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Wily Introscope 4.0 from Wily Technology

Wily Introscope 4.0 from Wily Technology

Application performance horror stories exist everywhere. Tales of molasses-like response times, high-risk transactions that periodically and mysteriously slow to a crawl, and search engine combinations that paralyze the browser are common enough that interest in application performance management solutions is at an all-time high.

I recently had the good fortune to participate in a review presentation of Wily Technology's Introscope 4.0, which can help developers determine the causes of performance bottlenecks. Response times can be analyzed in detail, under a variety of conditions. Within the JVM, class and method-level detail statistics can be gathered and reviewed. There is no place for performance problems to hide.

Introscope 4.0 can also be used for production monitoring, thanks to its low overhead. No longer will a company be blindsided with client complaints about performance after the fact. Outages can be identified and responded to immediately. User activity and usage patterns can be monitored as they happen.

The product also allows for preproduction performance QA monitoring. Misconfigured servers or third-party products can be identified prior to production panic.

Introscope has three distinct functional areas: Agent, Enterprise Manager, and Workstation. Agent provides the ability to collect information from any component within the application or operating system. Enterprise Manager allows various agents to be tied together. The Workstation provides a means to view this information.

Agent
Agents provide the base data to be monitored. Metrics they collect can be organized into Metric Groupings and stored in Management Modules, which allow any number of Agents, each with any number of attributes, to be grouped together to create more comprehensive views of performance, such as cluster performance. Introscope comes with several Metric Groupings predefined, Creating a Metric Grouping is relatively easy, and allows the greatest degree of flexibility for monitoring.

Wily provides add-ons to the base product, such as an SNMP Agent that enables publishing of any performance data through an SNMP MIB. Another is the SQL Agent, which provides views into the database. Individual SQL statements can be viewed, allowing greater flexibility when tuning the database or identifying problem queries.

To set up an Agent, the developer must identify the data gathering frequency, the type of metric required (response times, counts, rates), and stalled/threshold values before erroring. An element (calculator) exists to programmatically perform mathematical computations on these values to create new metrics. One minor point of confusion is that these values use Perl's scripting syntax, which may not be known by the developer. Although it is easy to learn, making this area more graphical may provide some benefit to less experienced developers.

Once the metrics are identified, resulting actions like Workstation notification or launching a shell script can be assigned to any data values. Multiple actions are acceptable, and the ability to launch a shell script provides a means for kicking off almost any resulting program.

Enterprise Manager
The Enterprise Manager collects the information provided by the various agents. It allows multiple agents to be tied together into a cohesive data detail. Multiple applications or servers can be grouped into one central location, allowing for greater ease of monitoring. A central monitoring repository can be created, providing the ability to achieve the holy grail of production monitoring - a one-page status of all applications.

Workstation (Console)
Application dashboards containing metrics collected by the agents can be created with the editor portion of the Workstation.

The developer can create any series of views of the information (see Figures 1-3). The editor provides the ability for role-specific workstations so that the help desk can have one view while a performance engineer has another. Developers can create dashboards with bar charts, graphs, traffic lights, string views, and graphic imports to create a fully functional and professional application. Agent information can be stored in a database, and a historical view of this information can also be provided. Historical information can be drilled down for greater detail.

A Transaction Tracer can be set up to provide tracking by user or URL. This feature provides a sequence diagram-like view of the transaction, with detailed performance statistics for each call throughout the transaction. This allows detailed investigation in a valuable user interface for long-running transactions. It is also an easy means of showing specifically what is going wrong for any transaction.

Cross-server transaction traces are currently not supported, but a future enhancement providing this level of detail is expected. Additional traces beyond the current server can be created to allow capturing this information but it would not be within the same trace.

Power Packs provide out-of the-box, vendor-specific extensions for monitoring. The WebLogic Power Pack provides access to key WebLogic Admin monitoring values. The EJB pool, thread queue, and JDBC connection pool can be reviewed for accurate problem diagnosis. Web services, values within the HTTP session, WebLogic JMS queues, or topics can also be explored. In the near future, Power Packs will be available for WebLogic Integration and WebLogic Portal.

Leak Hunter, which is an extension to the core product, identifies common memory leaks under production load. The current implementation of this concept focuses on misuse of collection classes like dangling references.

The product currently requires a user to restart the server first installing Agents, which may be inconvenient in some production environments.

Another great feature is the EPA - Environment Performance Agent - a script scheduler that provides interfaces into agent metrics. This provides the ability to extend monitoring beyond Java through scripts for Apache Web Server, IIS, Solaris Kernel/Disk, and HTTP URLs for example.

Workstation (Explorer)
The Workstation Explorer provides a tree-structure view of the performance data being reported by each and every Introscope Agent and allows user manipulation of that information."

The Workstation provides the ability to access EJBs, JDBC, JMS, JMX, JSP, JNDI, and JTA information among others. All Agents can be accessed for viewing as well. The Workstation also provides the ability to quickly view cross-application top 10 usage, consumers of CPU, and slow performers; and lets you know the greatest problems instantly with a single click. A unique feature called Blame offers the ability to identify performance problems to the method level, which allows an ease of accurate problem detection.

The Workstation also provides the ability for conditional activity notification to occur via e-mail, pop-up, or preexisting exception handlers. In addition, performance metrics can be grouped in a variety of ways. This allows for high-level views of an application or key parts of the application, which can then be presented in the form of an overall application status.

The current version is not browser-based, but Wily hopes to provide Workstation access through these standard means in the future. Another feature that would be helpful would be the ability to drill down through application modules to their component details. For example, if an application showed critical status on a high-level summary, the user must select the appropriate application tab to see its causes, versus double clicking on the application module itself.

Setup
Setting up Introscope for existing applications is fairly straightforward. The product is un-tar'ed into a specific directory, the Start WLS script is updated with ClassPath and Property information, and the product is ready to go.

Conclusion
Wily's Introscope 4.0 provides additional functionality to the application performance management market. Key features include deep visibility into the JVM/Application/Operating System, a detailed end-to-end transaction view, and low performance overhead, allowing continuous production monitoring. The Workstation is intuitively built for displaying agent metrics. Being a pure Java solution, the product can run in any environment. The ease of integration with existing applications is also a benefit in that it does not require an application overhaul for use. Power Packs exist for specializing the performance measurement to your environment. The greatest benefit the product offers, in my opinion, is its ability to provide value across the software development life cycle, making it unique for vendor solutions in the application performance arena.

Wily Technology, Inc.
8000 Marina Boulevard,
Suite 700
Brisbane, California 94005

1 888 GET WILY
< U.S. toll free >
+1 415 562 2000 < direct >
+1 415 562 2100 < fax >

Sales:
[email protected]

Information:
[email protected]

More Stories By Jason Snyder

Jason Snyder is an architectural expert for CSC Consulting in Boston, and has served as the lead architect for several J2EE development projects. He has over 10 years of experience in software development, OO design, and application architecture.

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