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Answering FAQ's on 'Composite Applications' and Their Monitoring

What are Composite applications?

An application which can combine information from multiple sources or applications is known as composite application. Composite application can take data, logic, and processes from existing application and combine them to create a new application.




Here, the composite application is utilizing a process from Application 1 and data from 2 other applications (Application 2 and Application 3). Composite application will combine all of these to produce information useful to the user on the user interface.

What is the use of Composite applications?

Introduction of new technologies, designs, and monitoring requirements are forcing people to work with different departments in a dynamic environment. This need to work across departments has introduced the requirement of tools which can re-use data, logic, process, and rules from applications used by different departments and this is what composite applications help achieve. Another aspect for composite application is you can develop a new application (used for business) combining a couple of individual applications, instead of building one from scratch. 

An example of Composite application:

Take the case of a tech support center. When a customer calls the helpdesk number, there are multiple tools to provide information to the helpdesk agents:
  • Reason the customer called in - This information is usually displayed on the IP phone because the customer would have chosen his options from the IVR before reaching the technician.
  • Customer details and details of purchased software, plus add-on information obtained from the customer portal.
  • Troubleshooting steps or a solution for the customer issue usually made available from an internal web server.
  • A help desk tool to raise a ticket, check history of customer tickets, and update the current issue and solution.

Composite applications can bring all this information together and avoid the complexity of opening many tools and web pages. This helps to reduce the work load of the support technician and reduce the time spent on support calls.

What are the advantages of composite applications?
  • Can seamlessly interact with different applications, processes, and present all this information in a single user interface.
  • Live data access from all databases.
  • The need of redundant copies of data is eliminated. That is, there's no need for data to be copied from the database of the standalone application to the composite application's server.

What are the disadvantages of composite applications?

A disadvantage associated with composite applications can be performance.  This is because data needs to be queried from various application databases and presented to the user. However, this can be overcome by having the application users decide on when to retrieve data.

Should you monitor composite applications?

Yes, of course. You should consider monitoring composite applications because composite applications can have performance issues. Specifically, when interacting with other individual applications. Just as in the case of any individual application, any downtime to composite applications can affect business continuity.

What are the parameters to be monitored and will traditional application monitoring tools work with composite applications?

You should monitor:
  • Composite application server
  • Individual applications (which are interacting with a composite application) and their database server.
  • Databases of these individual applications
  • The correlation of all transactions running between composite applications and individual applications.

Server metrics to be monitored should include CPU utilization, memory utilization, Disk Read/Write operations, and other health factors (such as critical alerts, storage space, event logs etc.). Network latency and availability of the server should be monitored along with the above mentioned metrics. When it comes to database monitoring, you should monitor expensive queries running on the database, SQL event logs details, results of cache/memory usage and so on.

However, monitoring processes between composite applications and individual applications is difficult considering the complexity of  composite applications.

So, what is the best way to monitor composite applications?

You can rely on Application Response Measurement (ARM). ARM is an open standard for diagnosing performance pertaining to complex enterprise applications.  ARM has an API, which can be programed to provide transaction information, such as time taken to complete, numbers of transactions, status (good, failed, aborted), start/stop time stamp etc. But even monitoring with ARM is not complete. ARM has to be called from the composite application itself and for this the application should have ARM implemented, which in turn is dependent on the application vendor.

Another alternative is to use a monitoring tool like Solarwinds SAM, which has an API. This tool can help execute queries (similar query which a composite application will execute) from the composite application server directly, using the same API method that the composite application uses. This helps correlate the performance (availability and latency) and also validate the content returned of the composite application, since the queries executed from API are running in the same environment.

Complexity of application monitoring has increased with the introduction of composite applications. However, Solarwinds SAM is a great method and user friendly software that's great for monitoring applications.

About the Author

Praveen is a Head Geek at SolarWinds, a global IT management software provider based in Austin, Texas. He has seven years of IT industry experience in roles such as Support Engineer, Product Trainer and Technical Consultant, and his expertise lies in technologies including NetFlow, Flexible NetFlow, Cisco NBAR, Cisco IPSLA, WMI and SNMP. Praveen gives strategic guidance for end users on applications, networks and performance monitoring tools. 
Published Monday, April 07, 2014 6:40 AM by David Marshall
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