CATEGORY: Database Performance & Systems Management

REVIEWER: Mike Canney, principal network analyst for

BACKGROUND:, an Iowa-based firm that specializes in network optimization and troubleshooting, partners with the leading manufacturers of analysis and diagnostic tools such as Compuware. The company's engineers have been diagnosing and analyzing networks at the packet level for 12 years.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft NT and Windows 2000 running Oracle, SQL, .NET and SAP.

PROBLEM SOLVED: One large food distributor spent three years trying to resolve application performance issues on its network while also looking for better ROI on its database servers. A new application system was designed to provide fresher food faster. At the heart of the system were key applications such as a customer delivery program and a new food database. Because the new system needed to react to problems before users were aware of them, they needed an effective tool to monitor the system. After comparing various products on the market, the decision was made to purchase Compuware's Vantage Suite of tools for application performance management. One of the first things we did was make sure that the transaction response times were kept to acceptable levels for their new applications running on Windows 2000 desktops. Vantage was used for monitoring application availability for the company's network, servers and databases so that service level agreement baselines could be established. Developing service level agreements for end-user response time was previously the missing piece; but with Vantage the distributor could watch the health of the network, the servers and the database, and the experience of the end user. Vantage provided operations-related staff the ability to respond rapidly if and when any degradation in service levels occurred. This was an important basis to gauge the return on investment of the project. This also indicated that measuring the end-user experience was a necessary component of any server consolidation initiative. From the network performance side, the food distributor needed to know how much application traffic each server was currently managing and what the traffic patterns were for each of their servers. This enabled the IT staff to target which servers needed to be considered for consolidation/elimination. By understanding system level metrics for each of their servers, they could identify how hard each server was currently working. At the server level, the food distributor needed the ability to predict its capacity needs prior to making new hardware purchase decisions. Vantage provided the solution for server metric data collection and provided insight into trend analysis. The next step was to identify slow transactions. Compuware's transaction profiling capability tracked SQL statements. With a plan to upgrade data lines from 256 to T1 within a couple of weeks, the bandwidth was analyzed to simulate the latency of a particular transaction to the remote site as if via T1 lines. They learned that going to T1 took almost a minute off the total transaction time.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: VantageView, the suite's reporting console, enables users to quickly and conveniently access (from any workstation within the organization) critical performance information generated by ServerVantage, the suite's server and database management tool; NetworkVantage, the network application performance tool; and ClientVantage, the end-user monitoring tool.

STRENGTHS: When you use Vantage, you get the power of a strong group of integrated products as opposed to many point products that only do part of the job. Its server consolidation capability is also among the best I have seen, not to mention its ability to monitor end-user performance and great troubleshooting capability.

WEAKNESSES: In the current release of Vantage, Compuware provides detailed performance management technical reports, but none specifically designed for management.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Ease of use. We selected Compuware's Vantage Suite because it was exactly that, a suite. The market is full of point tools, but budget savvy IT shops are looking for solutions that can address more than just one need.

DELIVERABLES: The Vantage Suite provides easy-to-use performance reports that can be customized with specific metrics for nearly anyone in the organization.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Their technical support was outstanding. I could rely on knowledgeable people responding quickly during pre- and post-implementation. The best part of working with the vendor was one particular tech support guy in their San Diego office – Claudio Canive.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was very easy to understand and very complete.

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