Survey Questions Java App Reliability

A study by Wily Technology due this week found its respondents are only averaging about 88 percent availability for existing Java-based production applications.

Despite a strong commitment among enterprises that are developing applications around Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition, those organizations are only averaging about 88 percent availability for existing Java-based production applications, according to the results of a new survey commissioned by Wily Technology Inc.

The Brisbane, Calif. Java application management provider will detail the findings of the study during its users conference on Thursday. The survey looked the performance and availability experiences of organizations deploying J2EE Web applications.

The survey, hosted on Wily Technologys own site, pulled in responses from a self-selected group of 360 enterprises representing 16 industries, 43 countries, and equally divided between large and small organizations, according to Mike Malloy, vice president of marketing in Brisbane.

With an average availability of 88 percent, that is "the equivalent of having an application down one day a week," said Malloy. The survey showed that half of the organizations in the survey experienced less than 96 percent availability for their J2EE applications, which is nearly seven hours of down time per week. And the worst availability for applications indicated was 81 percent downtime, or 4.5 hours a day.

"These organizations arent making a connection between business impact and application availability and performance. In a 24-by-7 economy, the expectation is that youre open for business all the time. If its down a day a week, you have to recognize that in your business model," said Malloy.

"The low level of availability is actually, unfortunately consistent with what you see everyday on the Web," reacted industry analyst Jean Pierre Garbani with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.

Despite such experiences, the respondents indicated a strong commitment to continuing Java development. One third of the respondents indicated they intended to spend more than 75 percent of their application development budget on J2EE.

When it comes to meeting performance expectations, respondents also reported that on average they achieved their target performance only 80 percent of the time. Some 65 percent of the respondents reported achieving their target performance 90 percent of the time. Wily defined performance as the ability to process user sessions at the designed rate of throughput.

"On average only 42 percent of the time, the application performs as planned when its deployed. Sixty percent of the time, its not meeting user expectations," said Malloy.

"I would expect a bigger number [than 42 percent]," Garbani observed. "Were not designing applications for performance. Often, the developer has no idea of what will actually go on with the infrastructure. Today, the developer assembling pieces of applets and servlets has no idea whats going on inside the infrastructure, so the size of the machine is wrong, or configurations are wrong. I blame it on the fact that we have shielded the developer from reality without giving them a direct contact with the reality of the platform," he added.

According to Malloy, these organizations typically learn of a problem with the application because a customer or executive calls to complain. In 40 percent of the cases, that first notice was a phone call from an end user. The typical reaction to problems is to call a group meeting. "This is a symptom of not having a process for dealing with problems," asserted Malloy.

Surprisingly, the actual code of an application caused problems only one out of eight times, the survey said. The rest of the time, problems originate in the application environment and in connected systems. In order of frequency after application code bugs were: issues with configuration and tuning, architecture, database connections, design problems, memory leaks, capacity planning miscalculations, Java virtual machine issues, and then nine other categories of problems.

"These organizations dont seem to have taken application performance and availability of critical online applications seriously enough. They need to devote human resource, create processes and use tools to better support these applications. These performance numbers are unacceptable in the online economy," concluded Malloy.

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