Tonic, Mercury Get to the Root Cause

Tonic Software and Mercury Interactive are both announcing automated root cause analysis options to their respective performance management suites.

In a David and Goliath kind of match up, startup Tonic Software Inc. and entrenched Mercury Interactive Corp. are both announcing automated root cause analysis options to their respective performance management suites.

Both the new Tonic Automation Engine and Mercury Interactives Topaz Auto RCA (Root Cause Analysis) module are patent-pending root cause analysis tools that complement existing management tools that provide performance monitoring, testing and reporting.

Both vendors are leveraging experience in the field with actual users to build intelligence into the products so that they can automatically identify conditions that lead to problems.

"Were taking engagements with customers and the intellectual property we gain about how Web applications perform, where they fail, and were rolling that into the product," said Steve Marcie, chief technology officer for Tonic, in Austin, Texas.

Much of that experience came with customers at Electronics For Imaging, Inc., according to Ron Albright, Web and applications development manager in Foster City, Calif.

"We wanted to develop a master script that would go through and sense a number of points within our enterprise and based on business logic be able to say you have a server down or a service within it, or a page is down," Albright said. "Tonic came back with this as a solution. It allows you to globally look at your enterprise activities and accurately and quickly deduce where the flaw is occurring, and then do automated responses like reboot a server, or shut down and restart a service like IIS or whatever the problem may be to try to correct whatever was causing it in the first place."

Tonic sought patent protection for the tools ability to "define or assign a signature to multiple events within the environment to articulate what the overall health of the environment is," Marcie said. That capability allows users to instruct the tool what actions to take without requiring in-depth knowledge of the tool itself.

The Tonic Automation Engine is part of Version 2.0 of the comprehensive Tonic software suite, which provides performance monitoring and measurement, content and functional integrity verification, load testing and problem detection and correction.

The new release also includes the Tonic Reporting Portal, which provides a Web interface to reports that can be viewed by multiple users. The Tonic Clusters feature combines data from multiple Tonic servers into a single database for larger installations. The Tonic Automation Engine supports standard authentication models for enhanced security and supports the use of JavaScript to simplify the creation of complex user transactions.

Tonics Goliath rival, Mercury Interactive, meanwhile, designed its Topaz Auto RCA module to look for the most likely causes of performance problems and then allow the experts to drill down to pinpoint the real culprit.

"We realized IT infrastructure is way too complex to model it down to a single root cause," said Yoab Banin, Topaz product manager in Sunnyvale, Calif. "In the diagnostic process this is the stage of identifying a general problem area and escalating it to the proper expert, who then drills down. It lets humans do their job better instead of trying to replace them."

"The real problem with root cause analysis is understanding how things are put together," asserted Bill Gassman, research director at Gartner Inc. in Amherst, N.H. "There is no application topology that can go out and discover the application, so you have to have experts who understand how things are put together."

Mercury Interactives Topaz tool, which Gassman likened more to a workbench, allows users to look at the data gathered from multiple sources and put two and two together to figure out whats wrong.

The tool takes data from a variety of sources, including Topaz end user data as well as that generated by major enterprise systems management tools such as BMC Corp.s Patrol, Hewlett-Packard Co.s OpenView, IBMs Tivoli Enterprise Console and Computer Associates International Inc.s Unicenter.

Topaz includes a statistical engine and set of pre-configured rules. In-house application experts can also create custom rules using Wizards.

"The engine can be used by the first-tier operations person. It adds some application expertise they dont have. They can run this and plug in the right domain expertise very quickly," said Diane Hagglund, director of product marketing at Mercury Interactive in Sunnyvale.

Both offerings are available now.