Pattern, structure, and correlation are the critical features of the latest Application Performance Monitoring (APM) offerings. Adaptable, smarter, more flexible, and automated are the new requirements. Existing management solutions are struggling to cope with the emerging challenges – system complexity, Big Data, dynamic infrastructure, and a continued demand for business-driven IT management – which pose serious obstacles to conventional APM tools and techniques. As a consequence, Business Transaction Management (BTM) has begun taking center stage.
Transactions provide a critical handle on systems that are otherwise becoming almost unmanageable. The health, behavior and performance of an entire system can be derived unobtrusively from messages exchanged by system components. Still, the challenges of Big Data and complexity continue to grow faster than incremental improvements can be made. More of the same only faster just is not cutting it. Significant advances are necessary to change the playing field and win the game.
The Unified Transaction Model (UTM) offers a next-generation approach to transaction monitoring that simplifies analysis, optimizes processing, and enables users to apprehend meaning faster and more easily. It provides a framework to lever domain knowledge related to networks, services and IT systems, application design and end-user workflow, and business processes. The UTM comprises a hierarchical structure composed of well-defined layers – each layer accounts for observable data and behaviors within a complex IT system – and the relationships between each layer. It preserves the value of monitoring and analyzing at each layer while explicitly tying the events and measurements at each layer to the layers above and below.
The UTM is an adaptable approach but it is most typically implemented in four distinct layers, each modelling the behavior of a different aspect of a complex IT system:
- Link – connections and data exchanges between network interfaces
- Service – communication and message exchange between different application services, as supported by networks
- Application – operation of distributed applications according to end-user use, across a service topology
- Business – business processes that implement distributed applications to achieve a business goal
Each layer corresponds to a distinct aspect of the IT system and is specific to the interests of different stakeholders. For example, the Link layer describes the events and behavior of the network infrastructure. Network performance analysis of transactions at this layer provides network managers and operators a clear view of how the network is contributing to the system’s overall operation.
Each UTM layer is characterized by specific definitions for types of messages and exchanges of messages that compose a type of transaction. For each layer, there is a unique type of transaction:
- Link transaction – exchanges of network messages governing data transfer
- Service transaction – exchanges of application messages governing application execution
- Application transaction – sets of messages across a service topology that govern end-user functionality and interaction
- Business transactions – sequences of end-user operations that achieve a particular goal
Within the UTM framework, the transactions at each layer are explicitly composed of transactions from the previous layer. There is a well-defined causal relationship between events at the lowest level with events at the highest level. Link transactions are composed of network messages; Services transactions are composed of Link transactions; Application transactions are composed of Service transactions; and Business transactions are composed of Application transactions.
Thus, a slow or failed business transaction can be traced back to a specific problem at any one of the other layers. Lower level transactions associated with a specific end-user interaction may reveal that packet loss or an under-resourced server is responsible and enable the right people to act in a timely fashion. This capability overcomes one of the major challenges of IT management – effectively relating the behavior of underlying infrastructure to the performance of the business that it supports.
The Unified Transaction Model represents a significant step forward in the Business Transaction Monitoring game. It handles complexity and Big Data by segmenting and layering data analysis. It supports rapid adaptation to application dynamics by defining and managing the components of the infrastructure. And it ably relates underlying technology behavior with the goals and process of the business – effectively representing it to multiple stakeholders.
For more information about the UTM, check out Loki’s Cryptex on YouTube and watch here for the UTM whitepaper due out in January 2012.