Monitoring tool keeps Web apps on track

When your company provides custom networking services for global enterprises, the performance of your infrastructure becomes a mission-critical business factor.

Faced with maintaining high service levels at GiantLoop Network, an optical networking supplier, Bob Catalano built an operational support center that includes application measurement, monitoring and management software from Dirig Software. Dirig's RelyENT product gives GiantLoop a way to increase the reliability of its infrastructure, says Catalano, vice president of technology and service management at GiantLoop.

Dirig President and CEO Bob Hoyt says Dirig's products collect data and statistics on system-, application- and component-level computer resources; present a picture of their use, performance levels and overall health; and perform scripted actions in response to problems or events.

Since enterprises need their intranets, extranets, Web applications and networks running well to do business, just pinpointing the online or off-line status of different components is no longer good enough, says Hoyt. The performance level is the necessary metric.

RelyENT is Dirig's management product for database, messaging, Web and application servers. XSPress is a management module for application service providers (ASP) that allows an ASP's customers to log in and check performance figures. And the newest product, Fenway, monitors the components for e-business transactions.

Dirig's products can be installed on machines running Windows NT, Windows 2000, Sun Solaris, HP-UX, IBM's AIX, Linux, FreeBSD and BSDi Unix. Agents can monitor systems and applications running the same set of operating systems. The agents query the targeted components for the health statistics that are part of their built-in functions.

What's different about Dirig, says Jeb Bolding, a senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in Boulder, Colo., is that its products are aimed at midtier companies that don't have the time and funds to develop a system based on monitoring frameworks products like Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView or IBM's Tivoli. Although Dirig doesn't provide the breadth of features of those products, it does monitor the critical pieces and has the benefits of quick deployment and easier management, he says.

GiantLoop considered buying Concord Communications Inc.'s eHealth Suite and BMC Software Inc.'s enterprise management suite, says Catalano, but it chose RelyENT because he liked the product's agent technology. The firm also chose RelyENT because GiantLoop could pick out just the modules it wanted instead of buying functions that overlapped those provided by other management software, he says. RelyENT monitors processor usage, memory usage, disk-space usage and applications such as relational databases, Web servers, Web-application servers, network management applications and event notification software.

The Dirig software doesn't use many system resources and is easy to install and configure, says Calalano. He has minor requests for improvement, however. For example, Catalano would like to be able to assign users who don't have administrator status the rights to perform specific tasks.

Another benefit of Dirig's software, says Bolding, is that its interface was designed to make it possible for less technical people to administer the products. But, he warns, Dirig's products don't have the depth of specific application, operating system and hardware modules of some of its competitors' bigger products.

Dirig's future enhancements will include improving reporting modules so data is more presentable and meaningful, integrating its products with the monitoring frameworks products and adding support for trouble notification to be sent to handheld devices.

Management by Metrics

The market for Web application component monitoring tools is relatively small today, says Corey Ferengul, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. However, he says he expects it to increase to several hundred million dollars in the next few years as Web operations continue to expand.

Dirig has a year's lead on its competitors in providing Web application monitoring tools, but other vendors are jumping in, says Ferengul.

The mistake that Dirig has to avoid, he says, is sitting still. The company needs to expand into other underserviced monitoring areas, like network storage, Ferengul says.

Fenway's ability to provide details on Web operations is a natural complement to Dirig's core focus on managing network hardware and infrastructure, Ferengul says. With more and more corporations building Web-based operations, performance levels not just network availability are key metrics for IT to manage, he says. Dirig's two closest competitors today include the following companies:

BMC Software

BMC's products cover more areas than Dirig's, including database and network monitoring, says Ferengul. But Dirig's software costs less and is easier to use, he says. Plus, it provides greater flexibility: Dirig customers can do more with the agents it provides, according to Ferengul.

Precise Software Solutions

Precise's Insight competes most directly with Dirig's Fenway product, says Ferengul. The main difference between the two companies is how they started, he says. Precise began with in-depth Oracle database monitoring, then added Web monitoring. Dirig covers Web servers and operating systems but doesn't provide the wealth of management features for databases that Precise's tools do, he says.

Dirig Software

Niche: IT Infrastructure monitoring and management software tracks the software components used in Web-based applications.

Company officers: Robert F. Hoyt, president and CEO, Paul J. LaFrance, chief technology officer and co-founder, Thomas T. Cloos, vice president of professional services and co-founder.

Milestones: Nov. 1997: Company founded, Aug. 2000: RelyENT released, April 2001: Fenway released.

Employees: 60.

Burn money: US$5 million from JMI Equity Fund LP, Cabletron Systems Inc. and Longworth Venture Partners.

Products/pricing: Fenway, RelyENT, xSPress; $450 to $4,500 per server. Installation ranges from $50,000 for small projects to several million for large ones.

Customers: SilverBack Technologies Inc., GiantLoop, Netvein Inc. and othersRed flags for IT:

-- Products don't currently integrate with enterprise management tools.

-- Reporting and administration functions may need time to mature.

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More about BMC Software AustraliaCabletron SystemsConcord CommunicationsDirig SoftwareEnterprise Management AssociatesGiantLoop NetworkHewlett-Packard AustraliaIBM AustraliaMeta GroupNetveinPrecise Software SolutionsSilverBack TechnologiesTivoli

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