is your organization to meet this demand? The 8-second rule, whereby a response to a query appears in 8 seconds or less, has become today's Internet benchmark. But performance isn't only about how quickly your e-business site is functioning; it's about providing constant information availability. If Web content is not available or performing at its best, then e-businesses risk the loss of opportunity, which can affect revenue.
To compete, e-businesses must manage their Internet infrastructure in order to maintain an effective and efficient e-business presence. The scope of the infrastructure services is not limited to the hardware and/or software components that enable a site's functionality; it must also take into consideration the degree of usability that customers or business partners experience when accessing a site.
Enterprise software technologies that provide proactive monitoring and management of distributed systems enable information professionals to monitor and manage the information infrastructure to ensure enterprise systems will be optimized and highly available. These tools help reduce technical failures and shift the focus from managing individual components to managing the business. For example, by managing business logic such as Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) and support services such as Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE), these solutions help to ensure that customer requests are processed, database transactions are performed, application processes perform successfully, and other systems interoperate as designed.
In an effort to assess the availability and optimization of its Internet services, an e-business should examine a wide range of performance metrics, including the following:
- Timeout requests--This metric counts the number of failed requests for a particular Web page or counts how often a request simply timed out. Data for this metric is compiled by performing a series of requests on each area of the Web site, ensuring that all components are available. Once the tests are run, a report of the findings should be generated to show any area that generated a timeout requiring additional attention, maintenance, and modification.
- Average request response time--During Web site testing, the areas that generated a response or completed a transaction can be measured against how well they completed that function. The areas that are above, at, or below the response time average will be contained within a report that details each area and how it performed in the testing process. The results of this metric can also be used to prioritize maintenance responsibilities and to determine where an automated response system might be useful.
- Database access rates and average response time--In most situations, e-commerce Web sites are dependent on high-performance SQL and relational databases. An e-business should examine the amount of time that a database takes to provide Web information, measuring responses from the time the initial request was made to the time that the information was provided within the database. An overall report of this metric should be used by system and database administrators for tuning and capacity planning purposes.
- Content publishing success--When a request is made of the database, management solutions can measure the amount of time the information resources take to post information to the user's Web page. This metric is a critical part of the measurement process because the overall effectiveness of the site is measured by what the user experiences. This metric contributes a key testing criteria that is just one step in measuring the quality of the user experience.
As you can see, the process of ensuring information availability and optimization within an e-commerce Web site entails a complex process of examination, testing, and validation. Because many resources are involved in this process, e-businesses should consider implementing an enterprise management solution that will ensure information availability and optimization at all infrastructure levels. These solutions manage infrastructure, providing metrics and possible solutions in the following areas:
- Web site examination
- Internet infrastructure management
- Network traffic analysis
- Response time measurement
- Application management
Web Site Examination
Web site examination provides a high-level overview of all the resources contained within an Internet environment. In order to determine the overall effectiveness of the environment, you must look at how the pieces function together and how they impact each other. For example, how does the performance of your back-end ERP system and database impact the performance of your storefront's ability to deliver transactions? Does the Web server's CPU load impact that process? Do any of the Web applications impede that part of the process? If so, which ones? Web site examination tools provide answers to these questions.
Internet Infrastructure Management
Internet infrastructure management looks at the specific components of an e-business' infrastructure that are involved in its Internet presence and how they directly affect that organization's e-business capability. These tools help answer key questions: Are there enough servers in the cluster to handle the transaction load? Which servers are performing better than others? Can you shift the process load on the under-performing servers to other servers and optimize the performance of the site? If you added resources and changed the configuration, how would that impact performance?
As part of Internet infrastructure management, a solution must provide status information and notify administrators when there are repeated authentication failures, unexpected firewall policy changes, or unusual packet traffic, any of which could lead to a security breach. It should automatically detect problem conditions and provide the ability to automatically fix problems and/or provide notification via a variety of mechanisms. By doing so, this solution can ensure the following:
- Availability of enterprise-wide firewall infrastructure to ensure continuous access to your e-business and internal access to the Internet
- Automatic notification of failures and proactive security management
- Secure monitoring and management capability
- Firewall monitoring integrated with your enterprise management system
The emergence of wireless computing has created the need to monitor and manage new types of applications and servers. Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) servers provide the interface between business applications and wireless devices such as mobile telephones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Enterprise management solutions provide the ability to centrally monitor and manage the activities of WAP servers to assure maximum performance, including generalized server management, log management, server access management, and bearer management. (WAP servers use telecom services called bearers to carry data through the wireless network.)
Network Traffic Analysis
Network traffic analysis provides metrics to assess an infrastructure's use of the network bandwidth and its ability to meet all the performance needs and demands. Managing network bandwidth use is key to an effective Internet strategy. Bandwidth is directly proportional to the amount of data transmitted or received per unit time. In a qualitative sense, bandwidth is proportional to the complexity of the data for a given level of system performance. For example, it takes more bandwidth to download an image in one second than it takes to download a page of text in one second. Large sound files, computer programs, and animated videos require more bandwidth for acceptable system performance. Virtual reality and full-length 3-D audio/visual presentations require the most bandwidth of all content types.
To maximize the performance of your Internet environment, management tools are needed to analyze the relationship between the kinds of information that move across your network and how network bandwidth is being used to address information needs. These metrics can be used to determine if specific users or processes are taking up excessive bandwidth and whether other areas within the information environment are affected. Once these metrics have been determined, e-businesses may need to make modifications in areas that negatively affect bandwidth performance.
There's a strong need for network-aware application management tools that provide information about the network's impact on end-to-end application performance and availability. Through application-centric network management, these solutions allow customers to manage their enterprise network assets in a way that optimizes application availability and performance. Application-centric network management focuses on the application itself to direct network policies and procedures, directly relating network management to the business processes.
Response Time Measurement
How do you test response time from a user perspective? All too often, response time is measured from an internal administration perspective within the enterprise, not from what an outside customer might be experiencing when accessing the Web site. For example, even though your IT department can see that a server is up and running, if customers are experiencing poor performance, they will typically go to another site.
One approach to response time measurement is to verify the performance and availability of those Web pages that show an individual's personalized view of the Web site after logging in, such as the specific items placed in a customer's shopping cart. By simulating a customer's activities using the Web site, the IT department is able to test the entire transaction, including customer databases, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, ERP systems, inventory databases, and credit card verification systems. Through this real-world testing process, the IT department can compile meaningful metrics that can do many things:
- Reduce a site's online transaction abandonment rate
- Enable a business to set quality standards and performance goals for its e-commerce Web site
- Simulate its customer's end-to-end Web site experience from outside the firewall
- Provide executive reports and graphs rating a customer's true experience against defined operational goals
- Create IT statistical reports and graphs for critical Web measurements
- Detect trends in Web site performance so that the level of service can be improved before a problem occurs
Response Time Optimization
Once you've measured response time from a customer's perspective, what can you do to improve it? You can always throw more hardware at the problem, but that is not always the answer. A common concern among IT managers in today's economy is trying to stretch budgets and staff to accommodate increasing workloads. Rather than perform time-intensive and expensive hardware upgrades, companies should consider technology to optimize the performance of their existing systems. By optimizing network bandwidth utilization, IT staff can improve the customer experience without expending the time and resources on expensive hardware upgrades. The ideal solution for bandwidth optimization would allow the IT staff to target data compression to specific URLs, IP addresses, browser type, or even the connection speed of the end-user, resulting in reduced network traffic and improved response times.
The applications involved in e-commerce play an important role in Internet services. In managing Internet services, an e-business must also ensure the availability and optimization for their e-business applications, including front office (procurement, supply chains, and CRM), back office (legacy and ERP), and Web applications. Application management includes managing pre-built functions, business logic components, and the underlying platform services that support e-commerce component processing for these applications. By managing packaged application functions, EJB and COM/COM+ business logic, and J2EE and Distributed interNet Architecture (DNA) support services, a company can ensure that e-commerce application users receive fast, dependable service, and e-commerce organizations deliver efficient and effective applications.
Application management can manage a diverse, rapidly changing e-commerce environment that can overwhelm administrative resources by ensuring consistent and continuous end-to-end management of e-commerce application business processing.
Application management provides the automation of corrective action to solve common problems by providing real-time monitoring and management of pre-built functions, as well as EJB and COM/COM+ component health, availability, and performance. These solutions also manage critical business processes such as catalog punch outs, user and database connectivity, and approval processes. In addition, these solutions can verify content publishing and provide site and traffic analyses.
The ability to effectively manage and access Internet-based information on a 24-hour basis has never been more critical than it is today. Given the rapid growth of e-commerce, many e-businesses are finding that their networks, servers, applications, and databases are being pushed to their functional limits. With this exponential growth, response time will ultimately be affected in proportion to use. Enterprise management tools can ensure that the infrastructure is available and optimized. Optimization will enable e-businesses to fully leverage their e-commerce Web sites in an increasingly demanding commercial channel.