Written by Jane Clabby, Analyst, Clabby Analytics
Back in March 2010, Clabby Analytics wrote a report on a Business Transaction Management (BTM) — an evolving segment of the application performance management marketplace. We described what BTM is, how the market is evolving, why BTM is so important in cloud environments, the various approaches to BTM, and we provided an overview of the companies that compete in the BTM space.
Recently I (Jane Clabby) was invited to participate in a web demonstration of Correlsense’s SharePath and had the opportunity to speak with Oren Elias, CEO at Correlsense. SharePath is an agent-based cross-tier deterministic BTM tool that was designed to take a bottom-up (three patents pending on the technology) approach to transaction monitoring.
What I learned during this demonstration is that Correlsense SharePath tracks every transaction on every tier. SharePath works at the operating system level, seeing everything that is coming in, transparent to the application environment. Not only is this a very nonintrusive approach, but the architecture also makes SharePath very easy to implement, easy to use and able to support many different operating environments.
This approach is ideal for distributed virtualized cloud environments that are constantly changing — by tracking the transaction itself, following the transaction as it moves from tier to tier, server to server and application to application in real-time with no restrictions being placed by the actual physical infrastructure.
Instead of trying to do too much, Correlsense maintains its focus on transaction level monitoring and has a strong and growing set of partners that round out their capabilities in other areas such as end-user experience monitoring and capacity planning (Metron). In this report, Clabby Analytics looks more closely at Correlsense SharePath – how it works; what makes it different; and how it can be used to improve IT performance and reliability in traditional data centers as well as evolving cloud environments.
In our overview of the evolving BTM marketplace, Clabby Analytics segmented the market into two types of tools:
- Siloed application performance management tools that use a network sniffer/timecorrelation approach (also called a “network tap” approach) to analyze transaction behavior.
- Tiered application performance management approach that uses topology-driven, deterministic tracking/monitoring approach.
Correlsense looks at the BTM market a bit differently, however. Correlsense separates the market into four classes of tools:
- Network appliances – same idea as siloed network sniffers (NetQoS, Radware Inflight);
- Agent –based Transaction Tracing – agents installed on multiple tiers tracing all transactions (OpTier CoreFirst, Correlsense SharePath);
- “Deep Dive” Profilers – J2EE/.NET Code Instrumentation to collect code-level metrics like (Precise for .NET, Precise for J2EE, CA Wily Introscope, Dynatrace PurePath, BMC AppSight); and,
- End User Monitoring – The approach that utilizes end user latencies either by connecting an appliance to the network at the web server or by installing agents on the client side (JxInsight, Quest).
Some overlap exists in these categories — for example, some network appliances also do end-user monitoring and some offer “deep dive” profilers follow transactions. Further, some transaction monitoring tools offer additional management capabilities. (For example, Nastel’s AutoPilot includes a Complex Event Processing engine, as does OpTier’s Business Events module — each providing programmatic analysis of causes for business transaction failures).
We like Correlsense’s market segmentation — it provides a finer grain segmentation of the BTM marketplace and can be used to show how various BTM tools differ. And based upon this segmentation, IT buyers can more easily determine which features and functions they need to perform transaction analysis within their respective environments. (IT buyers may actually end up purchasing more than one of these tools since many of them have complementary features).
Correlsense, founded in 2005, is headquartered in Framingham, Massachusetts with research & development facilities located in Israel. Privately held and venture backed, Accel Partners is the primary investor. Correlsense sells through both direct sales (primarily in the US) and regional resellers including Maryville Technologies (US), Fusion Business Solution (Europe) and OnX Enterprise Solutions (Canada). Primary industries served include insurance, banking, online retail and telecommunications industries – Enterprises with greater than 1000 employees and more than 100 employees in IT are primary targets. Recent customer wins include a Fortune 100 wealth management firm, three large financial institutions in Israel, a multi-million dollar online payment provider and other Fortune 2000 companies.
The wealth management firm will be using SharePath in a new Financial Advisor Portal. In this application, SharePath is doing end-user monitoring and linking end-user experience to what is happening in the underlying infrastructure. The customer is deploying Correlsense’s Internet Explorer plug-in to enable them to gather more information from the desktop, such as the measurement of rendering times, which is impossible with common real user monitoring (RUM) approaches based on network sniffers. The firm was able to go live with SharePath in less than a week, enabling them to easily test performance of the new application and get it to market sooner. Now the data generated by SharePath will be used for capacity planning and private cloud audits, allocating costs to those groups that are using the resources.
SharePath – A Closer Look
Correlsense places SharePath in the category of agent-based transaction monitoring – the benefit of these tools is that they use agents that track every transaction on every tier. With agent-based transaction monitoring, software agents are deployed along the application path at different tiers. The flow of transaction including every event is recorded in realtime along with real parameters and stored in a central repository. SharePath reconstructs transactions deterministically because it resides within the executable processes that process the transactions. This is in stark contrast to network sniffers that only observe from the outside and use heuristics to correlate ― nearly impossible when multiple transactions are executed at the same time, and completely impossible in virtualized/cloud environments where sniffers see only partial or no traffic.
The SharePath architecture is comprised of:
- A Transaction Management Platform
- Server-based collection agents that gather application event information
- An aggregation and correlation engine that collects events and interprets those events
- Systems level monitoring and event management
- Business Service Analytics Application that can be used for root cause analysis in high volume production environments and during the development phase. Business Service Analytics provides the ability to analyze reconstructed transactions, build models of cross-tier/cross application behavior, and compare that behavior over different timeframes (for example, before and after a patch is deployed) and different environments (for example, test vs. production before rolling out).
- IT Reliability Dashboard – provides consolidated view of applications, business processes and infrastructure for easy problem identification
- Data Repository where information is collected and stored and analyzed to provide a system profile that can be used for activities such as capacity planning, auditing, and chargebacks in addition to identifying performance issues.
Correlsense describes its approach to business transaction management as a “bottom-up” approach. And this bottom-up architecture enables SharePath to support a broad range of platforms and easily integrate with any and all applications. Top-down application focused tools can provide in-depth information about a particular application, but can’t be used to gather information at the transaction level. In many cases these deep-dive application tools can be used in conjunction with SharePath has identified that a particular application has been identified as the source of the problem.
SharePath’s approach ensures that each and every transaction is tracked through every layer – no manual modeling or reassembling of transactions is required – a must for dynamic cloud environments. SharePath automatically detects and traces the entire transaction from the time the end-user initiates a transaction with the click of a mouse through the entire transaction path. The way the elements of SharePath relate to one another is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1- SharePath architecture for end-to-end transaction management
SharePath’s patent pending architecture has been designed so that no changes to the infrastructure or application are needed. As a result, there are no integration costs and SharePath is easily deployed in days on any platform or application. Not only that, SharePath monitors Java/.Net applications, but also C/C++ applications, and tracks transactions through ESBs, message brokers, and across the application boundaries even when transactions are asynchronous.
The broad support and ease of implementation of SharePath reduces risk of new application roll-outs because applications can be easily tested prior to roll-out. In today’s marketplace, enterprises are under pressure to undertake short-term projects that will show immediate value. Business agility is enabled by SharePath’s comprehensive change analysis capabilities that provide in-depth information about the impact of infrastructure or application changes. For businesses whose competitive advantage depends on introducing innovative new services to clients, SharePath helps brings these services to market sooner and more reliably.
According to Correlsense, SharePath is typically installed, set-up and producing value in just a couple of weeks at a much lower cost than deep dive application oriented products.
According to Correlsense, IT administrators use SharePath to:
- Identify exactly where transactions issues are occurring so problems can be remedied before they affect end users
- Send notifications if SLA’s aren’t being met
- Understand -in advance- the impact that application or infrastructure changes will have on end users
- Track compliance and security issues
- Monitor transactions, in real-time, related to a certain business activity or service
- Monitor load balancing on each tier
- Trace response times, workloads, database calls, to the user and transaction
- Understand the interrelationships of infrastructure tiers (network, server, application etc.) and how issues will affect end-users
- Follow transactions in dynamic virtualized cloud environments
- Data gathered can be used for capacity planning and cost allocation in private cloud audits
- Easily identify source of problem to avoid “finger-pointing”
- Analyze load tests to understand bottlenecks and find the “weakest link in the chain” before roll-out
- Optimize applications and improve user experience by understanding end-user response times across all transaction path elements and eliminating inefficiencies across those elements
Correlsense partners with Metron- Athene Inc., a provider of capacity planning and capacity forecasting. Athene, like SharePath, supports a wide range of platforms including Unix, Linux, Windows and mainframes. Athene can do both agentless as well as agent- based data capture and can merge both technical and business data to identify performance issues. Athene can analyze issues and report on thousands of collected performance metrics, and predictive capabilities enable proactive management in dynamic infrastructure environments. Athene Advisor provides intelligent performance reporting and trend analysis. By setting thresholds that define normal and abnormal, Athene Advisor can issue alerts when a threshold is exceeded and also provide a probable cause of the abnormality, helping maintain SLAs and improve customer satisfaction.
Monitoring transactions to proactively identify issues that may affect end-user performance is extremely important in cloud environments. As IT is increasingly delivered, consumed and billed as a service, the quality and consistency of service levels will be an important differentiator for cloud providers, and users will demand quality of service from their private clouds. In order to maintain service levels, both private and public cloud providers must have the ability to see what is happening to transactions in the cloud. BTM tools like Correlsense SharePath provide this kind of visibility and improve the reliability of IT services. SharePath can also help businesses understand the impact of infrastructure changes before they are deployed, helping with activities like capacity planning.
Because of the way SharePath has been designed, it is extremely versatile — supporting virtually any application, operating system or network. And because no integration is required, SharePath can be up and running very quickly. This is a tool that can begin showing value in a very short timeframe – important for businesses today that are working with tight budgets and are under pressure to demonstrate ROI quickly.
The BTM market is crowded with many players looking to rapidly grow market share — and Correlsense is one of these companies. Clabby Analytics likes Correlsense’s approach — Correlsense is sticking with what they do best and making it better. At the same time, they are also developing a strong network of partners like Metron-Athene to add complementary capabilities. Using this approach, Correlsense should be able to develop a solid foothold in the BTM marketplace, especially in financial services, insurance, retail and telecommunications markets where speedy time-to-solution is an absolute necessity.
Written by Jane Clabby, Analyst, Clabby Analytics