Site monitors get real

  • Pimm Fox (Computerworld)
  • 23 June, 2003 10:38

We know the value of system management software that monitors the performance and availability of Web sites.

The goal is to keep sites and robust applications up and running within service parameters set by business and IT.

But most of the performance tools provide synthetic measurements. They score a site or application against a set of scripts or conditions created by the IT department to mirror users and transactions. For example, if a customer goes to a travel site and types in a query, the measurement software will acknowledge that the site is running as long as the customer gets an answer. But there’s no way of knowing if the information was indeed what the customer wanted. Until now.

Complementing traditional system management technology available from the likes of Mercury Interactive is software from San Francisco-based TeaLeaf Technology, a spin-off from SAP. Designed to monitor actual site and application experience, IntegriTea aggregates information about the application and determines if it’s returning appropriate data. Three large outfits are already on board including Mary Kay Inc.

IntegriTea applies a filter to the Web server and clones information when it hits the server. A copy of each request is made and pushed to an IntegriTea server, which generates a cookie for each session. This makes it possible to follow the application trail of the user. The results are assembled visually so you can record the page a visitor was on, his IP address, the ports, the browser type — almost any information you’d want from a user session. Event modelling permits preset alerts, so if, say, 10 transactions fail to reach completion within a specific period of time, you can be alerted. Identifying problems early and specifically also makes it easier to effect fixes.

Real-time monitoring can also be a boon in fraud detection. An online music retailer was able to watch for instances of fictitious credit card generation via overseas IP addresses.

Yet another use for this technology is monitoring low-volume, high-dollar business-to-business transactions to ensure that customers are always getting the information they want.

Traditional monitoring software, akin to a closed-circuit TV camera, is still necessary, but it’s no replacement for having a live guard keeping watch. And more important, one who takes notes you can act upon.