Aligning IT With Business

By Paula Musich  |  Posted 2002-10-03

Aligning IT With Business

Mercury Interactive Corp. earlier this week outlined a new Business Technology Optimization (BTO) initiative intended to help IT better align its operations with business goals.

The application testing and management provider, as part of its BTO effort, introduced the first tool in a new suite that will help bridge the gap between lines of business and IT operations.

Measuring the performance of business applications and presenting performance data in a meaningful way to line-of-business managers has long been a challenge for IT. Most management tools deliver metrics that describe server utilization, CPU usage and the like, but few link those metrics to business goals or show the impact of performance problems or outages on the bottom line.

"The language IT speaks to measure the quality of an automated process is different from that used by the business," said John Bruggeman, vice president of marketing for Mercury Interactive in Sunnyvale, Calif. "The Line of Business (LOB) wants to measure quality by how many more orders can I process, how much cheaper is it to process an order, how many orders can I process concurrently, and so on. The technologists enable them to measure: is the application available, is the network bandwidth enough, is the application secure, is the database accessible."

In fact, in a Mercury Interactive study conducted by Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., only 25 percent of IT executives at Fortune 500 companies surveyed said that their organizations did very well at defining and measuring the IT performance of automated business processes against service levels that matter to business.

The study, just released this week, at the same time found that 51 percent plan to transform IT into a service-driven or business-centric model over the next two years.

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The new Optane suite, which will pull together Mercurys application testing, performance monitoring and reporting tools and application tuning tools, takes a more "holistic view" of the application lifecycle, rather than conducting development and operations activities as disconnected processes, according to Zohar Gilad, vice president at Mercury Interactive in Sunnyvale, Calif.

The components of the Optane suite will share testing scripts and data to reduce the cost of using the technology and be able to feed production data back into the development organization so developers can see how their applications behave in a production setting.

The initiative also calls for Mercury to work hand-in-hand with systems integrators to deliver the suite as a set of services.

The first deliverable in the suite is the Topaz Business Availability interactive "digital cockpit." The tool presents vital performance indicators of mission-critical applications running in real-time. The cockpit shows a common, shared view into how IT is meeting business goals. LOB managers get an integrated view of the health of business applications, and IT users can use it to drill down to view the underlying infrastructure associated with the business application. Such infrastructure can include data centers, technology clusters or geographic locations that all deliver the business application.

By seeing which applications are affected by performance degradation or outages, IT can better prioritize troubleshooting and problem solving. "It provides vital performance indicators in business context and powers real-time decisions based on impact," said Gilad.

Topaz Business Availability is architected in four layers, beginning with the data collection layer where metrics are collected from a variety of sources including Topaz back-end monitors, industry enterprise management systems, Web Services, XML and management APIs. The second data bus layer aggregates collected data through an event server that can process up to 400 inbound events per second. The third layer is made up of a business rules engine and data modeling capability that can be customized by users. The fourth presentation layer provides a common set of integrated views.

TBA can be used to do real-time service level agreement monitoring. "It provides an indicator based on trending and what if scenarios—i.e., in 50 minutes you will breach the service level if you dont fix this alert," described Gilad.

TBA, due in the fourth quarter, will start at $250,000, depending on the number of applications to be managed. Mercury Interactive is also planning to add a tuning element to the suite along with a testing tool. No time frame was given for those components.

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