Big Blue Trumpets ARM With Help from Siebel

The ARM standard is designed to help simplify transaction performance monitoring for Web applications

Last week, IBM Corp. announced a new version of its Web application-monitoring tool, Tivoli Monitoring for Transaction Performance (TMTP) 5.3.

At the same time, IBM officials sought to highlight TMTP’s support for an emerging standard, called Application Response Measurement (ARM), which is designed to help simplify transaction-performance monitoring for Web applications. ARM doesn’t yet enjoy widespread support among major enterprise application vendors, but Big Blue trumpeted one prominent new adopter: CRM giant Siebel Systems Inc., which announced plans to integrate ARM instrumentation into its Siebel 7.7 Server release.

As its name implies, TMTP 5.3 lets organizations monitor business transactions in real-time. It supports dynamic system discovery—so companies can determine just how many systems transactions “touch” in the context of a flow—and can capture and analyze transaction-performance information.

“Basically what it’s all about is helping people with these composite Web-based applications today,” observes Paul Spicer, a veteran of the former Candle Corp. and market manager with IBM Tivoli. Spicer says composite applications involve “Web browser front-ends, Web servers, application servers, middleware, packaged applications—all of these other components.”

Because Web applications touch so many different systems, Spicer says, their transaction workflows are often orders of magnitude more complicated than those in conventional mainframe or distributed environments. “That’s why TMTP can do transaction tracking, where it actually follows transactions around, and can isolate by component where problems are occurring,” he explains. “It can do dynamic discovery of transactions, so you don’t need to define what a transaction looks like. You can find out for yourself.”

For this reason, the revamped TMTP has a learning facility built into it, says Spicer, which lets it study the behavior of transactions over time and make intelligent decisions about potential performance problems.

“What we can do is measure and put the product into learn mode and learn how much time a normal transaction takes, for the different components,” he says. “We can learn the profile of the application, and use that to base thresholds off of, and use that to generate an alert.”

The new TMTP 5.3 release also supports a wider range of core applications, says Spicer, which gives users a more complete view of transaction workflows. The revamped TMTP product can now provide a topological overview of Web services, J2EE Web application servers, CICS, IMS, DB2 and SAP back-end services—as well as network delays between ARM-instrumented nodes.

In this respect, Spicer says, TMTP can support ARM-aware applications such as Siebel 7.7. “Because they have added the ARM APIs into their product, and we’ve tested with them, we can now do transaction decomposition with components inside Siebel as well.”

Notwithstanding Siebel’s support, relatively few ARM-aware applications are available today, says Tim Grieser, vice-president of enterprise systems management software with International Data Corp. (IDC).

“The large majority of applications are not ARM instrumented today, and, in fact, one of the challenges for system management vendors is to promote the spread of the ARM standard and the actual adoption of the arm standard,” he says, noting that a host of systems management stalwarts—including IBM, BMC Software Corp., Computer Associates International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and NetIQ Corp—are pushing ARM to one degree or another. “The idea is to be able to give much more detailed response time measurements for an application by including this instrumentation.”

In this respect, says Grieser, Siebel’s announcement is encouraging. “Obviously, having Siebel pick it up is fairly important, and hopefully we’ll see more and more application providers start to implement [ARM] as we go forward,” he says, noting that many of these vendors should be receptive to the promise of ARM.

“I think ARM is getting more emphasis because of the utility computing trend, so the system management vendors are looking at ways to implement ARM through things that applications call, that they may supply or which interface with applications, to try to help speed the spread of ARM.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.