REVIEWER: Jorge Mercado, principal architect, Software Architecture Group for MedicAlert Foundation.

BACKGROUND: MedicAlert, a nonprofit organization with 4 million members worldwide, is best known for the medical bracelets worn by our members. The bracelets let doctors and other health care providers know if there is a particular medical condition that must be recognized in an emergency situation. In recent years, we have moved more deeply into health care information services. Members log in to our systems to manage their personal health records while maintaining security, privacy and confidentiality. Our MedicAlert repository facilitates the delivery of critical medical information between patients, providers, payers and emergency responders around the clock and across the world. This service-oriented architecture (SOA)-based system gives us a high level of interoperability with other health service organizations such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, labs, pharmacies and health care payers.

PLATFORMS: Our SOA system comprises dozens of Web services written in .NET and Java, webMethods (Software AG) Integration Server and webMethods BPM Engine.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In our loosely coupled applications, we needed to understand and control a rapidly evolving system of disparate parts. If an application component goes down or starts throwing faults, we have to know about it immediately. We also required heightened security for our SOA system and sought to secure the endpoints via XML encryption/decryption.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With AmberPoint, we can monitor system traffic in real time from a single console. Its detailed performance metrics help us monitor traffic volume, response times and other key performance indicators. AmberPoint’s visualization capabilities enable us to see and understand the impact of system changes and perform root-cause analysis. Further, we can clearly see all the service interdependencies, which are visually mapped out by the software. The system alerts us to unexpected conditions, enabling us to rapidly detect, diagnose and address system errors. Service virtualization enables us to aggregate internal services into a single, unified, composite offering for use by external parties - including partners and members. AmberPoint automatically reroutes requests to appropriate service versions and transforms requests and responses to maintain backward and forward compatibility between clients and services.

STRENGTHS: AmberPoint offered the most complete set of capabilities and was the only solution we evaluated with versions running natively in both .NET and Java. AmberPoint also has a very unique policy-based approach. It comes with predefined policies for things such as load balancing, service level management, exception handling and security. The use of policies saves us the effort of writing procedural code into all the services, making the system much more agile. AmberPoint enables us to automatically provision our policies based on service characteristics. This makes it much easier to stay on top of which policies are in place with which services.

WEAKNESSES: The product would benefit from a greater number of management and security policies out of the box. It offers a good breadth of policies, but it wouldn’t hurt to have more predefined policies that ship with the product. That said, we can always create custom policies ourselves and add them to the AmberPoint system.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We took a long look at our options for SOA management and even wrote a prototype ourselves. We were looking for a number of advanced monitoring, management and security capabilities. It was also important that the solution integrate seamlessly into our cross-platform environment. Overall, we are very pleased with our choice. Our selection of AmberPoint has enabled our architecture and infrastructure teams to concentrate on Web services implementation and performance as opposed to the litany of low-productivity tasks that would have been necessary in its absence.

DELIVERABLES: The AmberPoint console delivers graphical views of the system that reflect real-time operational data. It allows extensive filtering based on runtime metadata, such as failed services or all services within a particular application group. We can easily drill down on issues to diagnose problems or take corrective actions. Using AmberPoint, we can fine-tune our applications based on real-time information, such as the overhead of encrypting the data.

VENDOR SUPPORT: AmberPoint’s Customer Experience Group did a great job of getting us up and running quickly. Their tech support staff has been responsive when we’ve needed them.

DOCUMENTATION: Easy-to-follow documentation is provided in the product, and self-paced training is available online.

AmberPoint SOA Management System
AmberPoint, Inc.
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 404
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 663-6300

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