Software seeks clues to slow system mysteries

A software package launched this week at the DEMO ’08 conference in Palm Desert, Calif. may appeal to IT managers at large companies who want to figure out what kind of experience the users are getting at their desktops, according to one industry analyst.

Aternity Inc., a Westborough, Mass.-based vendor, launched Frontline Performance Intelligence Platform, which works on both Windows and Linux server operating systems. It is designed to give IT managers are “real frontline” view of the infrastructure, and alert them to problems before they slow users down.

Darin Stahl, lead analyst for Info-Tech Research Group of London, Ont., said Aternity’s software is similar in some ways to systems management packages from vendors such as HP, IBM/Tivoli, CA and CompuWare.

“What’s unique here is their exclusive focus on that end user experience,” Stahl said. “That can be good or bad.”

He said systems management tools from other vendors monitor other parts of the infrastructure, such as servers, and measure usage of central processing units, whereas Aternity focuses only on the user experience. “Their solution at first glance seems to be very focussed on that forward point, which is interesting and very unique and can tell you, ‘Yeah, I’m getting a big slowdown at my end point.’”

He added IT managers usually want to know how the infrastructure performs from the users’ perspective, because that helps them determine service level agreements.

“But they also want to look at that back end in-depth and know (for example) if they had to put together and provision a couple of more blades to speed this up on the back end.”

The tools already available on the market are focussed on the data centre – monitoring database servers, networks and other infrastructure, said Aternity’s president, Trevor Matz. “We’re focussing on the front line user experience component,” Matz said. “How are the users themselves experiencing the IT services they are consuming?”

Frontline Performance Intelligence Platform focuses on end to end application response time and user productivity.

“How much time does a user spend sending or receiving e-mails, doing a trade, opening a support call, closing a support call?” Matz said. He added the software lets IT managers predict problems, determine the root cause of problems and do capacity planning. “All organizations today are looking to be proactive in their ability to detect problems before users are aware of them and then to be able to isolate those problems and understand the impact on users,” he said.

Pricing starts at US$75,000. Matz said the price would depend on the number of end points monitored and the applications that are tracked. Aternity offers add-on modules for enterprise applications such as Citrix Terminal Server, Oracle eBusiness. He added the software lets developers figure out which features workers are using.

Stahl said in the past, IT managers have often thought systems were working well when in fact that users were having problems. “I can remember back in the mid-80s, having these similar problems where I’d have somebody in a different building on a green screen tell me they were having a bad transaction.”

His team would then analyze it. “They’d say, ‘The transaction’s coming in and coming out in a nanosecond’ and we just didn’t have that kind of visibility” to figure out how fast the user’s system was.

Now, Stahl said, some of today’s monitoring tools can get a “holistic view” of the IT infrastructure. “Without that, you’re really blind trying to fill that SLA, and that can be a really tough place to be if you’re an IT leader in any sized organization.”

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