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As more and more business is conducted via the Web, high-performance, 100-percent-reliable application transactions become mission-critical, not only to success but to survival. Of Cisco's annual business, 75 percent is conducted over the Web, while 100 percent of Amazon.com's business is generated over the Web, as is all of E*Trade's business.

For E*Trade in particular, the success of each transaction is of paramount importance, since it executes orders to buy or sell securities, which can be extremely volatile. A failure to execute a buy or sell order, or even a delay, could result in grave losses to E*Trade's customers. It might very well be that E*Trade's loss of a customer's transaction could result in the loss of the customer.

A downtime of just one minute could cost sites as much as $10,000, according to the Standish Group, a research consultancy. By that count, a two-hour blackout carries a price tag of $1.2 million.

Perhaps even more detrimental is the potential for losing future business by alienating customers. A study done awhile back by the former Zona Research (now Sageza) reported that the average online customer will wait roughly eight seconds for a page to completely download before leaving the site. Where are these online customers going? Research from Jupiter Communications suggests that in a business-to-consumer (B2C) scenario, 46 percent of these impatient prospects go to competitors.

With all that's at stake, it is extremely critical for IT and e-business managers to keep their fingers on the pulse of their application transactions. These fingers should continuously monitor the performance and reliability of the application transactions to make sure they are up to par. Such monitoring ensures that the mission-critical application is functioning at peak performance around the clock. As the next section explains, this monitoring is best done in a top-down fashion, using a solution that delivers application infrastructure insight.

Application performance monitoring (APM) delivers insight by using a lens that cuts through the transaction value chain horizontally, looks at each link in the chain and pinpoints bottlenecks and weak links faster than the traditional "stovepipe" approach. The stovepipe approach relies on device-centric tools to monitor individual components of the chain without regard to the value that each chain link provides to delivering transaction value to the end user, which often results in misdiagnosis and finger-pointing.


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