Is Your Site Stressed Out?

An impossibly slow web site may be worse than having no site at all.

An impossibly slow web site may be worse than having no site at all. As it becomes critical for sites to guarantee consistent response times, companies are turning to more sophisticated tools and services to test and monitor their Internet applications.

NetCalibrate, which last year spun off from Lucent Technologies Bell Labs, has been focused on supplying software that measures the quality of service on a Web site. In the early days of the Web, much site management was done using the Simple Network Management Protocol, which supplies remote monitoring through software agents on Internet devices. To fill in where that monitoring technique left off, NetCalibrate came up with iVision QOS Analyzer.

"Data networks are bursty in nature. You cant assess quality of service purely on traffic," says Leon Leong, president and CEO of NetCalibrate, a 12-person, privately funded company in Palo Alto, Calif.

The iVision QOS software pulls together many site performance parameters beyond just network traffic statistics. For example, it measures how much bandwidth each user needs while working on the site. It also knows how long each user is waiting for a response from the site, and where congestion points occur.

On one customers network, iVision QOS identified employee Internet usage as crowding out corporate apps on the wide area network, with a resulting drop in response times. By providing more Internet access to local offices, the customer freed up WAN bandwidth for normal operations, Leong says. The same assessment provided to Web site apps can show who the bandwidth hogs are and what measures to take to curtail them — or, he adds, what resources to deploy to satisfy demand.

NetCalibrates iVision QOS 1.2.5, priced at $9,995, is aimed at enterprise network architects and network managers. A slimmed-down $499 version released last month, iVision Web Analyzer, is geared toward less technical Web site managers and provides less comprehensive reporting of site operations.

Flight Check

By mid-June RadView software will launch version 5.0 of its WebLoad product, a user simulation engine that constructs traffic for a site similar to its regular audience, then fires off sequences of user hits in the thousands to see how well the site handles the load.

WebLoad 5.0 will offer a 40 percent performance improvement over previous versions, the company says. It will also be bundled with WebFT, a Web function testing tool that developers can use to see not only what traffic their application can handle, but whether "it does what you think it will do," says Dan Murphy, RadViews vice president of marketing.

The WebLoad/WebFT suite is priced starting at $4,995 per seat. RadViews competitors include Mercury Interactive, Rational Software and Segue Software.

Function testing differs from load testing by measuring the consistency and results of the intended application functions, such as delivering an update on inventory after making a database check. Frequent changes to applications sometimes result in unexpected snafus, Murphy says.

In a similar vein, WhiteCross Systems offers a site reliability measurement service called WX/WebAnalytics. The $25,000-per-month service collects data from a sites server log files and analyzes it, reporting back to the customer on ways to relieve bottlenecks and improve customer movement through the site.