Suite Precisely Tracks App Performance

Compuware's updated vantage finds problems fast but offers no revolutionary capabilities.

IT managers who need accurate application performance tracking to search for possible problems quickly should consider using Compuware Corp.s newly revised and re-branded Vantage 8.0 suite.

Made up of a variety of products formerly known as Interval Pro, EcoScope and EcoTools, among others, Vantage 8.0 aptly correlated network, system and application performance during tests at eWeek Labs.

The products in Vantage 8.0 have been gussied up, but we focused our testing on two components: ClientVantage (formerly Interval Pro) and VantageView, a consolidated performance monitoring and reporting product. Although most of our testing focused on these significantly changed modules, we did get a taste of the overall suite during tests—enough of a taste to declare that Vantage 8.0 is a comprehensive set of tools for application, system and network performance monitoring.

For example, we used NetworkVantage probes on segments of the test network to capture performance information, which was then correlated with information from ClientVantage and ServerVantage to suggest the most likely cause of the problem. VantageView did a good job of combining information from all these Compuware sources into a detailed performance picture in graphs and log files that made it easy for us to quickly identify slow spots.

Vantage 8.0 was released last month, and list prices for its components are roughly equivalent to competitors prices. ClientVantage and NetworkVantage are both priced at $26,500; ServerVantage and Application Vantage are $35,000 each. VantageView is $19,000.

Compuware has an extensive services wing, and, although it is certainly possible to get the product up and running with little additional support, we advise most organizations to take advantage of the experience of a Compuware consultant at the beginning of the installation and again about three months after the product is up and running to make sure the components are tuned to provide the most accurate results.

Vantage 8.0 holds its own—although it doesnt make many significant advances—when judged against other performance and monitoring tools, such as Concord Communications Inc.s eHealth products and, on the application side, NetIQ Corp.s AppManager Suite and BMC Software Inc.s Patrol family. This is especially true when compared with Concords eHealth AdvantEdge View and the large number of already-built monitoring modules from the eHealth line. IT managers should consider which product most closely corresponds to the applications and network topologies that need to be monitored as the basis for going ahead with either product.

In tests, we used two groups of 30 PCs operating across a simulated WAN, with several LAN segments and a mix of NetIQs Chariot application-traffic simulation scripts, along with loads generated by Labs staff to create background activity on the network. We installed active and passive ClientVantage agents on several PCs in each network segment to gather information for Vantage.

We used both of ClientVantages agents to gather end-user application performance data. The first and most interesting of the data-gathering methods is active mode, which harnesses technology Compuware developed for its QARun tool to record user interactions with several server-based applications. For example, we built a simple Web site with a form that required us to provide name and address information.

QARun technology in the active agent recorded this interaction, including pauses and hesitations that are a normal part of user interaction, with the application. We then scheduled the synthetic transaction to run at various times throughout the day and night. ClientVantage recorded the response time and provided that information to the central console, where it was incorporated with data provided by the other components in the Vantage 8.0 suite.

Using all this information, we were able to build an accurate profile of normal performance. We then ran through a series of tests where we loaded the server, slowed the network and burdened the end-user machine to see how well Vantage 8.0 distinguished among various causes of application performance for the end user.

Although most tests yielded ambiguous results (an inherent problem in this type of product), Vantage 8.0 significantly narrowed the possible areas where problems likely originated. That information should prove useful as IT managers conduct day-to-day assessments of how well networks, systems and applications are performing.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at