Q&A: IT and Business Transaction Management

How managing IT from a business-transaction perspective may guarantee service quality for end users.

In today’s economic environment, IT must not only do more with less but find ways to do more with smaller budgets. What if IT could be managed and measured in a brand new way? To learn more about business transaction management, we spoke with Motti Tal, executive vice president of marketing, product, and business development at OpTier.

Enterprise Strategies: Business transaction management (BTM) is a rather broad term. How do you define it?

Motti Tal: Business transaction management is an approach to managing IT from a business transaction perspective. BTM aims to guarantee service quality for users conducting business transactions while simultaneously optimizing the IT applications and infrastructure across which those transactions execute.

How has BTM evolved?

BTM was thought of by the founders of OpTier after researching the market in early 2004 for solutions that could truly help to manage IT applications from a business perspective. The innovation that was spearheaded by OpTier founders centered around approaching the IT management challenge from the top down, as opposed to the bottom up approach still evangelized by the leading IT management vendors, which relies on statistical correlation and complex multi-product solutions that fail to deliver.

No technology was available on the market to actively track and automatically discover business transactions so OpTier built Active Context Tracking (ACT) technology. It delivers end-to-end visibility of all business transactions, across all tiers, all the time. This unique ability allows IT applications and operations teams to isolate and resolve performance issues faster than ever before, using far fewer resources, and to reduce cost and risk.

Why is IT seemingly suddenly interested in BTM? What benefits does it expect?

In today’s economic environment there is a growing concern with the conversion of IT investments into business results. The corporate directive for IT is to “do more with less.” IT managers are being pressed to use existing resources efficiently, contain or cut budgets and commit to ever more stringent SLAs. The expectation from BTM is to truly allow IT to be measured on and managed from a business perspective. The most effective way to achieve this is via business transactions. However, the interest in BTM is also something that has grown over time. Over the years, the complexity of IT operations has increased significantly. There is an increasing need for IT to align with business objectives including reduced costs, improved performance, and increased availability of time-critical applications.

Dealing with application performance has always been a high priority for IT. However traditional approaches to performance and workload management have failed to free IT departments from the never-ending cycle of crisis management. The situation becomes even more complex when IT services are delivered by multi-tier applications running on shared platforms or consolidated environments.

Are there particular areas of IT that benefit the most from BTM?

BTM is ideally suited to managing performance and availability problems because it clearly identifies exactly where transactions are held up, but for IT, problem management is just the tip of the iceberg. BTM also enables problem prevention as well as the generation of business service intelligence for optimization of resource provisioning and virtualization. From OpTier’s experience, BTM has had a significant impact on a range of IT initiatives including resource management and optimization; change management; application development, testing and deployment; virtualization and shared services; service level improvement and latency reduction; service-based IT management; IT cost-cutting; SOA; ITIL; and more

BTM cuts across all the different silos of IT: network managers, security administrators, systems managers -- and many more. That puts a great burden for success on cross-department cooperation. How is IT managing to implement BTM given these different, entrenched interests?

BTM is typically implemented in several (many times parallel) levels:

  1. Owners of mission-critical applications deploy a solution to help better manage their applications and meet requirements throughout the application life cycle. BTM provides proactive monitoring capabilities in production and allows for improved QA and development cycles using production data.
  2. Most organizations are adopting standard architectures for their application environments and implementing shared platform services. Shared platforms are an excellent location to begin a wide adoption of BTM.

BTM is easily integrated into an organization’s alerting systems and corporate dashboard allowing for cross silo communication. BTM data is also very useful for the prioritization of events-based on business affect (e.g., business transaction throughput).

Despite engendering the necessary cooperation, aren’t BTM projects notoriously lengthy? What accounts for the project duration?

Not at all. A typical OpTier implementation will take up to two weeks to be rolled into production or less. This includes QA testing and typically a “dry run” on the UAT system. Implementation time can be affected by many standard stumbling blocks such as change management and production application maintenance slots. Unlike many IT management solutions, time to value for such deployments is very short and ROI can be realized quicker.

What role, if any, do business users play in BTM projects?

Business users do not generally play a major role in BTM projects, but are key beneficiaries of their success. Business transactions are automatically discovered and monitored and no business user instruction is needed. Business users clearly benefit from improved performance and availability of services. IT sees the benefits from increased transparency to the business. Business users also benefit from transparency to real SLAs and the relationship between them and cost of service.

What are the biggest mistakes IT makes when undertaking a BTM project?

Gathering and specifying requirements can lead to bad business decisions, especially if those decisions are influenced by vendors and a lack of knowledge on the true need and meaning of end-to-end, cross-tier transaction visibility or the full range of criteria for a solution to be truly effective. Put simply, organizations should focus on their transaction management needs rather than some slightly better application management or BSM solution.

What best practices can you suggest to overcome these problems?

Seek solutions that meet these basic requirements:

  • A capability to automatically discover transactions so that no human effort is involved in identifying transactions or their flow across multiple IT components
  • A capability to track all transactions across all tiers all the time
  • The ability to track both performance and resource consumption of each transaction
  • The set of functional capabilities that allow you to use transaction visibility to become proactive in improving the quality of service to your users while significantly reducing cost

What products or services does OpTier offer to solve these problems?

CoreFirst by OpTier is a comprehensive BTM software solution. Based on unique Active Context Tracking technology, CoreFirst harnesses the power of real business transactions, to assure that business transactions flow smoothly within IT applications and infrastructure, without bottlenecks or outages, for improved end-user experience. It delivers end-to-end visibility of all business transactions, across all tiers, all the time.

Discover the links between IT components and business services, continuously and automatically. In addition, CoreFirst can prioritize IT transactions and management processes based on business needs and optimize IT to reduce costs while meeting service-level objectives.