In many modern urban areas, buildings are connected by skyways or skywalks. Using skyways, pedestrian traffic can efficiently flow from building to building, in some cases for several miles, entirely indoors.
Middleware is much like a skyway in that it connects various components of applications. Originally implemented to permit organizations to leverage their legacy applications and data in new ways, middleware has evolved into a core component of the hybrid data center’s architecture.
Middleware provides pathways for transactions through the multiple stages of delivering the services that make up composite applications. Middleware is a key component of today’s multi-tier applications across the enterprise. It connects applications with the network and back-end data servers to process transactions. With so many moving parts, it’s difficult to pinpoint problems and understand the business impact. Middleware management can help.
Effective middleware management is critical to delivering the expected service to the business. IT organizations must ensure they’re providing the services that meet business needs. Applications are built on technology and require people and processes to effectively manage their performance. Who is involved in running and supporting applications? What are their roles? How are they organized? What processes do they use? What information do they need and at what depth and granularity? How do they communicate both in a structured and an unstructured fashion? Answering these questions will help you determine what information is required and how that information must flow.
Keep the big picture in mind after you promote your applications into the production environment—throughout the entire application lifecycle.
Categorize Your Applications
It’s important to understand your applications and categorize them according to their business relevance. A useful scheme is to divide your applications into three categories according to their importance to the business: non-critical, critical, and mission-critical. Categorizing will help you understand what type and what level of monitoring you need for individual applications.
Establish Monitoring Objectives and Criteria for Middleware Performance Management Tools
You can decide on the type of monitoring to implement based on its importance to the business: infrastructure-based, application-based, or a combination of both.
Infrastructure-based monitoring helps ensure the monitoring technologies you have put in place will provide sufficient information to determine from a statistical perspective whether the application’s performance is meeting business objectives.
With application-based monitoring, you determine the relationship of the application components. Application-based monitoring gives you actionable information down to the transaction level, enabling you to detect specific performance issues, determine which application component may be causing them, and take action to resolve the problem.
Next, select the tools that enable you to achieve those objectives. Look for tools that are built on a flexible foundation and framework. This enables you to continue to leverage the tools as you evolve your application base, adding new applications and changing existing ones to keep up with changing business needs.
The tools should support middleware management technologies from multiple vendors. That gives you freedom to choose the best middleware technologies for each of your applications. They should provide the proper levels of granularity at the component level. Monitoring tools should provide you with real-time data collection, actionable information, historical data collection, and auditing.
When IT Moves to the Cloud
Because of its core role in multi-tier applications, middleware plays a key role in applications in the cloud. The private cloud, for example, should be just another connection into your monitoring framework. For example, virtualization is a key technology in cloud computing, so be sure the tools support monitoring in the virtualized environment.
In many cases, monitoring middleware in the public cloud is simply another extension of your middleware management infrastructure. If you deploy an application server into the public cloud, a middleware management agent may monitor that application server. In this case, you would deploy the agent into the cloud along with the server and connect the agent into your existing middleware management infrastructure.
Most public cloud service providers offer Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that enable you to monitor certain performance parameters. These providers are continually evolving their APIs to provide users with the capabilities they need to monitor public cloud services effectively.