Tracking Web Service Changes

Collation unveils its Confignia software, which tracks physical and logical elements of a Web service.

A startup next week will try to tackle the growing problem of managing complex configurations with new software that tracks frequent changes in Web data centers.

Officials of newly founded Collation Inc. will launch the company and its flagship Confignia software at BEA Systems Inc.s BEA eWorld conference in Orlando, Fla. Confignia, configuration and change-management software designed for Java 2 Enterprise Edition Web applications environments, can automatically discover, map and track physical and logical elements of a Web service. It also shows the interdependencies of applications and infrastructure services.

Frequent changes to complex Web application infrastructures—which often include multiple server types, load balancers, switches, routers and other devices—make trouble- shooting difficult. Small changes made by specialists in one area to fine-tune a service can have global and unintended consequences.

"The fact that change is now a constant companion in the data center in each of the technology silos means that chaos is a reality," said Robert Roblin, CEO of Collation, in Palo Alto, Calif. "To tame that, you need a complete understanding of the cross-tier environment."

The patent-pending technology in Confignia includes an agentless auto-discovery function that uses a variety of means to identify and gather configuration parameters on devices, software and software components, as well as infrastructure services such as Domain Name System or LDAP.

"We use what instrumentation is already available, whether its a [Java Management Extensions] API or HTTP or SQL commands to understand whats there and how its configured," said Roblin.

To understand the interdependencies of applications on the network and on services, Confignia builds a cross-tier relationship directory that links the physical and logical environments and integrates run-time components with business services and applications.

Topology maps that show the interdependencies, along with change history reports that detail date, time, and the nature of changes made to components or instances are viewed through a browser-based console. A compare function pinpoints the location of any change in the infrastructure.

To date, only a couple of small companies have tried to solve the configuration and change management problem. Relicore Inc., which uses an agent-based system, tracks application infrastructure configurations but doesnt show interdependencies on networks or systems. Troux Technologies Inc. also dynamically maps and creates a repository of configuration data.

Confignia, available now, costs $125,000 to $150,000 for a typical data center with 100 servers.