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See, Understand and Act in Real Time

By Jothy Rosenberg, Service Integrity
August 2, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Three forces are colliding to create an inflection point for the enterprise:


  • First, the need to continue to integrate applications at a rapid pace.

  • Second, the shift to a new platform and new approach for doing those integrations.

  • Third, the continued drive for previously unattainable levels of business agility.


This inflection point is bad news for some and good news for others. It is a market discontinuity just as we had when the client/server wave hit and again when the e-commerce Web wave hit.


The convergence of these forces on the enterprise creates a need and a requirement
for deep real-time visibility that for the first time allows businesses to
evaluate information within their total business context for fast action and
continuous business improvement. Then and only then, can an enterprise hope
to achieve true agility—the ability to see, understand and act in real time.


Deep, real-time visibility


XML Web services dramatically change the nature of enterprise applications. Distributed computing is a fact of life in all major corporations because no one application does it all and business processes cross application boundaries.


What has changed is the nature of the middleware—the software plumbing—used
to connect those distributed applications. Web services create loosely coupled
distributed applications that send XML business messages between computers.
XML represents the first time a universally accepted standard format for business
data interchange has ever existed. There are more than 500 distinct XML dialects
already established and standardized for every industry imaginable. Each one—like
all XML messages—is readable and self-describing.


The following table lists the key requirements for a solution that closes the gaps that have prevented us from achieving deep real-time visibility to provide total business context.

































View and correlate both IT and business data Closing the traditional visibility gap between IT and business systems requires visibility into IT baseline data. Visibility into the health and correctness of integrated systems is a critical starting point. A full understanding of performance, compliance with service-level agreements and trends to aid in capacity planning are a must for any critical business application and even more so for a more complex distributed one.
Access in real time just what's critical from the full message XML Web service applications quickly expand to use lots of computing nodes. A node is usually an application server that, in turn, is usually a dual- or quad-CPU machine. Each CPU in such a configuration will send and receive XML messages. Deep visibility requires the entirety of every message at the critical nodes is visible. But information overload avoidance requires node-level filtering rules to select out just the critical information needed to achieve total business context for real-time decision-making.
Scale to every critical computing node in each application One single Web service application deployed globally in multiple geographies with strong fail-over and load balancing typically involves 80 to 100 CPUs. Multiple applications quickly make this number grow. A large financial services company has 5,000 CPUs that send and receive XML messages already. The required "system" must scale to this size and larger comfortably and without degradation.
Don't impact the business application's message flow "If the test instrument impedes the system it is observing, the test instrument is too intrusive and is unacceptable." This is a test measurement operating principle and it applies here. The corollary is that if you impede the flow of business application messages you will not be allowed in production and you will defeat the entire purpose of deep real-time visibility. A rule of thumb is that the visibility sensors should not burden the CPU processing messages by more than 2% of CPU capacity.
Seamlessly run on all the important enterprise platforms Since it is a rare enterprise indeed that has all systems running on one platform from one vendor, and since what we are doing is integrating between different applications bought at different times from different vendors, it is a given that our "system" must run in platform heterogeneous environments. Our visibility must come from all platforms and all data feeds that contribute to enterprise visibility.
Provide visibility and context for identities attached to messages Business-to-business integrations that reach outside the "four walls" of the enterprise in order to directly integrate with suppliers, resellers and any business partners, will involve messages flowing into and out of the enterprise with identities embedded in them. Entire specialized XML-based standards have been included into the Web services "stack" that focus exclusively on a way to transport trusted identities. The key word is trusted. Trust must be verified. Verification happens through visibility. Who is coming in and what are they doing become pretty critical questions that must be answered in real time.
Perform "what if" analysis deeply on any and
all messages
We are looking for total business context through deep visibility and for that we need to see anything we want in any message and be able to change our minds continuously as we learn and probe to fully understand our business. We need to see, measure and understand through inquiries in the form of "what if" scenarios that can probe any element of any message in order to make sense of business activity so we can act and improve it.
Analyze and visualize in the context of the business application Analytics applies a set of rules and algorithms that combines the deeply probed raw data into more meaningful and more actionable form. Built-in understanding of the business context comes through support for any industry XML dialect that makes our "system" understand the vocabulary and semantics of the business messages it sees.


Conclusions


Enterprise agility is a critical imperative for enterprises to remain competitive, remain in compliance, remain secure and fully understand what is happening with their business so they can improve it. But enterprise agility has been elusive to say the least because neither the infrastructure used to communicate between applications nor the monitoring tools applied to it could support deep real-time visibility within the context of the business.

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