New Way to Track N-Tiered App Infrastructure

A 2-year-old startup next week will launch itself and a new approach to managing complex, n-tiered applications infrastructure. Relicore Inc. officials believe that by better tracking application infrastructure--including ongoing changes and the dependencies that exist between separate components--IT can more quickly and easily isolate and fix problems that impact performance.

Relicores tool is an infrastructure information management system that automatically discovers and dynamically maps dependencies in a real-time tracking system, according to co-founder Blair Wheeler in Burlington, Mass.

The Relicore Infrastructure Information Management systems automated discovery can "tell the customer whats running, where its running, whats identical and whats different on systems," said Wheeler.

The increasing complexity of multitiered Web applications and the components supporting the applications have made isolating and diagnosing performance problems or outages a time-consuming process. "When the application infrastructure breaks down, most of the time--too much time--is spent gathering the information," he said. That is exacerbated by the increasingly frequent changes made to production systems, which in themselves often cause downtime.

Wheeler said that in its early adopter program, one customer updating 15 servers in part of a Web site got to the 13th server before the change caused an outage. The Relicore tool can help with troubleshooting such problems by showing what servers are different from the others.

The Relicore software is an agent-based system that uses a central repository to analyze the nature and structure of the applications that are being managed and how they communicate with different, distributed components on other machines.

The agents, once an initial system crawl is completed, are event-driven in communicating any changes that they detect.

"We sit there and watch the components that are important to watch. And we watch what a change affects in terms of a business process or service being provided and whats affected within it," Wheeler said. "Anytime something important changes in a component our analysis engine is tracking, we make that known. If a new dependency is created, we catch that and show what it is."

Wheeler said the agent footprint is small and that it takes up about 1 percent or 2 percent of processing overhead. The system is designed to scale to manage large infrastructures.

Relicore faces a number of hurdles in its quest for a foothold in the applications management space, said Michael Dortch, an analyst with The Robert Frances Group in San Francisco. "IT executives hesitate in committing to a preponderance of news--new company, new solution based on new technology. That, coupled with the fact that the Relicore solution is not easily grasped right away, I think those are the things that represent the most significant challenges to Relicore," he said.

Still, Dortch believes the technology is "compelling" enough to convince some IT executives to adopt the software.

Relicore plans to formally launch its tool this summer.