REVIEWER: Rick Weiss, Oracle database administrator for Student Assistance Foundation.
BACKGROUND: Student Assistance Foundation (SAF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting students in financing their education. SAFs current serviced student loan portfolio exceeds $3.5 billion. As a service organization, SAF maintains a large portfolio of outstanding loans to which customers need 24-hour access. Available information includes status of loan application, the expected date of loan funding, payment details and payoff balances.
PLATFORMS: At SAF, Oracle 10g release 2 is the backbone of business applications. We have a few other business applications that run on both 32-bit and 64-bit Red Hat Linux including JBoss J2EE. We are very Web-centric with almost everything running off Web applications.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Prior to using Confio Ignite, we had situations in which system updates caused the database to go down for hours, resulting in Java errors on our Web site. Throughout the organization, users were irate because their Web-based applications were not working correctly. We used conventional monitoring tools that were packaged with the Oracle database. Because the database was down, the packaged monitoring agent was also down, so we had no alert or warning that the database had a problem. With Confio Ignite, the database problems are easy to identify so that as DBAs, we can be responsive and proactive at solving problems before they become critical issues. Ignite gives us tangible evidence of what changes to the database and applications will solve user problems rather than making system changes that wont improve the user experience.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: A number of features are very important to me. First and foremost, this product is particularly illustrative. I can use the dashboard interface to drill down to the SQL level. The interface is really intuitive and efficient at getting me where I want to go. I can look at a wide, 60-day view of the databases and then drill into particular databases. I can then dive directly into SQL statements that are causing the delay. In addition, I appreciate the confidence and peace of mind that comes with Confio Ignite monitoring our databases. I know that if a problem arises, I am instantly alerted.
STRENGTHS: All of our customer-facing applications are running on an Oracle back end, so its crucial that we ensure our databases are always running smoothly and at peak performance. The architecture is a thin-client, Web-based architecture with managed access for all setup, administration, IT management monitoring and expert database administrator analysis. With Confio Ignite, we have a database performance monitoring solution that ensures we know the status of our databases as well as where issues might arise, and we can access the reports from anywhere. This is critical as it relates to some of our document imaging programs for loan applications. We need to know if changes made to those memory-intensive programs affect the database and the applications that depend upon them.
WEAKNESSES: Many capabilities are built into the Confio Igniter Suite. We could add an additional side of monitoring DB2, SQL Server. One problem that we encountered is that the Oracle database would flush prior to data being captured in Confio. We were able to increase the timing of capturing SQLs and now everything has been running smoothly.
SELECTION CRITERIA: When looking for a solution to manage and monitor the performance of your databases, you are in a tough position to decide what options to pursue. You can use what your databases come with, which is limited and becomes a raw data dump that turns out to be 40 to 50 pages. You can go through that by hand, but it is time-consuming and doesnt guarantee you will find what is causing the performance problem. The Confio Igniter Suite offers a 30-day free trial, and we took advantage of this opportunity. Within the first period of monitoring, we had two to three big SQL hits that we were able to identify. This gave us more than enough value to warrant purchasing a license.
DELIVERABLES: The most important deliverable is that the Confio Igniter Suite works! First, we have set Confio Ignite to alert us via email, page and phone call if certain performance thresholds are hit. Second, at any time, we can use the business intelligence dashboards and screen captures as evidence to take to people and demonstrate what is causing particular problems. We keep 60 days of performance data stored locally so that we are ready to analyze current states versus past status at any time.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Confios support has been excellent, and they are always available. For example, on the initial release we had some difficultly distinguishing a few of the colors that were automatically generated. We were able to contact Confio, and they immediately helped us navigate how to make changes to the graphs and charts that were more suitable to our needs.
DOCUMENTATION: Everything is pretty much available in the software. The installation of Confio Ignite is intuitive, and it is ready to install once you download the software. The 30-day trial is very simple, and a Confio sales representative got us a licensing key to see the data in less than hour. After installing and receiving the key, we were up and running that afternoon.
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