Managing app server components

Management tools for Internet infrastructures have evolved nearly as fast as the Internet.

In the beginning, monitoring products watched the network.Then they progressed to servers and applications. E-business requires even more scrutiny and detail about application performance. To truly ensure the complete performance and functionality of e-business applications, new management products were developed to manage the individual components within a Web application server.

Components are small pieces of software that operate within an application server. Series of components (or objects) are generally responsible for a very explicit task, such as verifying a credit card transaction, checking credit card history, confirming inventory levels, delivering customized content to an end user, or allocating connection-pool utilization. If any component fails, the transaction will not complete successfully.

This new breed of component management products has addressed these issues with management designed specifically for application servers and the products built on them.

Application-server component management enables developers and IT managers to unleash the full power of an application server, providing instant notification of a transaction failure and identifying the cause of the problem. These tools monitor and manage the hundreds of details within the components of a Web application to identify the most critical performance issues.

In addition to providing information on the application server and its system resource utilization (such as heap, memory and processes), component management products can monitor, threshold, alert and take action on details such as individual Web application response times, number of invocations, rollbacks, cache size and the number of hits per minute on a particular servlet.

These products may also include the ability to manage connection pools. Statistics such as the number of connection requests, connection releases, size and longest wait are not only critical points to analyze, but when immediately acted upon can increase a site's revenue.

Component management provides Web site managers with the technology to maximize the performance of high-end e-commerce applications. Plus, data can easily be analyzed to apply valuable business logic to a site's performance, identifying where potential weak points may be within the end user's experience of a transaction process, or how server capacity requirements may be affected during high-volume sales seasons.

Maintaining an e-business infrastructure requires managing systems and applications, including the application server and its components (Web Applications, servlets, JavaServer Pages and Enterprise JavaBeans) as well as connection pools.

Some products on the market will even go a step further than the component level and view methods or method-level statistics. Method-level statistics can be extremely valuable to a developer designing software with an application server. These statistics are for developers doing detailed testing and preproduction performance tuning, allowing them to pinpoint problems within their code.

However, there are important reasons why an IT manager may not want to run method-level monitoring once a new application goes live in a production environment. Method-level monitoring may require instrumentation of source code or class files (embedding monitoring code or an application within a Web application), which could cause significant performance issues in the application being monitored.

In fact, some application server vendors have warned about potential performance hits if methods are monitored in a live application.

For example, if you're monitoring a certain number of methods, each creating about 30,000 statistics per second, the overall performance will degrade. What's more, even the savviest IT managers may have to turn to a developer to address a performance problem involving a method.

Moreno is responsible for product marketing, positioning and strategy for Dirig Software Inc. He can be reached at moreno@dirig.com.

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