For Richmond, Va.-based LandAmerica Financial Group Inc., consolidating applications core to its business is bringing much-needed efficiency but will also introduce new needs for more rigorous application performance management and monitoring.
Previously, LandAmerica ran 35 different title and escrow applications, each for a different geographic region. Not surprisingly, "it was difficult to gain any sort of efficiencies or consistency" from that approach, said Ken Meszaros, LandAmerica's vice president of global networks. Now, the firm has moved "from a regional and state-based approach to a single enterprise platform" including a title and escrow application from SoftPro, BizTalk messaging and a Web portal.
You can ID issues, understand and diagnose the performance problems, and correlate them back to the business owner.
VP of global networks, LandAmerica Financial Group Inc.
At the same time, consolidating its title and escrow application ups the ante for the IT team in terms of managing its performance. "Before, a performance problem would only affect, say, Northern California. Now, any performance problems affect a much larger part of our population," Meszaros said.
In-house tools don't cut it
LandAmerica already has several monitoring tools in-house, namely Microsoft Operations Manager to track operational issues and events, NetScout to view real-time user network traffic, and Hewlett-Packard Business Availability Center (BAC), which it uses to generate transactions for load testing. The firm will continue to use these tools but will "bubble up"the data from these tools and pass them in to the Netuitive predictive analysis engine.
Among Netuitive's selling points were the way it automatically baselines system performance and creates high- and low-performance watermarks, or thresholds, Meszaros said. He also liked the way Netuitive collected data from other tools and correlated events with performance problems.
Another plus was the speed with which it identified LandAmerica's performance problems. A few weeks after LandAmerica began using Netuitive, the software identified that some database metrics had gone out of the bounds of the thresholds it had created. "With other end-to-end management tools, I've had them in place for six months and haven't found a single problem," he said. "I knew I'd had problems in that time frame; it would have been good if it had found them."
In its search, LandAmerica also explored application performance management software from OpNet, which Meszaros described as "more detail oriented," going "deeper into network packets." Compared with Netuitive, however, OpNet had no automatic thresholding and trending capabilities. "It was good, but we were going in a different direction."
For more on performance management and monitoring
Likewise, Hewlett-Packard OpenView, which LandAmerica also owns, offers "a more technical dashboard, but it's not for the end user or the executive." With Netuitive, Meszaros said, "you can ID issues, understand and diagnose the performance problems, and correlate them back to the business owner." Dennis Drogseth, the vice president of Enterprise Management Associates, said Netuitive is a unique tool in the business service management space. Its core algorithm was originally used to assist in pricing oil based on macroeconomic and geographical trends and has been applied to IT systems only recently. "I only tell you that to underscore how flexible the underlying analysis capability is," he said.
As a whole, the Netuitive algorithm is "very extensible and very dynamic," Drogseth said. If it were used to track an e-trading application, it would look at the network, application performance, application paths, databases, etc., then "learn about the different variables, what's normal for them, and also what's most relevant for them," he said. The end result is that "it will highlight where your problem is in enough of an operational framework for you to be able to do something about it."
There is a caveat, though: "It can't predict a bulldozer cutting through a cable." The behaviors Netuitive learns have to be "patterned and over time."
For insight into these kinds of events, IT administrators and Netuitive both require basic "data gathering" tools, Drogseth said. That shouldn't pose a problem for potential Netuitive customers, though, since most IT shops already have some sort of monitoring and alerting capabilities. In the enterprise space, "most people aren't looking to start from the bottom up; they already have some tools in place."