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Component-Level Performance Monitoring with Dirig PathFinder

Component-Level Performance Monitoring with Dirig PathFinder

Complex, distributed Web applications have been the source of headaches for many Web managers. In the past, pinpointing performance issues and transaction failures has been a tedious process. Monitoring tools did a good job identifying whether a network application was slow, but did a terrible job of helping Web developers and IT managers identify which component was causing the slowdown. In August 2002 Dirig Software released BEA WebLogic support of its flagship performance management tool, Dirig Agent with Fenway Management Extensions (FMX), which gave IT managers a component-level view of complex Web applications. KeyLabs tested Dirig's latest FMX add-on tool, which creates a topographical map of the path a transaction takes through a Web application.

Web Application Home Run
Dirig PathFinder 1.0 is an add-on product to Dirig Agent with FMXplus version 3.5 that helps IT managers identify performance problems in distributed Web applications. Dirig PathFinder is an analyzing engine that parses J2EE applications and dynamically graphs a transaction's path through a Web application. It automatically discovers the possible paths that transactions could take through an application's infrastructure. Working in much the same way as a network-mapping tool that discovers network switches and routers, Dirig PathFinder is an application-mapping tool that discovers JavaServer Pages, Enterprise JavaBeans, and Java Database Connectivity.

Dirig PathFinder automatically discovers components, component relationships, and component dependencies in J2EE applications. When used in conjunction with FMXplus, Dirig PathFinder automatically instruments the applications to provide configuration files that report number of calls, performance statistics, and response times, as well as exceptions and failures of individual methods. It is a complete management solution for your J2EE Web services, running from high-level process monitoring down to the method level performance and failure analysis.

Out of the Ballpark
In addition to monitoring FMXplus-instrumented applications, Dirig PathFinder also incorporates external performance metrics. For example, Dirig PathFinder will track external services and protocols and provide system statistic monitoring such as disk access, memory metrics, CPU utilization, and swap file statistics. In fact, log file monitoring can be configured to use any ASCII-based log file, and vendor API support can be used to monitor other vendor applications.

Dirig has created a number of Specific Application Managers (SAMs) that allow QA professionals to set policies, reports, and custom alerts for applications such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange, MySQL, IBM DB2, Sybase and Apache Web servers. SAMs allow users to download and import predefined rules allowing users to quickly manage applications with no additional coding or modifications.

Dirig PathFinder gathers data from various sources by talking directly to network data stores. For example, FMXplus's sampling facility will collect from the Windows Registry, from any database using ODBC, and from application APIs. Additionally, protocol simulation can verify that applications and services are running, and confirm response times using a myriad of protocols (e.g., PING, ECHO, HTTP get request, SMTP, POP3, IMAP, DNS, FTP, DHCP, LDAP, etc.). These allow IT managers to correlate data from not only the monitored application, but from the network infrastructure, operating systems, and Web servers as well.

In the Dugout
With so much data coming from so many different sources, it is important to have a console that can organize and present the information logically. Dirig PathFinder's Management Server performs this job. Once installed on a separate box, the management server makes sense of all the information that is collected via a Web interface. All data can be viewed in real time, or historical reports can be generated to help resolve application performance problems or failures. The management server allows the user to configure the agents, set up alerts, observe data collected from many agents, define reports, and view real-time performance statistics.

Dirig PathFinder installs an agent on each server that is to be monitored. Currently supported operating system platforms are Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, Linux, Hewlett-Packard HPUX, and Microsoft Windows. The agent can be managed and configured from the management console using a Web browser or can be configured from a command line. Dirig software also integrates with network management systems including Aprisma Spectrum, Micromuse NetCool, HP OpenView, and SNMP.

We set up a BEA WebLogic test environment to evaluate FMXplus with Dirig PathFinder. Using Windows 2000 and WebLogic as the application server and Windows 2000 and Oracle as the database server, we ran load and stress tests against WebLogic's Pet Store sample application. We also ran additional tests using Apache as the front-end Web server, but leaving the rest of the test bed the same.

The Pet Store application was instrumented and monitors were configured for the operating system, hardware, and Oracle. As requests and transactions were made against the application, Dirig PathFinder showed the response times of the Pet Store application components. Dirig PathFinder made it easy to trace different transactions through the application.

We used the OpenSTA scripting tool to generate a 250-concurrent user load against the WebLogic application server. We were impressed with Dirig PathFinder's ability to let us drill down into the individual components that made up the Pet Store application.

The Score
Just as in manufacturing, managers need to know where the bottlenecks are occurring in an assembly line. Developers and QA professionals will like Dirig PathFinder's ability to assist in locating transaction bottlenecks. QA teams can use Dirig PathFinder to provide detailed statistics for the response times of each individual component. Problems in specific methods can be identified. Reports can be designed to show the most problematic components. All of the reports are customizable to fit the needs of the developer or tester. Once identified and corrected, fixed code can be verified.

In a production environment, Dirig PathFinder provides invaluable notification and alerting. Thresholds can be configured to notify of failures and performance-related issues. Dirig PathFinder not only notifies of application failure, but also identifies the specific methods responsible for the loss of performance. PathFinder can be configured to restart services that fail or to launch executables or scripts Tto corrective actions.

Company information:
One Indian Head Plaza,
6th Floor
Nashua, NH 03060
603 889-2777

E-mail: [email protected]

Sales, service, and presales information:
603 889-2777, ext. 885

E-mail: [email protected]

Test environment:
Windows 2000 running BEA WebLogic 6.1,
Oracle9i Enterprise edition;
Apache WEb Server

More Stories By Ralph Decker

Ralph Decker is KeyLabs' Master Architect and Director of Research & Development. Ralph has over 13 years in software testing and QA, and has helped hundreds of clients design new testing methodologies and procedures for their own computer application software and hardware. In addition to his BA in languages, Ralph is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional CISSP.

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