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Issue of January 2006 

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IT Performance Optimisation = reduced TCO + faster ROI

Deploying a technology is relatively easy. Getting the most from it is tough. That is why CIOs need performance optimisation tools to ensure a rapid RoI, do away with bottlenecks and proactively nip potential problems in the bud. Kumar Dawada reports.

Any IT deployment is there to stay for at least three years and adds value to the organisation only if it performs optimally. IT Performance Optimisation (ITPO) is critical because if the IT infrastructure, network, application or service does not perform satisfactorily, then profit margins reduce and the business model no longer remains viable.

Need For ITPO

Buying costly and sophisticated IT infrastructure and solutions is the easy part. Successfully deploying them and keeping them running efficiently is tough. As time passes and business grows, processes and objectives change. At this time, the IT system starts being used for purposes more than originally intended. It is already taking extra load in form of additional users, additional applications, and modified business process. As a result, the IT systems start losing their equilibrium and degrading in performance. This is when the science and art of  performance optimisation is required the most.

Jitendra Tanna, Director, Rapidigm feels that most organisations face the problem of optimising the performance of their network, application, services or devices. “Vendors test their solutions in ideal conditions or under specific conditions. However, when the solution is implemented in real-world conditions and attempts are made to fine-tune it according to the company’s needs, its performance is far below expectations. Performance optimisation is an ongoing process, but like an insurance policy, its benefits are visible only when major issues occur,” says Tanna.

Tools Of The Trade

The importance of design approaches that emphasise performance optimisation right from the planning stage can never be underestimated. Sadly, this does not apply to most organisations.

Chetan Shah
Synygy India

Chetan Shah, MD, Synygy India considers that performance issues are rarely addressed during the technical design and architectural stage. “It is necessary to ensure that right applications, right networking and IT infrastructure are used in the first place. This will guarantee that solutions are deployed on need basis and are the result of a mature analysis,” says Shah.

Even if an organisation is lucky enough to have the right applications, right network and right IT infrastructure along with proper business and service process, very few organisations can claim that their IT systems are used to their full potential or at peak performance. However, measurement of how their network, applications and service perform helps understand the flaws.

Armed with these insights organisations can take proactive measures to ensure optimum performance and extract the maximum from existing IT resources. This automatically leads to lower cost of running and maintaining the IT solutions, which in turn reduces the TCO and increases the ROI.

The right ITPO tools can make the IT infrastructure completely transparent. It helps the IT support team to tackle issues proactively because the monitoring process can locate the bottlenecks in an IT deployment or solution. This ensures quick troubleshooting and prevents future issues. It also helps in delegating the right people to deal with them.

Performance Optimisation In Action
At the Great Eastern Shipping Company Ltd (Gesco) SAAZ NMS is used to monitor Lotus Notes while Oracle Manager monitors Gesco’s critical database running on Solaris. These performance-monitoring tools have been configured to report trends and send alerts when threshold values are breached. Oracle Manager helps Gesco identify CPU bottlenecks and find out which SQL queries are resource-intensive. With a combination of SAAZ SAM and NMS, Gesco can zero in on a problem and solve it.

Major ITPO Players

Key players in the ITPO solution arena include BMC, Computer Associates (Unicenter), Compuware, HP (OpenView), IBM (Tivoli), Mercury (BTO Enterprise), Veritas and Riverbed (Steelhead Appliances).

“Server, application and network monitoring tools such as CA Unicenter, HP OpenView and IBM Tivoli are used for the purpose of monitoring performance. These tools generally provide insight into the performance by way of performance indices measurement. The actual process of optimisation is generally a specialist skilled activity, which can be modelled with very few tools,” says A Rajendran, Head, IS, Team Computers.

Ram Kumar Balina
Associate Director
IS, Sierra Atlantic

“There are tools available from the open source domain like Nagios, Argus and OSC. They provide most functionalities present in the products of leading vendors,” says Ram Kumar Balina, Associate Director, IS, Sierra Atlantic.

According to the Butler Group, currently there is no single vendor who offers a single integrated product which provides all three services—Application Performance Optimisation (APO), Network Performance Optimisation (NPO) and IT Service Optimisation (ITSO)

Although there are tools available to tune particular parameters like memory usage, there are no generic tools available for improving performance as a whole. According to the Butler Group, currently there is no single vendor who offers a single integrated product which provides all three services—Application Performance Optimisation (APO), Network Performance Optimisation (NPO) and IT Service Optimisation (ITSO). Since all applications have to run on the IT infrastructure there will be a gradual integration between APO and NSO. ITSO solutions are currently provided only by large vendors. These packages have a wide range of functionality but focus on service support only.

Self-Managing Systems And Utility Computing
Self-managing systems will be able to
  • Know what components they have and retain total control over them.
  • Adapt or change configuration in response to dynamic change in the IT or business environment.
  • Continually optimise themselves to meet business goals.
  • Detect, troubleshoot and prevent problems from recurring.
  • Protect themselves from malicious attacks.
  • Operate in a heterogeneous environment and have advanced predictive and anticipatory capabilities.

Utility computing is a method of providing service. The service provider will make his state-of-the-art computing resources, infrastructure, application and service management facilities available to the customer as and when needed. He will charge them for specific usage. Utility computing services give companies an opportunity to exploit new technologies without investing in the technology or infrastructure and manpower needed to maintain the technology. Utility computing services apply to software and hardware.

The Essentials

The main activity of an ITPO tool is monitoring, since it forms the basis for further analysis. Major IT players such as Microsoft and Sun have already provided built-in methods for application performance monitoring through Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and Java Management Extensions (JMX) respectively.

Other features of ITPO tools include database optimisation, transaction tuning, net traffic management, and the ability to monitor net-based applications and infrastructure as well as old legacy systems. Also required are diagnosis features such as root cause analysis and problem identification.

ITPO tools must also have intelligence features for decision-making based on correlation of events, and for delegating the right people for troubleshooting problems. They also need to provide network and application model simulation. These are invaluable for WAN or any complex networks by helping to make decisions without disrupting an online system. This also helps in creating what-if scenarios for planning and forecasting future issues or requirements, and how to handle them proactively.

Security is also an important concern. ITPO tools should support robust security features including inspecting messages with sensitive business information and providing advanced encryption features for such messages.

All Around The World

ITPO is emerging as a major technology in the IT organisation. “So far whenever the performance goes down, additional investments are made to upgrade the resources. However if a proper ITPO solution is deployed then the expense incurred to improve performance can be controlled. Existing infrastructure and applications can be used longer to perform to their optimum levels of performance. The ITPO process can also be used to evaluate genuine needs for increasing the resources and approve such resource enhancements,” says Rajendran.

The decision to implement an ITPO solution needs to be made at a strategic level to gain full control over service performance levels. ITPO can help identify whether the applications and network configuration comply with security policy and standards. It also helps to develop proactive measures to ensure that applications, network and services stay secure

However, ITPO tools alone cannot lead to optimal use of resources. They need the backup of proper optimisation practice and policy in the organisation. The decision to implement an ITPO solution needs to be made at the strategic level to gain full control over service performance levels. ITPO can help in identifying whether the applications and network configuration meet security compliance. It also helps to develop proactive measures to ensure that applications, network and service remain secure.

Usage of the Internet will continue to grow in the near future and organisations will keep relying on it for critical business activity. This is because customers will keep demanding more services anywhere, anytime. To support business and service growth organisations will have to deploy ITPO solutions to provide high performance. This trend is expected to be widespread during 2006.

Future Of ITPO

The Butler Group predicts that long-term initiatives of major IT vendors like HP, IBM, Sun and Microsoft will push the future of ITPO towards development of autonomic and self-managing systems. The practice of utility computing will also become commonplace. However in 2006, ITPO promises to be the emerging technology on top of the wish list of large organisations.

ITPO Primer
IT performance optimisation means getting peak performance from IT. It includes both hardware and software. It covers network, servers and services provided to support IT.

It covers three overlapping areas—Application Performance Optimisation (APO), Network Performance Optimisation (NPO) and IT Service Optimisation (ITSO).

APO comes into play after the application and IT solutions are deployed. This ensures that they perform at peak capability. APO covers databases, web services, ERP and other specialised in-house or custom-made enterprise solutions and their compatibility with the existing legacy systems. It involves activities such as application monitoring, application logging, application availability, problem diagnosis by correlating events, root cause analysis, deployment testing, scenario modelling and application portfolio management.

NPO ensures that the network gives peak performance. It covers network infrastructure including the LAN, WAN, network backbone, servers, nodes and storage backups as well as the associated software which maintains the network infrastructure. NPO activities include monitoring, root cause analysis, problem diagnosis and so on. The focus is more on network than applications.

ITSO covers activities such as service support, service delivery, and service management. It is based on ITIL best practice.


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