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Following After a Wily Thread

Keep your e-business up and running

Within the next five years, more and more enterprises will standardize on the J2EE platform, resulting in thousands more commercial Java application deployments. And in many cases, that means migrating existing legacy and mainframe applications to J2EE. These applications, while varying greatly in their technological complexity and their business functions, will all share a common trait: the need to be monitored and managed proactively so that organizations can prevent outages before they occur.

Case in Point
WebSphere portals can crash unexpectedly. In one company's case, the WebSphere portal crashed once every two months. The cause was unknown. Even using legacy management tools, the actual cause of the failures was not apparent. Before the IT department could begin resolving the problem, the situation would escalate to the CEO.

Customers were not happy.

The company's problem was by no means unique. When a WebSphere portal crashes, the cause is almost always some thread-related issue in the application server. Threads are the lifeblood of the running JVM, and are therefore the scarcest resource in the application environment.

Keeping WebSphere Portals Up
In order to dispatch a transaction request, the JVM must have one or more available "worker threads." If a JVM runs out of available threads, the application is effectively closed for business. The result may be lost customers, lost revenue, or both.

Enterprises must be able to react to systems failures in a timely manner. Better still, they should be able to predict problems before they happen. To speed problem resolution, and to prevent outages in the first place, it is critical for an application performance management system to watching the threading activity of all WebSphere servers, all the time, in real time.

IT departments need to know how many threads are available, and more importantly, where they are executing. For example, by placing an alert on the thread-level concurrency as it relates to a back-end system such as CICS, an IT team can be alerted to a problem and its probable cause well before it turns into an outage.

Legacy systems management tools, like the ones used by the company mentioned above, monitor applications externally and are thus unable to see threads. From an availability standpoint, if even one thread is available, the system appears to be "up"; and worse yet, the impending system crash is totally invisible to "outside in" legacy management systems.

By monitoring the application's internal gearing and interactions, IT teams can trace the transaction path of a customer's incoming request - by customer ID - for investigation and analysis after the transaction has been completed. This far exceeds the monitoring capabilities of legacy systems management tools.

Application management systems provide a broader range of tools, such as alerts, historical recording, built-in reporting, easy customizability, and enterprise scalability. Moreover, they provide visibility into hard-to-find errors such as thread-related issues.

Conclusion
Keeping e-businesses up and running requires more than legacy systems management tools can deliver alone. It requires a proactive approach to application management and development.

In a real-time, critical environment, businesses cannot afford anything less.

More Stories By Lewis Cirne

Lew Cirne is the founder of New Relic, the first provider of on-demand (SaaS) application management tools for cloud or datacenter applications. A seasoned entrepreneur, technologist, and enterprise software pioneer, he has been focused on application performance management for more than ten years. Cirne holds seven patents related to application performance technology. Most recently he was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Benchmark Capital. He founded and was first CEO of Wily Technology and earlier held senior engineering positions at Apple and Hummingbird Communications.

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