Keynote adds low cost Web monitoring service

Keynote Systems Inc. recently launched a low-cost Web application performance monitoring service, plus an upgrade of its higher-end Transaction Perspective offering that adds support for tracking Web services transactions.

Keynote’s new Red Alert Performance Tracker starts at US$50 per month for monitoring of traffic going to a single Web page from four cities, said Jeff Morgan, a senior product manager at the San Mateo, Calif.-based company. That compares with a base fee of $1,295 per month for Transaction Perspective, which covers performance assessments on five Web pages from 10 locations.

Open Biosystems Inc. in Huntsville, Ala., has been beta-testing Red Alert for several months on its public Web site, which the company uses to sell genetic materials to research biologists. Traffic from five cities is being monitored, and problems are reported to IT staffers by Keynote via e-mail or pagers, said Open Biosystems CEO Brian Pollock.

“It gives us cradle-to-grave monitoring of queries and responses, so that you can judge how the database reacts on the back end,” Pollock said. With just 23 employees, Open Biosystems couldn’t afford to develop the monitoring capabilities in-house, he added. “You have to be cost-conscious if you’re a small company, and outsourcing this made good financial sense,” Pollock said.

SmartBargains Inc., which sells designer merchandise online, is another early Red Alert user. It’s relying on Keynote to monitor the performance of its Web site from 10 U.S. locations. “If there’s a problem, we want to intervene as early as possible,” said Richard Secor, executive vice president at Boston-based SmartBargains. He noted that 100 percent of the company’s sales are made online.

The low-cost Red Alert option should be attractive to many more users than Keynote has been able to reach with Transaction Perspective, said Bill Gassman, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. Companies that have never tracked response times on their Web sites could begin to do so with Red Alert, Gassman added. “Many Web site owners don’t realize problems (are occurring) until customers start calling,” he said.

Keynote officials said the full-blown Transaction Perspective service tracks performance problems to a much higher level of detail, including assessments of the specific elements on Web pages that are causing trouble for users.

The Version 5.0 upgrade of Transaction Perspective could be helpful for companies that use Web services technology, especially large corporations with distributed operations, said Jean-Pierre Garbani, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

Garbani said that Keynote currently controls more than 80 percent of the market for Web performance monitoring services, followed by Gomez Inc. and Empirix Inc., which are both based in Waltham, Mass. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Mercury Interactive Corp. and enterprise management software vendors like IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. sell tools that users can install to do their own performance monitoring.