Data centres: Application acceleration
With an increase in the number of users, more data being
stored at the back-end, and a consequent rise in the number of requests that
a database server has to address, it is harder than ever to figure out where
a bottleneck lies in this tangled mess. But solutions are available in the market
that help CIOs optimise application performance. By Aishwarya Ramani
ERP system, a BI suite perhaps, a messaging server and an Intranet are typical
applications that run in a corporate data centre today. The aim here is to examine
the bottlenecks within a data centre and explore the various technologies available
to optimise application performance.
CIOs have to ensure that a data centre is equipped to deal with bottlenecks
as and when they arise due to the large volumes of data which are being processed.
Vishal Dhupar, Managing Director, Symantec India feels that it is not uncommon
for organisations to focus their IT operations on service availability, while
performance issues are reacted torather than anticipatedand treated
in a proactive manner.
Applications arent getting any smaller, data mountains are turning into
Everest, all of which contribute to make fine-tuning application performance
that much more complex a task.
Todays data centres are static and hard-wired, making them inflexible
and hard to reconfigure. Any change within a data centre requires too many people
and involves a number of steps. Vendors such as HP opine that apart from this,
since todays data centres are built at one-go, there is a lot of wastage
in terms of power, cooling, space, people and money.
While factors like data protection, compliance, availability
and management are driving the consolidation of IT resources, many applications
must be deployed centrally. With these come challenges related to application
performance, says Sumit Mukhija, Business Development Manager, Cisco Systems
India & Saarc.
||Enterprise IT Management
||It enables management control across the enterprise
by integrating and automating the management of IT applications, databases,
networks, security, storage and systems across departments and disciplines.
It addresses the needs of businesses in four main categories: business service
optimisation, enterprise systems management, security management and storage
management. This integrated approach to IT management helps identify bottlenecks.
||The solution captures metrics for monitoring and
tuning multi-tier applications. It provides a view of how applications are
performing from an end-user's perspective. It also delivers the information
needed to fine-tune applications by pinpointing friction points in the end-to-end
path across multiple tiers; provides the ability to drill down into hot-spots
to identify the application-specific concerns; offers best practice recommendations;
and enables the easy validation of the effectiveness of any corrective action
||This remote IT management tool looks at various parameters,
and monitors processes to help figure out where a problem lies. It combines
an IT management platform with a secure remote access technology. It combines
desktop, server, network and application management into a single integrated
||The Infrastructure Optimisation Management layer
in HP's OpenView takes care of issues like virtualisation, performance management
and end-to-end user application performance management. HP Application management
solutions enable administrators to build manageable applications, optimise
them in pre-production, and manage the entire application environment in
production from both an end-user and infrastructure perspective. Users can
drill down to the component or even the method level of the application
to determine the root-cause of a problem.
||Tivoli Business Application Management
||It helps ensure availability and performance of business-critical
applications, including portal and service oriented architecture-based technologies.
It also assists in planning, management and optimisation of a customer's
software assets. The solution helps customers quickly isolate, diagnose
and fix business-critical application performance problems. When an incident
occurs, the Tivoli solution helps resolve it by facilitating the information
flow between operations, development and support groups.
Applications are becoming more complex and inter-dependent.
In addition to this, multi-tier architectures are the norm. Owing to these factors,
performance management is harder than ever. Organisations are struggling to
find a repeatable and understandable way to measure the service levels at each
tier within an application infrastructure, and to correlate transactions across
application tiers. Adding to this problem are the frequent changes made to applications
with changing business environments with no or minimal testing performed before
deploying an application in a production environment. Another challenge that
organisations need to overcome is that of taking corrective action once a problem
is identified and building intelligence around the same to avoid recurrence.
With business environments changing, frequent changes are made to applications.
Deploying applications without conducting proper tests leads to confusion and
chaos. The traditional method of tuning applications in a multi-tier environment
does not address performance issues. The traditional approach involves the use
of data that has been captured by various components and correlated in terms
of time slices. This means that the diagnostician or performance analyst studies
the data points for the various components along the path for a slice of time
and then uses his best judgement to connect the dots. Not only is this extremely
difficult, it also involves trial and error.
A data centre has several componentsapplication servers, database servers,
storage, back-up servers, networking equipment, power back-up systems, etc.
Typically, a CIO allocates the management of each of these entities to different
third-parties. Agrees Hilal Issar Khan, Head, IT, Honda Siel Cars India, We
have multiple SLAs with multiple partners. He says that the problem is
aggravated when multiple vendors are roped in, as each of them refrains from
taking responsibility for bottlenecks that arise. T G Dhandapani, Corporate
CIO, Sundaram Clayton, also agrees that this disparity contributes to exacerbate
Inadequate storage and under-utilised resources contribute to these bottlenecks
as well. Dhandapani explains that one of the reasons for the underutilisation
of resources is simply lack of knowledge vis-à-vis the proper utilisation
of available resources. Khan seconds this view by saying that the knowledge
base of manpower is wide but not deep.
Although vendors cannot do much about inadequately-skilled manpower, they do
suggest ways of handling a resource crunch. Additional equipmentsuch as
servers that help handle problems faced due to inadequate resourcesdo
not come cheap, and it is necessary to examine the different ways in which a
resource crunch can be dealt with.
According to Rajendra Dhavale, Consulting Director, CA, one needs to go in for
a solution that enables a new level of management control across the enterprise
by integrating and automating the management of IT applications, databases,
networks, security, storage and systems across departments and disciplines to
realise the full potential of each of these elements.
And Dhupar says that taking a proactive approach towards
monitoring / analysing infrastructure and application behaviour allows an organisation
to allocate the right resources to each requirement. This optimum and correct
allocation of IT resources helps an organisation anticipate bottlenecks in advance
and gives sufficient time for risk mitigation. The approach not only helps allocate
right but it also helps ensure optimum utilisation and increased efficiencyvital
elements in any capacity-on-demand strategy.
Informs Kallol Hazra, Practice Director, HP Services, Technology
Solutions Group, HP India, When there is a sudden increase in the number
of users for a particular set of applications, we will need additional servers
in the application layer to maintain the same performance levels. If the servers
are already wired up they have to be added to the network in a distributed architecture.
If, on the other hand, we have a data centre with server blades, we have to
simply reconfigure a few blades through software and add the resources to the
task. The network capacity has also to be augmented to cater to the additional
Considering all these factors, there are several solutions
available today that help CIOs identify bottlenecks and help optimise application
performance in a data centre.
Software to spot bottlenecks
||Dynamic Tracing (DTrace)
||Helps developers rapidly identify the root-cause
of system and application problems. Resolving system or application performance
bottlenecks can be reduced from days to hours. Can be used safely on production
systems. DTrace's single view of the software stack simplifies the tracing
process, enabling developers to follow a thread as it crosses between kernel
space and user and back.
||Windows Server 2003
||Windows System Resource Manager (WSRM)
||WSRM lets you set CPU and memory allocation policies
for applications. This includes selecting processes to be managed, and setting
resource usage targets or limits. It also allows the user to manage CPU
utilisation. It allocates resources through server consolidation to reduce
the ability of applications to interfere with each other. WSRM can be administered
using two different interfaces: the graphical user interface (GUI) and the
command-line interface (CLI). The GUI is provided by an administrative snap-in.
The CLI enables command-line scripting and supports advanced uses. Both
user interfaces provide access to the full functionality of WSRM.
||AIX Workload Manager (WLM)
||WLM delivers automated resource administration for
multiple applications running on a single server. This capability helps
to ensure that critical customer applications are not impacted by the resource
requirements of less-critical jobs in the system. The policy-based architecture
of WLM allows systems administrators to spend less time on routine workload
management tasks by automatically applying individually-tailored resource
||Red Hat Enterprise Linux
||The monitoring module allows users to track the
performance of the Enterprise Linux systems. It helps in receiving alerts
regarding system performance, allowing you to take action before problems
arise. It creates custom probes for applications not included in the pre-built
probe set, and configures warning and critical thresholds for each probe.
Administrators receive e-mail or pager alerts when thresholds are reached.
||HP-UX Workload manager (WLM)
||With HP-UX WLM, users can define objectives with
a priority which they can then assign to a WLM workload. HP-UX WLM provides
a passive mode that allows users to see how it will approximately respond
to a given configuration. Users can control Oracle database instances, adjusting
their CPU allocation-based desired transaction response time, the number
of users connected, etc. WLM and its SAP Toolkit enable users to identify
different SAP processes or instances and place them into separate workloads.
What companies really need to look for are enterprise-wide event management
solutions with appropriate root-cause analysis supplemented by business services
that help zero in on a problem. Several solutions are now available to help
CIOs find bottlenecks and make it easier to resolve them.
Dhavale is of the opinion that identifying bottlenecks is
more time consuming than repairing a problem, while Dhupar points out that the
combination of multiple tiers and disparate technologies makes the diagnosis
of problems a complex task as the traditional approach of inward focus within
a specific tier of applications does not solve performance problems. What
is required is an outward approach of performance management which correlates
performance metrics across multiple tiers to understand and improve the performance
of transactions from an end-user perspective.
Proactive application performance requires a combination of people, processes
and technology. In identifying and implementing performance management technologies
to support a proactive strategy, it is important to select a tool that offers
both broad and deep performance analysis. It must be able to monitor and manage
performance across the entire transaction path, and offer deep analytics within
each tier. Without visibility across all tiers of the architecture, the IT head
may think that a problem is being solved, but in reality it is a symptom of
the underlying problemor he may be addressing the wrong thing.
An effective performance management method should have elements to identify
symptoms that indicate a performance problem, identify the tier where the problem
lies, discover the root-cause of the problem within that tier, take the steps
required to improve performance, and make sure that the steps taken have achieved
the desired goal. These stages combine to form a process that provides a systematic
approach to finding and resolving all kinds of performance issues, both predictable
Hazra stresses on the need to create and transform all resources from being
physical and static to being virtual and adaptive. This, he says, will definitely
help in reconfiguring resources on the fly. The cost of operations can be lowered
by automating most of the processes and using them consistently.