Partner TechTip: Monitor Changes in Web-Based Data

System Administration
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Your business operations could be adversely affected by changes if you're not aware those changes happened.


For many system administrators, a big part of their IT team's challenge is to watch for critical changes that could impact business operations and report these back to the right people at the right time.


It depends on what kind of business you're running, but some examples might be stock levels falling below a critical level, or a share price falling or rising beyond a pre-set value, or the number of jobs or processes running in a critical ERP application at a specific time being less than what you expect.


If this detailed kind of information does not reside on the System i—or any other business platform for that matter—but is found on specific Web pages, how can you constantly monitor for this kind of Web-based data and receive notification in real time of significant changes?


The answer is to use specialized software that watches for changes in data on relevant Web pages and sends immediate notification by email, by short message service (SMS) to cell phones, or by "pushing" the alert to a GUI console.


Think about it. What information do you use in your business that is displayed only on HTML pages? How useful would it be to receive a warning of significant changes so that the appropriate business response can be taken?


Consider this scenario:


I want to ensure that my Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system (such as JDE, SAP, or Lawson M3/Movex) is available 24x7. It is installed natively on an IBM i Power System but cannot be monitored effectively from this platform as it is a Java-based application and Java threads are not visible. It can, however, be monitored via an application-specific, vendor-provided HTML Web page that displays all kinds of performance statistics, including response times, error conditions, jobs that are active, the status of such jobs, and so on. I depend on the operations team to perform an action or a number of actions, such as remove temporary files; stop and restart jobs, subsystems, or processes; and ultimately, if required, notify additional support teams.


Problem #1: My team does not work 24x7.


Problem #2: Statistics on a Web page are transient and constantly changing. A manually performed task to check these statistics means that the team may miss an important status or error condition.


Missing an important performance message means that clients and users are affected, delays are experienced, and the company may lose money through inefficiences or lost revenue.


I can tackle such a problem by using the Web Application Monitor contained in Halcyon's Network Server Suite 7.0 to automatically monitor for important changes in Web-based data and to ensure alerts are raised automatically and brought to the right person's attention.

How Can the Halcyon Web Application Monitor Help?

I can monitor an HTML Web page that shows the status of  my ERP system. One of the statistics that proves the good health of my particular ERP system is that there are 33 jobs active at all times of the type Sub:A:MAU. If there are less than 33 jobs of this type active, I can notify my support staff and send an SMS to my third-party ERP support team.


I simply add the URL of the Web page to be monitored to the Halcyon Web Application Monitor (Figure 1).



Figure 1: Enter the URL of the Web page to monitor. (Click images to enlarge.)


I then use Browse Tables to view the Web page to select the criteria to monitor—in this instance, Type Sub:A:MAU having 33 jobs active (Figure 2).



Figure 2: Select the criteria to monitor.


Next, I add the row and column where the statistic appears (Figure 3).



Figure 3: Add the statistic's row and column.


I set automatic actions to 1) notify internal support staff via the Halcyon Enterprise Console GUI (console action) if there aren't 33 jobs active and 2) send an SMS and an email to the ERP Escalations team (message action). 



Figure 4: Automate messaging and actions.


Halcyon is now monitoring the ERP system 24x7 with no onsite staff required.


This is one example of how the Web Application Monitor in Halcyon's Network Server Suite 7.0 can be used. Other examples are monitoring high availability (HA) systems for unjournaled objects, alerting if a threshold is reached or breached, or performing actions when the temperature of a data center is reaching levels that could cause risk.