WebSphere Tricks, And Customers Who Stick

A new Forrester study shows that Web site visitors will leave -- and rarely return -- if a page doesn’t load within four seconds, and that puts a premium on optimizing application servers, middleware, hardware and databases for faster Web site performance.

During the expoQ webinar Maximizing Customer Experience Through WebSphere Performance Management (part of our Best Practices for WebSphere, sponsored by Candle Corp.), IBM’s Ruth Willenborg and Candle Corp’s Mary Hall keyed on customer-focused strategies and specific tactics to speed performance of WebSphere-based systems.

“WebSphere performance problems are really challenging,” Willenborg began, “because though the problem may look like something in WebSphere, the actual cause could be anywhere in your Web site. And there are so many components involved in the site your WebSphere application is running in, what starts out looking like a WebSphere performance problem may really be anywhere.”

She and Hall set out to give troubleshooting tips to help pinpoint the needle in the haystack that is the app server, middleware, hardware and databases working together.

“The first thing you have to is look at the end-user view. He doesn’t care if you’ve got WebSphere back there, or if you’re running on a Windows platform … all he cares about is the response time,” said Willenborg, who heads IBM’s WebSphere performance monitoring and benchmarking initiatives.

“Usual suspects include networks, firewalls, unrealistic testing environments and legacy back-end systems that weren’t initially designed for the high demands of Internet access.

But Willenborg shared her own Top Ten list that focuses on end-user experience, overall system and network health and specific applications. For example, analyzing CPU patterns and disk I/O can identify performance problems. Excessive memory paging and logging should also be avoided.

She also detailed how load, throughput and response times could help isolate problems. Focusing on key servlets and EJBs, minimizing HTTP sessions and using time-based write-to-manage persistence are other optimizations.

Establishing a queuing network (“bigger is not better”), caching dynamically to satisfy requests early in the cycle, co-locatiing servlets and EJBs, limiting object creation to minimize garbage collection and fixing unexpected memory leaks rounded out her list.

Candle’s Marketing Manager Hall echoed Willenborg’s focus on the customer experience.

“On the Web, service translates into response time,” she noted, citing the Forrester “four-second” study and figures from Zona Research showing estimated monthly losses of up to $33.3 million due to slow response time for some industry sectors.

“Different types of data contribute to understanding customer behavior,” said Hall, who showed how Candle’s eBA Service Monitor and eBusiness Assurance Network detail navigation paths, response times and browse times that enable quick analyses and optimizations from customer-visit patterns.

She also presented screen shots showing how Candle’s customizable PathWAI WebSphere monitor provides real-time performance tracking for numerous components of Willenborg’s Top Ten list -- and gives early warning (and precise locations) of developing problems.

Willenborg, Hall and Candle WebSphere expert Warren Masic went on to answer numerous audience questions on time-based writes (Willenborg noted that they’re now a default in Version 5 of WebSphere), EJB container threads, ideal memory for paging, multiple server monitoring, identifying memory leaks and dynamic caching.

To find out more about the numerous components that interact with WebSphere – and how nearly every one can be optimized for improved customer response time, watch a replay of Maximizing Customer Experience Through WebSphere Performance Management.

About the Author

Gian Trotta is ebizQ's managing editor. Before joining ebizQ, he developed a wide variety of virtual news and community features for Newsday, Prodigy, Time Inc., Excite, About.com and MSNBC.

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