IBM Drives Superior Composite Application Performance

ITCAM for Applications: A simple solution to a complex problem

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

Composite applications drive some of the most compelling services in enterprise IT today—but also represent a special diagnostic challenge.

To some degree, this comes as a natural consequence of the special way they fulfill complex business goals. Composite applications link different assets and information repositories, ranging from databases to Java applications, as necessary in order to accomplish any necessary business goal. Typically this is an extended process that moves through a succession of logical stages in order to arrive at a final target outcome. This relatively impromptu architecture gives the enterprise exceptional flexibility to get the best business use of its resources over time, by combining and recombining them in any way it needs.

It also, however, makes composite applications a thorny problem in the area of logical troubleshooting. If the application isn't performing well, what's the root cause? Because the application is comprised of many logical links, pinpointing one or more of them that are underperforming, and leading to the overall performance degradation, will often be a difficult matter. It will also be beyond the scope of traditional monitoring solutions, which weren't designed to address such a lengthy, complex chain of dependencies in a holistic sense.

IBM's answer? The IBM Tivoli Composite Application Manager (ITCAM) suite of solutions. These offerings deliver sophisticated discovery and analytics, in some cases involving robotic simulation of the end user experience, in order to assess how well a composite application is performing against target service levels.

And in cases where those target levels aren't being met, ITCAM solutions can rapidly and accurately determine the root cause. In fact, ITCAM can even predict future problems in certain circumstances, empowering IT to address them proactively before any business impact can occur.

ITCAM also offers IT a simpler way to resolve such issues. Instead of using multiple tools to track different elements of the composite application chain, and trying to combine their information in an ad hoc fashion, IT can consolidate that functionality, relying specifically on ITCAM to do that job.

The overall value proposition: a faster resolution of technical problems, a return to expected performance for the composite application, and ultimately, a better return on investment both from the application as a whole and from every element it utilizes.

ITCAM for Applications 6.2.4 now supports WebSphere MQ and ESB-linked services

"The IBM Tivoli Composite Application Manager (ITCAM) suite of solutions delivers sophisticated discovery and analytics, in some cases involving robotic simulation of the end user experience, in order to assess how well a composite application is performing against target service levels. The overall value proposition: a faster resolution of technical problems, a return to expected performance for the composite application, and ultimately, a better return on investment both from the application as a whole and from every element it utilizes."

Naturally, IBM is continually improving its solutions to create more business value for customers—and the ITCAM family is no exception. Recently, ITCAM for Applications was updated to version 6.2.4 in order to address an even broader range of technical complexities and provide an even more comprehensive range of benefits.

Now supported by ITCAM for Applications v. 6.2.4, for instance, is IBM WebSphere MQ—a foundational solution that provides ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) capabilities for the enterprise, and one which bears particular significance to composite application management.

ESBs are increasingly popular as a means of linking and integrating disparate services in a standard, secure fashion. They connect what had been separate technical domains via a shared logical "pipe" that allows those domains (and their solutions) to communicate with each other—an optimized, centralized conduit of business data. They also typically convert between different transport protocols and message formats as needed to make that communication a practical reality.

This means that application developers who want to provide integration potential for their software don't need to do custom coding to achieve that. They can instead simply rely on the ESB, which standardizes the general concept of service integration, almost turning it into a service in its own right.

IBM WebSphere MQ is a leading ESB solution that delivers just such capabilities. And because it's supported by version 6.2.4 of ITCAM for Applications, IT now has centralized power to track and monitor any technical issues that may arise on the ESB itself.

This is a major enhancement that delivers many significant business benefits. Since the ESB is responsible for centrally linking and integrating a theoretically limitless range of different services, it's especially critical that no data be lost on the ESB, and that its performance continually hit or exceed target service levels.

ITCAM for Applications 6.2.4 helps IT achieve that goal in several ways. First, it includes WebSphere MQ configuration management, allowing direct manipulation of the ESB for accelerated time-to-value of new changes (or time-to-resolution of problems). Second, it supports application topology views for improved visualization; by illustrating the full sequence of links in the composite application chain, even though they span the ESB, technical problems in those links will be simpler and faster to resolve.

Message brokering performed by WebSphere MQ is also now monitored by the ITCAM solution, to ensure the ESB is converting between protocols and formats in the intended fashion. And ITCAM for Applications can also generate performance and availability reports to illustrate or quantify performance for any given application using the ESB, or uncover emerging trends that may require a fix.

(Customers already using WebSphere MQ may be interested to hear there is also now a free SupportPac available for it, to collect and analyze performance data in many different ways via a limited version of MQ Explorer.)

Powerful new Lotus Sametime and Lotus Notes support enhances business collaboration

Also supported by ITCAM for Applications is Lotus Notes, IBM's flagship offering from the Lotus suite that delivers enterprise e-mail, calendaring, personal information management, and many other collaborative functions that help to empower teams and team members with all the information they need to be more productive.

While Notes has been supported by ITCAM in the past, that support is now more extensive than ever. Specifically enhanced are performance monitoring and management for Notes components, including Notes servers (using Lotus Domino), mail routing, data replication, calendaring, the underlying Notes database, and server clusters that fulfill Notes functions in all these areas.

Furthermore, ITCAM for Applications 6.2.4 now supports Lotus Sametime—IBM's enterprise-class, unified collaboration and communications middleware platform.

Among other leading services Sametime provides are Enterprise IM; Mobility, to extend access to core services and data anywhere employees happen to be; Online Meetings, to provide real-time interaction and collaboration across geographic boundaries; and Telephony, for Voice-over-IP services.

The fact that ITCAM for Applications now supports Lotus Sametime thus translates into better performance, improved collaboration through a superior end user experience, and more business value, from every one of those services. IT managers looking for deep, quantified insight into how well those services are fulfilling business goals can now get it from new on-demand functional testing and historic trending analysis—not to mention customizable reports, to summarize the results in any specific case or context.

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