The True Costs When IT Is Silo not Application Centric

The development of IT environments have naturally led to complexity. Put it down to the very nature of capitalism. Different vendors working together to achieve a common goal isn’t a common occurrence. Each vendor has over the years developed its own monitoring and reporting systems. This is all well and good for each specific application or system. It doesn’t work effectively when applications are executing across an IT enterprise comprised of everything from mainframe to cloud.

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Code reuse, why copy/paste is the enemy!

Test appropriately in UAT, yelling won't help for long...I had to fix a loose railing on the deck, so I took out my trusty cordless drill/driver and a couple of screws, and presto, tested and fixed. The following week I had to fix a loose section of fence in my yard, so I took out the same gadget, along with longer screws that required a different driver bit. Now I could have went out and bought another drill/driver because I needed to use a different bit, but why do that when I had one that already works, all I needed to do was change the bit, right?

The same applies to accomplishing a programming task. During the process of developing a module, you realize that you need to perform a specific operation. You search through the source and find a method does almost exactly what you need, except for one statement, which needs to behave differently. So, you wade through your limited supply of options, which are:

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Exciting times these are at Nastel

Significant wins at Nastel Technologies this year...The second quarter has passed and with it Nastel has witnessed an exceptional period of growth over the first half of 2011. The growth not only is being seen in dollars and cents, but in personnel, products and customer wins.

Some of you may read this and think of that old adage, “self-praise is no praise.” We prefer to think of Muhammad Ali’s famous quote, “It isn’t bragging if you can back it up.”

And we can.

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Clouds, middleware and monitoring

While reading one of the many industry publications I follow this morning, I came across an interesting article, “12 Things You Need to Know About Application Performance Management in the Cloud” in BSM Digest.

While we agree with the statements published within the article, we would like to add to them.

Businesses use Cloud computing services similarly to the way they used managed service providers (MSPs).  However, a larger issue with regard to technical differences is elasticity.  Elasticity is the capability to enable applications to utilize more resources when they need them and less when they don’t – and to only pay for what they use.  Elasticity provides an automatic technical capability which is a great advance over the MSP model Monitoring messaging middleware in the cloudwhere specific servers, memory, disk and CPU are set up for the enterprise, whether fully utilized or not. Continue reading

Airline Attendants: The Middleware of your Flight

Business critical applications are increasingly being moved to the cloud as traditional barriers are overcome. But what does this mean? How can we simplify our understanding of this shift and the technology that plays a major role in accomplishing this task?

Since we’re talking cloud and travel, consider the following scenario.

Airline attendants are the middlware of your flight

Passengers, representing application data, travel back and forth between destinations – in this case, the cloud-hosted apps and the users. Continue reading

4 Things Fog Lamps and Application Performance Management Have in Common

Ofttimes, on Long Island the fog can be so thick you can barely see your hood ornament, much less the road or even the car in front of you. As in the Sherlock Holmes tale, the Hound of the Baskervilles with wild dogs howling at the moon, the fog rolls in and objects transition from ordinary to mysterious. Navigating through this fog on Long Island’s twisty roads can be challenging. Many of today’s cars try to help and are outfitted with fog lamps, yet they fail to deliver the value they are designed to provide. They either increase the danger by blinding oncoming drivers, or they create so much glare a crash becomes inevitable.

The same thing happens in IT departments. There are numerous “lamps” installed to provide visibility into the different application stacks, yet there is so much “fog” that these monitoring “lamps” blind IT as the symptoms roll in like the fog, the mystery deepens and the likelihood of an accident up ahead becomes certain. Continue reading

On AutoPilot: How Event Management is like Star Trek

I was watching Star Trek a few days ago and I saw a sequence you are probably familiar with. The dialog went something like this:

  • “A Klingon warship has just appeared off the starboard bow Captain”
  • “The warship is charging their weapons”
  • “Captain, the warship is firing their weapons”.

You probably know what happens next.. The Captain says “Shields Up!”

Fortunately, the captain was there or it seems the Enterprise would have been blown up. Despite being what we consider to be highly advanced, even the Enterprise used reactive intervention to solve a problem when the solution was obvious.

Event Mgmt. and Star Trek

Even the Enterprise used reactive intervention to solve a problem when the solution was obvious. In this case a Klingon Bird of Prey entering the event storm… Continue reading

What WebSphere MQ and Oreo Cookies Share In Common

Not much you say? Let me disagree with you…tastefully of course.

Most kids understand the topology of an Oreo. What’s that? I mean they can tell you that an Oreo cookie has three layers. And they include: two chocolaty cookies and a creamy layer connecting them. And of course, most IT middleware managers can tell you that the typical application architecture often has three layers, as well. An application layer and an operating system layer with a middleware layer connecting them.

An Oreo Cookie is like WebSphere MQSo, how did we get here? Well, a few weeks ago someone asked me, “What is middleware”. I explained that there are applications that perform tasks — like process an order or update a bank balance. Then, there are operating systems which run the computer hardware; ensuring it is functioning and that resources are available for use. Middleware is the layer in between that lets the operating system and the applications work together smoothly. My questioner had a eureka moment and said, “I get it! Middleware is the crème in the Oreo. ” And you know what? He was right. So, I immediately said, “And monitoring software is what ensures that the crème is there and tastes sweet”. We had a laugh, but there is truth in the layers of this story.

It takes all three layers to have an Oreo cookie. If you take out the filling, you have two chocolate cookies. It’s ceases to be an Oreo cookie; a true disaster for most of us.

The same thing is true with the middleware product, WebSphere MQ. It takes all three technology layers to have an IT system that supports business functions effectively. If you take the middleware layer out, the two “cookies” might be completely functional on their own, but they won’t be working together. Middleware enables applications performing business functions to interoperate across different operating systems which may be running on the computers of the opposite “cookie.” Monitoring middleware is essential in the datacenter and even more important as we move to the cloud where the other two layers of the “cookie” could be in different countries.

This middleware monitoring must provide visibility into:

  • Availability
  • Capacity
  • Transaction paths
  • Where and why transaction problems have occurred.
  • Potential breaches of service level agreements.

Then, just as in the cookie factory where the quality control agent makes corrections, monitoring must move beyond identification to problem resolution. This is where a monitoring solution with a built-in complex event processing system can enable a close-looped process for preventing known problems. The savings of having this kind of application performance management / business transaction management can amount to millions of dollars in retained revenues.

WebSphere MQ, the “crème in the Oreo”, is essential to its users. Ensuring that it is executing exactly on target is a recipe for business success.

Superior Customer Support Begins with Reducing the Need for Support

Or how the Service desk is like the Dentist…

When you think of superior customer support do you think primarily of well-trained personnel who know all the right answers to help your customers? If you do, you aren’t home alone. Of course, there is no question that having a great team of agents at the service desk is an important factor for providing a good customer experience.

But, there’s only one problem with the bus stopping here. Customers don’t like having to call the service desk! This avoidance is almost as much as the dentist. It doesn’t matter how pleasant and helpful the agent is, having to call a help-line is a major non-starter for your customers. In fact, the mere thought of it makes their teeth ache.

Calling support can make an end user's teeth hurt

Users are hesitant to call the help desk.

Reasons to Get Proactive With Eliminating Service Calls

1) Service Calls Waste Your Company Resources.

In 2002, it was reported on that help desk costs ranged from $12 to $40 per call. In 2011, Gartner reported that the average cost per handled contact, including voice, email, web and other alternative channels averaged $16.56 – its just expensive.

Many companies do try to cover their service desk costs by charging for support given by a real person. While this model may be effective at eliminating frivolous calls in B2C situations, it makes customers even less happy. And this could lead to customer attrition.

2) Service Calls May Indicate Service Level Agreements Aren’t Being Met.

In many industries, you must meet SLAs to remain compliant to Federal regulations and to prevent fines. Unless you have the appropriate monitoring system in place, your first indication that you aren’t meeting those SLAs could be an increase in the number of calls to the service desk. Like the dentist’s chair, not a comfortable place to be.

3) Service Calls Make Your Company Look Less Attractive.

Every time a customer has to call the service desk because a transaction didn’t execute, an order didn’t get processed, or other problem occurred, it places your company in an unfavorable light. The customer begins wondering if it’s time to consider a different service.

4) Service Calls Waste Your Customer’s Time

Fixing problems after they blow up is just as effective as putting bars on the windows after the burglary. The best customer service is one that delivers “no mess, no fuss” and eliminates waste.

Stop All the Waste

There is a technology that can effectively stop these losses—application performance management (APM). APM enables IT to address potential problems proactively. Instead of waiting for calls to the service desk before IT realizes there’s a problem, APM automates the process of identifying emergent transaction failures.

The most successful application performance management solutions have at their core a complex event processing (CEP) engine along with pre-defined situations that describe common business problems. The CEP engine searches for patterns that define potential issues. As soon as an abnormal pattern is identified, the preventative action is initiated.

This puts a company into a position where IT becomes a powerful ally to the service desk team. The IT team is under less stress because most problems that arise are dealt with automatically. And since this is a closed-loop process, over time availability and performance continuously improve. Plus, the service desk team finds it easier to provide friendly, helpful service because each team member has to deal with fewer venting customers.

While service desks cannot be eliminated, the process to use them can be optimized substantially. And to tell the truth, the best customer support is the support the customer never has to experience. So, no more avoiding the service desk and no more aching teeth. Even though your customer doesn’t know what he or she is missing, it’s one of the best investments you can make for building a loyal customer base.