oriented Problem Solving, take the following steps:

  1. Rather than hosting a bridge call or dispatching a “firefighting team,” have one IT Ops person equipped with tools to view individual transactions as they move across the infrastructure.
  2. That one person should start with historical data to isolate the problem. The root cause of slowdowns often emerges just before the transaction response time starts to degrade. So examine the period before and during the response time rise. (This is particularly valuable for problems that are intermittent!)
  3. Follow the slow response time hop-by-hop back to the source. With the ability to track individual transactions a single operations team member can find the time that each transaction takes at each server within the application. Identify the bottleneck by seeing where the individual transactions spend unexpected amounts of time.
  4. With the bottleneck server isolated, drill down into the server stack to find the root cause. The problem may be in the application layer, the OS, or it could be the result of an unexpected dependency. With access to the right data, the problem can be isolated.

With the root cause isolated (or at least confined) you can then bring in the subject matter expert to do what they do best – whether it’s diving into the application code or cleaning up poorly designed SQL queries. You’ll skip the bridge call entirely, and get to resolution in less time.

Here’s an example of how it works in practice: On our recent webinar “It’s Tough To Be Strategic When Your Pants Are On Fire,” (view the recording – it’s a great presentation!) Unum Insurance’s Director of Infrastructure David Fitzgerald described his first week on his new job. Three days into a major application firefight, they were no closer to finding the cause of the application problem than when they started. They then installed BlueStripe’s FactFinder and were able to apply the methods described above. What had been a three day exercise in futility was wrapped up and resolved in fifteen minutes. That’s what the Service-Oriented approach to problem solving can do.

 

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


It's Tough to be Strategic When Your Pants are on Fire

March 6, 2013 7:22 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

“It’s Tough to be Strategic When Your Pants are on Fire.”

That quote from Ron Kifer, HP’s VP of Global IT, serves as the title for our upcoming webcast. The quote sums up the problem that senior IT leaders face in today’s business environment. On one hand, they are expected to deliver strategic innovations. At the same time, they face incredible pressures to provide application services in an application environment that is far more complex than ever before.

BlueStripe is introducing a new concept called Service-Oriented IT Operations, or SOITO. SOITO is a compilation of the best practices that BlueStripe customers are using to manage their critical applications. These companies are seeing major improvements in the performance and availability of their critical applications.

The foundation of the new focus is the idea that every IT infrastructure component should be managed based on how it impacts user service levels. The service-level approach is a shift from the machine-management approach that is so prevalent, and leads to so much frustration in IT Operations organizations today.

In the next several weeks there will be opportunities to learn more about the service-level approach – what it is, how to apply it, and how other companies have used it to achieve tremendous success. Our newest whitepaper “Service Oriented IT Operations – A Framework for Improved Service Delivery” outlines the complete concept and provides steps for companies to follow to implement the concepts.

On March 20th, I will join David Fitzgerald, Unum’s Director of Infrastructure for a webcast titled “It’s Tough To Be Strategic When Your Pants Are On Fire.” This presentation will cover the concepts of SOITO and also provide an in-depth view of how these concepts are being applied at a Fortune 500 company.

We invite you to download the paper and join us for the webcast – visit bluestripe.com/soito to learn more, and to register for both.

Most of all, we hope you’ll take a hard look at your current approach to application management. There are tremendous gains to be had in terms of performance, availability, and human resource utilization. You might even find you have time to contribute to strategy.

Download the white paper “Service Oriented IT Operations – A Framework for Improved Service Delivery”

Register for our March 20th Webcast “It’s Tough To Be Strategic When Your Pants Are On Fire”

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Application Performance Management (APM) is STILL Broken

February 15, 2013 9:35 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

This week, BlueStripe released the results of our second annual Operations Executive Survey. While the entire IT Ops Report is interesting, 3 specific numbers jump out at me: 25, 37, and 81.

  • 25 – only 25% of BSM owners are satisfied with their solutions
  • 37 – only 37% of APM owners are satisfied with their solutions
  • 81 – the astounding percentage of companies that have more than a quarter of their application problems go unresolved

Let that last number sink in for a moment.

The exact thing these tools are supposed to do doesn't get done more than a quarter of the time. I guess, given that number, the 37% satisfaction rate would be considered an over-achievement.

Think of it a different way – if their application management tools were an employee, that employee would simply not show up for work every – single – Friday. Oh, and leave early a few days a week along the way.

That employee wouldn’t be around long, so why are IT execs still putting up with their ineffective tools?

The truth is that enterprise organizations cannot continue to have unresolved application issues. They must be able to monitor all their applications, all the time. That includes being able to solve every problem quickly and efficiently.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Monitoring Third-Party Services and FIX Transactions

February 5, 2013 3:16 AM | Posted By: Nick Burling

The common currency of global finance is not the dollar, the euro, or the yuan. Potentially the most important element of today’s globally linked, real-time transaction-based financial trading system is the FIX transaction protocol. Short for Financial Information eXchange Protocol, FIX is “the de facto messaging standard for pre-trade and trade communication globally within the Equity markets” and is expanding rapidly in other areas of electronic trading as well.

Today’s trading platforms are remarkably complex. For a major investment firm, the trading platform links together retail and institutional buyers and sellers, market making firms, real-time links to multiple exchanges, and market data information from multiple vendors.

Trading platforms are most valuable to their operators when they are the busiest – which is also when they are most likely to break down. Event-related spikes in activity are common, and failure to quickly correct problems leads to significant lost revenue, lost customers, and potentially even SEC problems.

Much of this data travels via FIX, and latency in any of these components can have a significant impact on overall system performance. For IT Operations teams, this means they need the ability to see how much of the time a trade, bid, or other transaction took to execute was spent within their application, and how much time was spent on back-end FIX transactions to third parties.

BlueStripe’s FactFinder transaction performance monitoring solution can play a critical role for IT Operations teams. FactFinder can monitor each business transaction, each component within the team’s architecture, and the performance of the 3rd party services – including their availability, response of each FIX transaction, even any errors that are returned.

Learn more about FactFinder’s transaction monitoring by downloading our whitepaper, “Managing Complex Transactions”.

Nick Burling is the Vice President of Product Management at BlueStripe Software. Nick has over 10 years of experience in complex systems architecture, application performance management, and IT Systems Management. In addition to BlueStripe, Nick has held leadership positions at IBM WebSphere and SOA divisions.


Analytics and APM - Big Data or the Right Data?

January 31, 2013 12:35 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

This past week’s interview with Gartner analyst Will Capelli on APM Digest is a good read. Will talks extensively about the movement toward Analytics within the APM space. In particular, in the second part of the interview he makes the statement:

“Gartner believes that in 2013 you will see many of the incumbent players in APM, and in enterprise management in general, roll out their own analytics platform.”
Will Cappelli, APM Digest Q & A

If past history is a guide, there will be lots of hype around analytics. Lots of new analytic capabilities, aggregation of multiple data source for analysis, and vendors attempting to position themselves as being part of “big data.” This is likely to lead to a lot of data aggregation, additional storage and maintenance requirements, and finally a good deal of analysis for analysis’ sake.

At BlueStripe, we’re more interested in the Right Data. Analytics is an important component of a larger application performance management capability. We introduced analytics to our FactFinder application and transaction management software early in 2012. Using our Correlatron Transaction Analytics capability FactFinder takes the several million metrics that are available in a typical enterprise application environment, analyzes the data, and narrows them down to the 10 that actually matter for identifying the root cause of performance issues.

Our customers tell us that there is real power in the application of analytics to the right data – in the context of a larger program that includes transaction-level management of applications.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


2012 - Record Growth and Continued Innovation at BlueStripe

January 17, 2013 10:39 AM | Posted By: Chris Neal

Chris Neal

We released our 2012 year-in-review press release yesterday:
a chance for me to celebrate our team’s accomplishments
and to look ahead for 2013.

2012 was an innovation year for us – we delivered several breakthrough product innovations that
separate FactFinder from the rest of the pack in the application performance management market:

  • Correlatron™ transaction analytics reduces the blizzard of performance metrics (potentially millions of measurements) down to the 10 or so that are actually relevant to a specific application performance issue. Correlatron gives the IT Operations team a short list of potential problem areas – a fast-track roadmap to finding the source of the problem.
  • WebSphere and WebLogic Platform monitoring for IT Operations – allows IT Operations teams to solve operational and administrative issues on Java platforms without reliance on development or Devops teams for most Java resource and system issues.
  • TransactionLink technology – follows each discrete transaction across the entire application infrastructure – through the data center and out through the cloud.

These combined capabilities have made FactFinder a critical tool for IT Operations teams working to ensure application performance and availability. The customer response has been overwhelming – and we’re looking forward to an even stronger 2013.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


Complete Visibility - Cracking the Genetic Code of the Transaction (Last in a Series)

December 14, 2012 9:19 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

“…procedure can also identify a person by converting his genetic code (previously extracting his DNA) into barcodes.”
 - from Patent US20070041622

In my previous two posts, I talked about the rise of complexity as the largest source of application outages, and about how this complexity trips up traditional APM and BTM tools.

Just because APM and BTM tools have failed to track transactions and supporting infrastructure end-to-end, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something out there that can help IT Operations deal with crippling complexity.

This post addresses a different way of squaring the circle for transaction-level application management. BTM’s attempt to track transactions is sometimes referred to as “tag-and-follow.” Effectively it involves injecting a unique identifier code into each transaction message. (A less flattering analogy might be applying an ear tag to livestock, but you get the idea…)

BlueStripe’s FactFinder provides a hands-off solution that is less intrusive and far more flexible. Here’s how: Instead of requiring changes to your application code to facilitate injecting a tag into each transaction payload, FactFinder simply reads each transaction to create a unique identifier out of the transaction itself. We use what’s unique about each transaction—its genetic code—to identify it as it travels across the datacenter.

FactFinder follows transactions across every different tier in the datacenter. In a complex environment, IT Operations teams can simply see where bottlenecks form in the transaction path to isolate where a problem is coming from. Then, FactFinder brings in a view of the underlying application and infrastructure components for root cause analysis. The result is a comprehensive view of end-to-end application performance.

FactFinder updates itself dynamically, so as new components are added or removed from application infrastructure, FactFinder automatically updates itself as well. So IT Operations teams can see quickly where the problems reside and know that they have the complete picture.

You can’t get rid of complexity—but with FactFinder, you can manage it.

Download our recent whitepaper Managing Enterprise Transactions to learn more: http://bluestripe.com/resources/whitepapers/complex-transactions

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Application Performance Management Tools and Complexity (3rd in a Series)

December 7, 2012 6:00 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Complexity breaks Application Performance Management (APM) and transaction management tools, leaving them blind to how transaction performance is affected by heterogeneous components and middleware.

In my last post I talked about the sources of complexity in the datacenter, and how that complexity has replaced code faults as the largest source of application problems. In this post, we’ll look at how complexity impacts the effectiveness of different types of management tools.

Infrastructure Complexity Creates Application Performance Management Challenges

Deep-dive APM Code tools are designed for developers to diagnose code bugs in Java and .NET containers. While APM Code tools can give you good visibility into what’s going on within your application server, they miss large parts of the transaction path—through the web tier, messaging middleware, custom applications, and out to the mainframe or third party services. To manage application complexity, IT Operations teams need visibility into the entire transaction path – something that APM Code tools don’t provide.

Application Performance Management Tools Have Limited Visibility

BTM tools were designed to address the limits of APM tools, but the execution breaks down in the face of dynamic, complex environments. BTM tools attempt to provide transaction-level visibility by making code changes to the applications themselves. These code changes allow the BTM tool to tag and track transactions across different nodes.

Execution is the key, however, and the BTM approach presents significant execution hurdles. First, they don’t cover all the tiers you would expect to see in today’s complex applications, so visibility is still limited for messaging queues and proprietary applications. Second, they require significant management overhead. Not only do you have to modify the application to insert the tags, but every change to the application infrastructure requires re-instrumentation of your application’s code to keep to tool from breaking. Some BTM tools also require the creation and management of massive data warehouses for analysis – adding yet another application for your team to manage. BTM was a good idea, but the traditional approach to it has proven difficult to implement and even more difficult to scale.

Download our recent whitepaper Managing Enterprise Transactions to learn more: http://bluestripe.com/resources/whitepapers/complex-transactions

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Infrastructure Complexity (2nd in a Series on Transaction Monitoring)

November 30, 2012 12:44 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

 “Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it.”
 - Alan Perlis

Infrastructure complexity has supplanted code defects as the biggest source of problems for IT Operations teams. We aren’t suggesting that we can remove it from the datacenter, but we don’t think you should have to suffer for it. But first, don’t ignore it.

Here’s a somewhat stylized example of a typical enterprise application – in this case from the financial industry:

Infrastructure Complexity Creates Application Performance Management Challenges

I say stylized, because the real-world example this is drawn from includes hundreds of servers across the different nodes, providing millions of potential transaction pathways – and therefore millions of potential combinations – and millions of potential opportunities for failure.

Let’s dig in and look at the tiers that make up today’s complex applications. To build on our hypothetical web-based app, you would expect to see hundreds of applications services tied together with dozens of messaging middleware servers, communicating with a mix of industry specific (FIX, for example) and proprietary protocols.

Each of the infrastructure technologies in this complex environment has its own set of management tools, as do the hardware components on which they reside. Within an even modest-sized corporate environment, an IT Operations department will be responsible for managing hundreds of applications – many of which will share virtualized resources.

That’s what complexity looks like today. As if that wasn’t enough, this complexity breaks the APM and transaction monitoring tools that are supposed to help IT Operations keep applications available. In my next post I’ll talk about these tools – what they are good at and where they fall short.

Download our recent whitepaper Managing Enterprise Transactions to learn more: http://bluestripe.com/resources/whitepapers/complex-transactions

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Managing Enterprise Transactions (1st in a Series)

November 28, 2012 4:22 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Transactions are the common link between customers, Lines of Business serving those customers, and IT Operations.

That’s how our recent whitepaper Managing Enterprise Transactions begins. In it, we highlight three main points:

  • Infrastructure complexity exists in all enterprises, and has become the main source of transaction performance problems
  • This complexity breaks Application Performance Management (APM) and transaction management tools, leaving them blind to how transaction performance is affected by heterogeneous components and middleware
  • BlueStripe has invented a new approach that tracks transactions across complex infrastructure without invasive code changes or network taps

In the next few blog posts, I’m going to talk about each of these, and how our FactFinder Transaction Performance & Availability Monitoring software makes it possible for companies to overcome the challenge of managing complex applications and delivering on service level requirements.

Download our recent whitepaper Managing Enterprise Transactions to learn more: http://bluestripe.com/resources/whitepapers/complex-transactions

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


What's Killing APM?

November 12, 2012 1:57 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Over at InformationWeek, it seems somebody else has seen the light about APM being broken. Dave Wittman has a well thought out article titled “What’s Killing APM?” He examines several potential reasons leading to APM tools failing their owners, such as:

  • IT teams don’t have time and resources needed to make these tools work properly
  • APM tools can’t adjust to the requirements of Cloud apps (in Public OR Private Cloud)

Dave ultimately captures the essence of the problem in a single statement:

“As app environments become more dynamic and lifecycles for apps shorten, the substantial effort required for APM isn't worth the already iffy results it provides.”

It’s nice to see somebody else understands what we saw when we started BlueStripe:

  • APM tools require a huge amount of manpower to setup, configure, and maintain
  • Dynamic application structures make it impossible (not difficult, impossible) to understand all the relationships that exist in real time – unless you have tools that specifically tie transactions, applications, and infrastructure together
  • Most APM tools specialize in specific code platforms (Java, .Net) and therefore miss critical components of complex application environments

The column is a must-read for any IT professional dealing with service delivery and IT Operations, as it includes some survey results on the behavior and attitudes of application users.

I must completely disagree with Dave’s conclusion, though. In a nutshell, he says APM should be scrapped for component-by-component self-health reporting. The industry has tried this silo-based approach for the last thirty years – and has failed. Why? Because to properly manage these systems, a tool MUST be able to “connect the dots” between Transactions, Applications, and Infrastructure. That means understanding how any specific infrastructure component impacts transaction performance.

This Wednesday (November 14th), Forrester’s Eveline Oehrlich and I will be talking about this very point. Join us to see how the next generation of IT Management tools can and must deal with complex dynamic application systems.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Reasons Why APM Deployments Fail - Because APM is Broken

November 5, 2012 6:00 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

In his 2004 book “The Wisdom of Crowds,” James Surowiecki promotes the idea that the combined intelligence of a group will often greatly exceeds that of the individual.

APMDigest has produced a “wisdom of crowds” type article about problems to look out for with APM deployments. In the article “15 Top Reasons Why APM Deployments Fail” they asked several experts in the field to describe the biggest problems with APM deployments. The result is a good rundown of considerations for companies when considering an approach for their application and transaction performance monitoring programs.

Many of the vendors consulted (including BlueStripe – I’m quoted in item #11) provide input that highlight key areas where their products are strong. Each input covers one specific problem, which the article groups into 15 categories. Reviewing these, the 15 categories can be consolidated down to 4 main points:

  1. Avoid Silo-based thinking – focus on the entire application infrastructure rather than on individual components
  2. Build for a dynamic environment
  3. Limit the overhead of the monitoring program – both in terms of physical and human resources
  4. Focus on relevant, actionable results

None of the vendors advocated for all of these points – but we should have. All four are key to success with application performance management, and all four are central to how we build out FactFinder software.

Most APM tools can’t address all four values, however. Most traditional APM tools are by definition silo-based, as they provide a deep dive into the code for specific tiers within the application infrastructure but don’t see beyond their specific tier. Also, most have trouble with dynamic changes to the application infrastructure footprint. So how do you find an APM tool that is – well – not really an APM tool?

To be blunt, that’s why BlueStripe exists. Our transaction-centric application management tool, FactFinder, breaks through silo barriers to follow transactions wherever they go. That allows us to find problems in any silo, as well as make sure that the transaction and application maps we build are always accurate and adjust to changes in real time.

To learn more about BlueStripe’s application management capabilities (and see them in action), watch our recent webinar about our new offering, FactFinder v7.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


FactFinder v7 Released This Week

October 26, 2012 12:15 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

FactFinder v7 Release Notes

This is a big week for BlueStripe – we released our newest Transaction monitoring product version – FactFinder v7. Like most vendors, we’re proud of what we’ve built, and are eager to tell you about it.

Increasing complexity of dynamic application infrastructure is the big money problem that every enterprise-scale company faces. When we surveyed CIO’s earlier this year, we learned that 84% of Fortune 1000 companies have 5 or more different technologies in their application infrastructure. Further, Gartner’s Cameron Haight recently stated that “73% of CIOs say infrastructure complexity is either “high” or “out of control”.

All this complexity means that monitoring application health by using the broken APM model won’t work. It’s critical that companies be able to manage their applications by looking at their transactions as they flow across the infrastructure rather than at isolated points along the way.

That’s why we’re excited about FactFinder v7 – we’re introducing the first solution that automatically tracks each individual transaction, across all the different components both in the data center and across the cloud, without any changes to the code or the transactions themselves.

That’s right – no code changes, and complete transaction visibility across the whole variety of infrastructure components – web tiers, application servers, middleware, databases, mainframes, even Private and Hybrid Cloud.

Here’s how it works. FactFinder v7 includes TransactionLink, a collection of different technologies for tracking individual transactions both inside each node and in the network – between nodes. In high volume systems, there can be hundreds of thousands of transactions in play at any given time. Rather than tag each one, we’ve developed the approach of using the unique characteristics of each transaction (think payload content, date/time stamp, place of origin, etc.) to develop a unique identifier for each transaction – similar to reading the transaction’s genetic code.

This isn’t easy to do, but the payoff for end users is tremendous.

With TransactionLink, FactFinder users can now see the transaction path through the infrastructure of every transaction. In addition, we also provide the time spent on station for each node and connection, and automatically flag the bottleneck points. So when transactions are slow, FactFinder automatically shows you where the bottleneck is – and then also provides drill-down into the server stack to start the troubleshooting.

With this newest update to FactFinder, companies can reduce their application risk. The effort and time spent fighting fires is reduced, as most of the people currently on bridge calls no longer need to be invited to join. IT Teams can be certain that upgrades won’t break their existing applications, and that new applications will behave as advertised when put into production. Finally, when things do break down, they have a dynamic picture of the application system, of the transactions as they flow through the system, of the bottlenecks within the system, and the ability to drill down into the server stack to fix the problem.

FactFinder v7 is a huge leap forward - we're pretty proud to bring this out into the world.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


APM is Still Broken

October 18, 2012 8:25 AM | Posted By: Chris Neal

Chris Neal

Several months back my colleague Vic Nyman stirred up some controversy with his blog post titled “APM is broken. It’s time someone said it.” Vic’s point was that code-level analysis tools are not appropriate for systems-level problem solving.

Recently, the truth of Vic’s argument hit home in a brand new way. We see a lot of RFI’s from companies that need transaction-level visibility into their application systems. Looking at these, only a small fraction of the questions from the potential buyers are about how we would go about solving their problems. More than 80% of the questions focus on how difficult it would be to manage the solution.

Customers have clearly been through a difficult time – and this highlights for us everything that is wrong with APM tools today. Care and feeding of your monitoring tools shouldn’t require more effort (meaning FTEs, servers, consulting costs – in short your op-ex and cap-ex budgets) than the applications that they are supposed to help you manage.

At BlueStripe, we build our FactFinder software with the idea that implementation and management of our solution should be easy. So we build it from the ground up for rapid implementation – with the result that our typical full enterprise-wide install takes less than 1 day. Our footprint in the datacenter is extremely small – unlike some solutions that create new data warehouses to manage. And we don’t require extensive post-sale customization, meaning the cost of the license is the cost of the solution.

APM tools are still broken. If you’d like to avoid these traps, give BlueStripe a look.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


Cloud Management: Public, Private, and Hybrid - oh my!

October 4, 2012 12:05 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

We have another customer announcement out this week – this time about LaFarge using FactFinder for transaction performance and availability management. LaFarge, a leading building materials company, is using FactFinder to manage their production applications. Like our other recent customer announcements (Husqvarna Group, Raymond James, Jackson Hewitt, etc.), the LaFarge announcement is about proactive monitoring and problem solving in IT Operations.

But an interesting aspect of today’s announcement is how Lafarge is using FactFinder to monitor ERP, in this case running on a Vblock environment. Vblock (VMWare software, Cisco hardware, and EMC storage all wrapped up with a bow on it) can be thought of as a “Private Cloud in a Rack.” Developments like Vblock make rapid deployments, well, more rapid – but they also create visibility issues for IT Operations that hinder their ability to manage application service levels. When problems occur, these teams are practically blind to meaningful data in a Private Cloud environment.

LaFarge provides a good illustration of the shortcomings of the typical approach to application troubleshooting when any flavor of Cloud is involved. In small, simple applications, the system footprint may include just a handful of servers. Manually checking log files and rebooting is manageable in this environment. In complex production applications, the system footprint can include hundreds of discrete nodes. Throw in the Cloud-based environment and the old way of identifying problems breaks down.

In LaFarge’s case, they had a mixture of physical and virtual servers. After considerable effort of attempting to identify the source of a transaction slowdown, the project was put on hold. When FactFinder was brought in, the team from LaFarge could see that their transaction slowdowns were occurring only with the virtual servers. They could then drill into the server stack and identify the error – quickly leading to resolution of the problem.

As companies deploy more enterprise-scale applications and incorporate private and hybrid cloud models, transaction visibility will only increase in importance.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Why the Big 4 Management Vendors Don't Have You Covered

September 28, 2012 1:03 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

I speak with our customers quite a bit. In particular, I meet with people from hosting teams, test teams, development, support – all the way up to CIOs and CEOs. I’m often asked about the “Big 4” – usually around how BlueStripe integrates with a Big 4 solution (like IBM’s CMDB – a subject for a future post). Sometimes, though, I’m asked why these companies, with seemingly unlimited resources, can’t get transaction monitoring right.

That’s a good question. The answer is simple.

To the Big 4, Transaction Monitoring is merely a point solution for a specific technology – usually created from a peripheral point product (like Java or End User tools), and then proclaimed to be a “Transaction Monitoring Solution.” Big 4 vendors operate two-tiered portfolios, the upper tier consisting of broad solutions like Frameworks, Dashboards, and Data Warehousing. The point products are merely supporting tools for the “bigger picture” sale. So there’s no incentive to invest in making these tools perform properly.

You and I, of course, know that Transaction Monitoring is fundamentally different. Deep visibility into transactions is a central requirement for effective performance & availability management. The problem is that transaction systems involve more than just Java App Servers – they also include Web Servers, Messaging Middleware, SAN Arrays, and much more (even mainframes).  An effective Transaction Monitoring solution must see how all those systems are involved, how transactions perform in each tier, and how each tier services transactions.

The pace of change in the infrastructure, itself, is putting a spotlight on this problem. There have been so many application technology changes in the past few years (even in this year), that there’s just no way for the products in Big 4 portfolios to adjust (many of their solutions are acquired – and more often than not, innovation peaks just before the acquisition closes).

It’s not time to drop your Big 4 frameworks. But when it comes to Transaction Monitoring, start with somebody that understands how important transaction visibility is to overall IT Management.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Why IT Operations Has To Step Forward Again

September 11, 2012 10:23 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

For years, the team on the hook to guarantee the availability of production applications was IT Operations. A decade ago, as new web platforms emerged, unstable new application code was causing problems. Development and app support teams had to take a large role in helping keep applications available in production. Those application code issues have largely stabilized, but a new challenge has emerged—dynamic infrastructure.

When I talk to IT executives, I ask them a simple question: Are 80% of your application problems coming from the code? Or are 80% problems coming from the systems hosting them? I keep hearing the same thing: problems are coming from unexpected environment issues or changes gone bad. One day it's a database update that didn't go as planned. The next it's a misconfigured load balancer, and then after that it's an under-provisioned VM. There's only one team equipped to handle this array of problems: the team responsible for keeping those infrastructure systems available.

It's time for Operations to step forward again as the leader on keeping applications available.

To do so, IT Ops teams are going to have to prove that they can improve what matters most—the reliability of users' transactions. But the job of managing the infrastructure hosting those transactions has never been harder. The production environment has become dynamic with virtualization, cloud, and SOA, and these new technologies only add to the long list of what Operations already has to manage.

Monitoring tools should be the IT Ops manager's best friend. Unfortunately, monitoring tools are typically focused on the technology parts (the servers, databases, code, network, etc.) rather than on the big picture. There needs to be a way to see the complete picture of the users' transactions as they flow across the infrastructure, even as the infrastructure dynamically shifts. Without this view, the team responding to problems is left relying on reboots or getting on bridge calls with SMEs.

For Ops to take back leadership in application availability management, we have to move to monitoring that puts the infrastructure in the right context: the impact on users' transactions.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Gartner Releases New Real-Time Infrastructure Hype Cycle

August 16, 2012 12:53 PM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

The challenge and importance of IT Service issues are being more widely recognized. When I blogged recently about APM and the challenges to operations teams, a surprising number of you jumped on the topic—in a good way.

Now…Gartner has gone further. They have released a new Real-time Infrastructure Hype Cycle in which they highlight the challenges of IT Service Root Cause Analysis in dynamic, real-time operations environments.

According to Gartner, IT Service Root Cause Analysis is providing high value to IT organizations that do it, but most have not adopted it yet. That means there is an opportunity for most corporations to gain significant value…especially since viable solutions exist.

We thought Gartner's take on the topic matched what we are hearing from our customers. IT Service Root Cause Analysis is one of the fundamental strengths of BlueStripe. And when our customers adopt it, it becomes one of their strengths.

BlueStripe enables an end-to-end view that monitors IT Service Transactions and bridges them to the platforms and real-time infrastructure serving them. This allows our customers to follow transactions, including individual transactions, to rapidly determine where problems are happening. Since getting to the root cause of an IT Service disruption is the goal, we don't stop at pinpointing the failing tier…we go on to drill-down through the platform stack to identify root causes in application code, VM configurations, storage systems, rogue systems management agents, core OS resources, and shared services like DNS.

As important as code monitoring, network monitoring, and transaction monitoring are, they are falling short of the total view that IT Ops needs—Gartner is saying it's time for an “end-to-end view” to how transactions interact with the complex mix of thousands of applications and real-time infrastructures that support them—a view for which BlueStripe is the best choice. (But then, maybe I am a little biased!)

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Infrastructure Complexity: The Problem That Will Not Go Away

July 16, 2012 11:10 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Infrastructure complexity survey results After my "APM is Broken" post, I've been amazed at just how many of you agreed that infrastructure complexity is the big issue causing IT availability problems.

The rise of infrastructure complexity has become the main source of application performance problems. The surprising thing is that it doesn't take many different kinds of components interacting to cause problems.

When we surveyed 126 IT execs from the Fortune 1000 a few months ago, 84% of those we surveyed had at least five technologies in their applications, and 64% had 7 or more different technologies! According to a survey Gartner conducted, 73% say their infrastructure complexity is either "high" or "out of control."

How Complexity Causes Performance & Availability Problems

Remember your last outage, where customers couldn't login or sales orders were randomly dropped? You can thank complexity for how hard it was to get to the root cause of the problem, because complexity causes outages in two ways:

First, it increases the opportunities for problems to emerge. As the number of nodes and components grows in the architecture of an application, the number of interactions between them grows exponentially. Where there are more components, more different types of technologies, and more points of interaction, there will be more problems.

Second, it makes the management of the transaction harder. The IT Ops staff needs to understand, configure, and monitor the health of all of those different technologies.

Without monitoring tools that can map the transactions to the underlying infrastructure, this task is virtually impossible—even worse…61% of those we surveyed said their tools didn't support all the different technologies in their applications, leaving them completely blind on segments of their transactions!

Transaction monitoring is the way to get a handle on complexity

The way to keep your complex transactions reliable is to see when they're failing and then to trace the failure back to its source. If the goal of IT infrastructure is to deliver transactions, then the way to manage complex infrastructure is to see when transactions are slow or failing and to trace their execution, hop-by-hop, through the infrastructure to the point of failure. That's what transaction monitoring from BlueStripe does.

This transaction tracking cannot miss part of the transaction path—it's essential to track transactions through each piece of the infrastructure to detect problems. Transaction monitoring must embrace complexity, tracking transactions through load balancing (used by 56% of survey respondents), across message buses and brokers (44%), in virtual or cloud environments (57%), out to third parties, or even into CICS and IMS systems (17%).

As Forrester's J.P. Garbani has said, "If you aren't managing everything, you aren't managing anything."

Click here to view the full survey results.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


Top 4 Application Management Challenges Plaguing IT Ops

June 4, 2012 7:05 AM | Posted By: Chris Neal

Chris Neal

Top 4 application management challenges for IT Operations

We recently surveyed 126 IT Operations executives from the Fortune 1000 about their application management strategies. Their responses sent a clear message: IT Ops is on the hook for the performance of transactions and the systems they depend on, but to do so they need to overcome 4 key challenges:

1. It takes too long to resolve business-impacting problems

It's not that Operations teams are not up to the task of delivering business-critical services; the problem is that infrastructure complexity is growing out of control. We'll discuss this phenomenon in detail in next week's post.

The rise of this complexity causes the process of resolving user-impacting slowdowns and outages to take too long. In fact, complexity causes the next 3 problems, which are symptoms of the first.

  • Traditional management tools do not provide a complete view of transactions and the systems they depend on
  • So, IT Ops pieces together a picture by relying on costly, inefficient bridge calls
  • Without a view of transactions and their supporting systems, Ops gets surprised that users are having problems—instead of catching them early

Let me explain:

2. Management tools only show part of the picture

Traditional tools report that transactions and applications are slow, or that a particular system is in trouble. They do not give Operations a simple way to see, in one place, how transactions are performing as they cross multiple systems, nor how each system is supporting the end user experience.

3. Dependence on bridge calls for firefighting

Because their toolsets don't provide a single view to cross-tier transactions and the systems they depend on, Ops doesn't have a complete picture of the application they're troubleshooting. To piece together the picture, they have to convene a bridge call with subject-matter experts (SMEs). Bridge calls are slow and costly: the search for group consensus among competing hunches prolongs the time it takes to troubleshoot, all the while wasting resources by drawing SMEs away from their work.

4. Reacting to users calling in instead of proactively resolving issues

Since IT Operations doesn't have a simple view to transactions and their supporting systems-and are instead relying on time-consuming bridge calls-Ops only has time to react to the latest user complaints. The time pressures force the team to depend on reboots and recycling app servers instead of finding and eliminating the root cause. Constantly reacting leaves the team unable to have any time to proactively solve emerging issues before users are significantly affected.

Transaction monitoring tools can help

For IT Ops teams suffering from these challenges, there is a solution. Transaction monitoring tools from BlueStripe can provide a simple, automatic view of transactions and the infrastructure they depend on. With this clear visibility, Ops can see where transactions get stuck and why problems are happening—overcoming the bridge calls and slow problem resolution that keeps them reacting to fires instead of proactively avoiding issues.

Stay tuned: next week, we'll discuss how infrastructure complexity is harming transaction performance and what you can do about it.

Click here to view the full survey results.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


FactFinder: What IT Operations Has Been Looking For

May 15, 2012 12:37 PM | Posted By: Chris Neal

Chris Neal

Since we started BlueStripe, I’ve had the privilege to speak with hundreds of enterprise IT Operations executives. Their fundamental challenge has come through loud and clear: they are tasked with ensuring the performance of transactions, but are frustrated with having to do it with silo-oriented tools. Unfortunately, surprise performance problems repeatedly crop up because transactions cross many IT silos, and the paths those transactions follow across the infrastructure change dynamically. What do IT Operations folks need? A transaction-aware, IT Operations-friendly performance management product. That’s why BlueStripe built FactFinder. Here’s what I mean:

Transactions first

Let’s face it: transactions are really what IT performance is all about, and you need to follow their breadcrumb trails hop to hop through your entire dynamic IT infrastructure. That is now possible with FactFinder, our breakthrough management tool that automatically follows transactions wherever they go. FactFinder solves several key problems for IT Operations:

  • What systems support my transactions? No more consulting outdated Visio charts or architects to determine which systems support the transaction. We map out the entire transaction path—for any application, across messaging middleware, back to the mainframe, and out to 3rd party services.
  • Where are my transactions getting stuck? Our transaction monitoring pinpoints exactly which server, and which component on that server, is the source of transactions slowness, cutting problem resolution time by 90% on average.

Where transactions meet systems

When a problem emerges, you’ve got to do more than just know where the slowdown is. You also must understand why it’s slow. In order to help Operations teams do this, FactFinder unites transaction monitoring with just enough visibility into the layers of the underlying systems to determine the root cause—whether it's Java, a VM, a database, a storage drive, a SQL query, or a CICS transaction. We’ll give you enough incontrovertible evidence to enable the handoff to the correct administrator or developer.

This view to the intersection of transactions and the systems they depend on is critical now that dynamic, shared infrastructure has become the primary cause of performance problems. Ever had performance issues that seem to mysteriously go away before they can be isolated, only to come back later? FactFinder nails those kinds of problems every day!

In FactFinder version 6, which was released today, we continue our theme of providing just enough visibility for IT Operations to identify which administrator owns a problem by adding in platform management for WebSphere, WebLogic, and their JVMs. Now, if WebSphere is shown to be a bottleneck, Operations can see whether an admin can fix the problem by adding capacity or whether it’s a code problem that must be assigned to development—all without the burden of maintaining or interpreting a code-level developer tool!

A lighter touch for IT Operations

Our company has a deep devotion to building products that fit within the unique constraints of IT Operations teams. Therefore, we built our monitoring to be automatic, so that it can be easily installed and maintained by the Operations team. We don’t require developers—or vendor consultants—to change the code or build instrumentation for our tool. We don’t require you to have an architect-level understanding of your transactions, nor do we require you to get network teams to install devices. Additionally, our software maintains itself by dynamically updating when any change happens—new code is released, a server goes down, a virtual server suddenly moves to a new virtual host, etc.

Version 6 and Beyond

I’m very excited to tell you that Version 6 hits the market today! What’s next for BlueStripe? You can rest assured that we will remain laser-focused on giving IT Operations what they need to run transactions and their supporting systems well, in a way that’s automatic and easy to manage.

Chris Neal is the CEO and co-founder of BlueStripe Software. Chris has over 15 years of experience in systems management and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, Oracle, and NetDynamics.


5 APM Demands from IT Operations Execs

May 10, 2012 10:02 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

Wow. The responses to our post last week (“APM is broken”) have been wonderfully positive. Thank you. I was skeptical that anyone would care what I had to say, but lots of you who are involved in Operations & Support sent us emails and LinkedIn messages not only thanking us for what we said, but in many cases saying it far better than I did. Additionally, some of the APM vendors didn't like what I had to say—a sure sign that it needs to be said.

To advance the discussion, I thought that many of you might appreciate hearing some of the feedback we've been getting from Ops execs over the last few weeks. The 5 comments below are both representative of your feedback as well as slightly anonymized to protect the innocent.

IT Ops APM Demand #1: Give me a tool that shows me my transaction performance across any and every tier

As one IT Ops exec told me recently, “I'm responsible for a login transaction that crosses more than 10 systems. When it's slow I need to see which of those systems is the source of the problem. I need to see the whole transaction—across our messaging middleware, into our private cloud environment, and into legacy applications. Showing me a few of the parts isn't good enough.”

IT Ops APM Demand #2: Give me root cause analysis for every system in my transaction

“What APM vendors need to realize,” said a VP of IT Operations at a major healthcare company, “is that problems can come from anywhere. We've seen slow DNS resolution bring down our application, users getting errors in one application because another was slamming the database…we've even seen the anti-virus software slowing down users because it was updating its definitions file on every machine… in the middle of the afternoon. Where's the tool that can see all that?”

IT Ops APM Demand #3: Don't make me rely on developers and code-level developer tools

From an executive at a Fortune 500 financial services firm: “I shouldn't have to keep a couple developers—or worse, vendor consultants—on my payroll to keep my APM tool instrumented where it needs to. And I certainly shouldn't have to pay to use a developer tool in production just to tell me if WebSphere is running OK.”

IT Ops APM Demand #4: Give me a tool for managing cross-domain performance, not just silo failures

From a major consumer bank: “We're good at knowing when one of our servers completely died. We're not good at knowing where things slowed down. We have been looking to get to that level of maturity for years, but haven't found a tool to get us there.”

IT Ops APM Demand #5: Stop selling me a dozen products duct-taped together

“I'm tired of vendor sales reps coming in here and telling me I can get end-to-end visibility to my transactions…by buying 8 separate management tools,” said one exec. “Making me pay for 8 different tools duct-taped together with an APM tool is just more of the same.”

 

At BlueStripe, we're committed to serving Operations and Support teams. We know that they need a new kind of management… one that goes beyond the current APM choices. Your feedback above made that pretty clear.

We built our FactFinder product to be a single view to cross-domain transactions, the application platforms that run them, and infrastructure they depend on. This gives you the visibility to follow transactions across the most complicated of environments…. and see not only where the transactions go, but to see where they get stuck and why.

The feedback from you guys is probably best represented by an SVP at a large financial services firm who replied to my co-founder, Chris Neal, with: 

“You summed up my frustration over the past 2 years in just a few paragraphs—APM is broken! I fought and lost this battle at my company. For our private cloud they went with [a well-known code-level tool] because the CTO was a former developer and more interested in debugging. There is a huge opening for a tool like yours for Ops to use.”

I couldn't agree more.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.


APM is broken. It's time someone said it.

April 30, 2012 11:53 AM | Posted By: Vic Nyman

I talk to IT Operations executives every day. They're fed up. These execs are on the hook for business-critical services, but their APM tools aren't helping them.

They're tired of APM vendors like CA/Wily, Compuware/Dynatrace, AppDynamics, and OpTier selling code-level developer tools as IT Operations management solutions.

IT Ops execs are right to be angry. Ops shouldn't have to use tools designed for developers. Plus, the problems Ops has to solve are far broader than just Java & .NET.

Unfortunately, IT Ops execs haven't had an alternative to code-level tools…until now. 

BlueStripe is fixing APM for IT Operations. We've developed a groundbreaking way to track cross-tier business transactions and the infrastructure they depend on. We give Ops teams the data they need to solve problems and break their reliance on developers, architects, and SMEs.

We're not the only ones that have realized something's broken. Gartner recognized our "alternate, Operations-centric" approach by naming BlueStripe both an “APM Innovator” and a “Cool Vendor in APM”.

How did a great idea like APM go wrong?

The co-founders of BlueStripe were early employees at Wily, the original code-level APM company. When Wily started over a decade ago, every enterprise was moving their business online using a new application platform: Java. Unfortunately, the early Java platform and the new applications written for it were suffering from growing pains.

APM's indispensible role was to help organizations identify these code and architecture-oriented problems where they were found…in QA environments and sometimes in production. I am proud to have had a small part in building and refining APM. It helped a brilliant web technology emerge.

But code-level APM doesn't work for today's IT Operations challenges. We know. We built it. We didn't intend for it to be used this way.

Today's challenges require something new

After a decade of APM, the Java platform is much more stable…but business services aren't. 

Complex infrastructure has replaced Java as the number one source of transaction problems. Overall, the infrastructure has become more dynamic and varied. Transactions now depend on intense levels of virtualization, clustering, and service architectures. It's gotten so bad that when Gartner polled attendees at its Data Center conference in December, 79% said they had "high" or "out of control" infrastructure complexity.

For many of our customers, a single Login transaction may touch dozens of systems before returning a result to the user. So, a problem on any one system can cause the entire transaction to take too long or to fail.  To manage this, Ops has to be able to see where these transactions are going, where they get stuck, and why.

You can't use last generation's code-centric approach to solve today's dynamic infrastructure challenges.

Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec.