Welcome!

XML Authors: Lori MacVittie, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Peter Silva, Colin Lacey

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, Java, XML, .NET, AJAX & REA, SAP

SOA & WOA: Article

In Search of the Unknown

The importance of business process monitoring alongside of system monitoring,

I've talked at length about the importance of business process monitoring alongside of system monitoring, but in discussions I found that sometimes an overview and simple examples are not enough to convince people about the benefits of this approach. Business owners think they don't need to know anything about the operational performance of their systems as long as they have their numbers, and engineers often don't feel they need to invest time into understanding the business they are supporting in detail, finding examples shown too "common sense."

One question we ask our engineers during an interview at work is to describe the process of how they would go about troubleshooting a hypothetical issue, given only the minimum information. We often hear from our clients things like, "our website is slow" and "something's wrong with registration" with no additional information, and in order to figure out the potential issue we need to review the whole system at a glance. For large applications, with a myriad of moving and interweaving components, this is not an easy task. This is one of the reasons we are looking for best of the best. But if you are monitoring all of those components, in a lot of cases, the task can be simplified.

So let's examine a real problem. A large e-commerce company called and said that they are seeing less money coming in from web transactions. They have a pretty complex system with a lot of different revenue generation points, so this observation shed very little light on the root cause of the problem. Luckily, both systems and business processes were being monitored with Circonus, so the data was available to review.

As any engineer knows - step one of troubleshooting the problem is to confirm the problem, so looking at the revenue trends seemed like a good starting point.

The graph clearly shows that, starting around April 30th, the trend looked abnormal in comparison to the previous few weeks. So it seemed like there was an actual problem, and potentially, the issue could lie in payment processor itself or somewhere in the system, preventing certain users from making a purchase. So let's overlay the traffic trends, collected from Google Analytics, against revenue graph and see if there are any common trends.

Even though the traffic showed a clear drop at the same time as revenue, the ratio remained the same, allowing us to exclude payment processor and other application logic from the equation (for now).

Note: This is the first potential breaking point in the process. It is very tempting to look at the ratios, attribute revenue decrease to traffic decrease, and stop the investigation. 99% of the time, unfortunately, nothing "just" happens, so on we go.

Now for the next step - what would be a logical cause for a drop in overall traffic to the site? Response time is probably the first thought that should come to mind. So let's look at what the HTTP checks collected.

Load times didn't seem to be deviating from the norm, but the HTTP response metric doesn't provide full visibility into the load times for a dynamic application, so let's check the health of the database and CPU usage on the server(s), to validate that the underlying platform is not the bottleneck. There are numerous metrics to monitor database and system health that should be, and in this case, are collected, but when researching the root cause of the elusive problem, diving deep into a specific component can waste time early in the process.

Both of the metrics appear well within norm, so at first glance, it seems like the problem is not a systems issue.

Note: This is the second point of the investigation where the process can break down. A lot of technologists will either report that there is no confirmation to the problem reported; the reported problem is just an anomaly because the system monitors don't exhibit any issues. This is exactly why understanding of the business by the technology team is vital.

With that said, what would be the next logical process to validate? It is not uncommon for an e-commerce site to see a drop in purchases if they either stop promoting or if their marketing campaign is ineffective: traffic to the site slows down, subsequently decreasing the number of transactions. This company, in particular, sends out tens of millions of emails a day which bring in new users, and subsequently, new conversions. So let's take a look at the email deliverability and bounce rates collected from the company's MTAs.

Bingo! The bounce rates sky rocketed at the same time as the drop in traffic and revenue stream occurred. Upon closer investigation, it appeared that one of the major ESPs accidentally blocked the delivery domain, and the emails did not go through to the recipients. The issue was resolved (after some discussions with the ESP) and the trends returned back to the expected level.

Keep in mind, if email deliverability was not the issue - there are multiple other metrics that were on a list to be verified, both system (operational and development alike) and business. The amazing part of all of this is that I was able to view the whole system at a glance in just one graph. Granted, stacking everything on one graph is probably not the most optimal every day approach, but it is very useful in a certain cases when the direct overlay correlation is needed. For everything else - a real-time dashboard that displays all the vital points of the business at any given moment is a must-have for anyone responsible for business and/or system health.

Everyone responsible for the success of a business, regardless of the role, needs an ability to see the status of the whole business at a glance at any given point. System engineers don't need to know all the ins and out of marketing, but they should be aware of the overall organizational goals, and should be able to spot irregularities in the business trends. Similarly, CEOs don't need to know how systems work in the background, but should be able to correlate high email bounce rates (if it's critical to the business) to a decrease in purchases.

The point of all of this is that everything should be monitored, and to suggest some tools and methods that can enable users in all roles--within any organization--to ensure the success of the business. Get ‘em, learn 'em, use 'em! You will thank me later.

More Stories By Leon Fayer

Leon Fayer is Vice President at OmniTI, a provider of web infrastructures and applications for companies that require scalable, high performance, mission critical solutions. He possesses a proven background of both web application development and production deployment for complex systems and in his current role advises clients about critical aspects of project strategies and plans to help ensure project success. Leon can be contacted at [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
Predicted by Gartner to add $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is based on the idea that devices, systems and services will connect in simple, transparent ways, enabling seamless interactions among devices across brands and sectors. As this vision unfolds, it is clear that no single company can accomplish the level of interoperability required to support the horizontal aspects of the IoE. The AllSeen Alliance, announced in December 2013, was formed with the goal to advance IoE adoption and innovation in the connected home, healthcare, education, aut...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
Be Among the First 100 to Attend & Receive a Smart Beacon. The Physical Web is an open web project within the Chrome team at Google. Scott Jenson leads a team that is working to leverage the scalability and openness of the web to talk to smart devices. The Physical Web uses bluetooth low energy beacons to broadcast an URL wirelessly using an open protocol. Nearby devices can find all URLs in the room, rank them and let the user pick one from a list. Each device is, in effect, a gateway to a web page. This unlocks entirely new use cases so devices can offer tiny bits of information or simple i...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
TechCrunch reported that "Berlin-based relayr, maker of the WunderBar, an Internet of Things (IoT) hardware dev kit which resembles a chunky chocolate bar, has closed a $2.3 million seed round, from unnamed U.S. and Switzerland-based investors. The startup had previously raised a €250,000 friend and family round, and had been on track to close a €500,000 seed earlier this year — but received a higher funding offer from a different set of investors, which is the $2.3M round it’s reporting."
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. Over the summer Gartner released its much anticipated annual Hype Cycle report and the big news is that Internet of Things has now replaced Big Data as the most hyped technology. Indeed, we're hearing more and more about this fascinating new technological paradigm. Every other IT news item seems to be about IoT and its implications on the future of digital busines...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The Internet of Things needs an entirely new security model, or does it? Can we save some old and tested controls for the latest emerging and different technology environments? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, will review hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal privacy options and a new risk balance you might not expect.
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, will discuss the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. The presentation will also discuss how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics to discuss are barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold.
Swiss innovators dizmo Inc. launches its ground-breaking software, which turns any digital surface into an immersive platform. The dizmo platform seamlessly connects digital and physical objects in the home and at the workplace. Dizmo breaks down traditional boundaries between device, operating systems, apps and software, transforming the way users work, play and live. It supports orchestration and collaboration in an unparalleled way enabling any data to instantaneously be accessed on any surface, anywhere and made interactive. Dizmo brings fantasies as seen in Sci-fi movies such as Iro...
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, to discuss how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other mach...
This Internet of Nouns trend is still in the early stages and many of our already connected gadgets do provide human benefits over the typical infotainment. Internet of Things or IoT. You know, where everyday objects have software, chips, and sensors to capture data and report back. Household items like refrigerators, toilets and thermostats along with clothing, cars and soon, the entire home will be connected. Many of these devices provide actionable data - or just fun entertainment - so people can make decisions about whatever is being monitored. It can also help save lives.