Measuring SOA performance a complex art

Conventional systems-monitoring techniques aren't enough for the SOA era, some users say

As companies become increasingly reliant on service-oriented architectures to support mission-critical transactions, monitoring the performance of web services — which can be more complex than traditional system monitoring — is quickly becoming an IT priority.

The nature of an SOA — multiple loosely coupled services interacting to link applications or perform a business process — is prompting some companies to create a strategy that separates management of SOA systems from IT systems management, to ensure that services are continuously available.

Andres Carvallo, CIO at Austin Energy in Texas, says a key challenge for IT is to measure the uptime and performance of this new type of application.

“Most solutions out there give you an uptime of the infrastructure, databases and standard applications, [but] web services and composite applications are a new frontier,” he says.

Austin Energy is building an SOA to integrate applications that span the utility’s five divisions. Its first SOA application went live in May.

For the past six months, the company has been testing AppVision, an SOA performance monitoring tool from Vision Software. Without it or a similar tool, IT “cannot know if a web service is down or not performing well,” Carvallo says.

A recent survey of 400 IT managers and developers by IT researcher Evans Data found that web services are often unavailable for periods ranging from an hour to a day.

Almost half of the respondents said that when their most reliable web services go down they usually stay down for an hour or more. Almost half of the worst-performing web services used by the respondents are typically down for more than six hours, the survey found.

Cosmetics company Coty recently began holding meetings to discuss how to include transaction monitoring in the SOA it has implemented, to integrate its global systems.

The company plans to internally develop monitoring tools for ensuring that transactions are completed and that the company’s customer service group gets more accurate shipping schedules to pass on to clients says its CIO David Berry.

At Coty, the SOA is “the heartbeat” of the business, he says. It is processing transactions for virtually every part of the company. There are significant dollars and cents on the table if there are performance issues, says Berry.

Eventually, he says, the company wants the tool to be able to trigger a web service that can update the status of an order when a significant event occurs, such as when a bar-code label is produced to prepare a product for shipping from a warehouse. Coty will use

middleware from iWay Software, combined with IBM MQSeries messaging tools, to monitor performance.

Linda Scotto, manager of applications development and support at the US National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, says her organisation was crashing its IBM zSeries mainframe regularly late last year when it first began testing the use of web services for straight-through processing of transactions from the web portal to the mainframe.

To fix that, the company added settings to its mainframe integration tool and Microsoft BizTalk Server to adjust the time between the processes being sent to the mainframe.

In addition, BizTalk now holds transactions submitted by customers while the mainframe is doing its nightly batch processing, Scotto says.

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