Covalent Ships Cross-Platform Web Apps Manager

The absence of reliable end-to-end cross-platform management tools is a key problem plaguing deployment of web services across the enterprise. Help is on the way, as Covalent Technologies ships its unified Covalent Application Manager, which will help devs and operations managers map, measure, control and analyze web applications and events across multiple platforms: Java, Open Source and .NET.

Tags: CAM, Manager, Server, Applications, Resources, Response, Monitoring,

The absence of reliable end-to-end cross-platform management tools is a key problem plaguing deployment of web services across enterprise departments.

This week, the engineers at Covalent Technologies released the Covalent Application Manager (CAM), the first version of a web applications manager they've designed to map, measure, control and analyze web applications and events across multiple platforms -- Java, Open Source and .NET.

CAM is designed to present a unified, application-level view of the systems network by using a family of agents to auto-discover a web application's multiple application events and processes -- not simply the code components. This integrated view of the application is then rendered real-time to a customizable portal display.

"From our experience of supporting Apache in Fortune 500 accounts, we heard from our customers that what they need is a tool to manage the entire web application in a single, unified view," Mark Douglas, Covalent's Senior VP of Engineering told IDN. "Right now, that's mostly a hunt-and-peck operation, and what they need is a correlated view to help them do their day-to-day job. That meant auto-discovery of various components that make up the application, correlating all that information, and then presenting them with a unified application-level view -- not just a view of each component."

CAM currently supports Apache, Tomcat, Microsoft IIS, Sun Microsystems' iPlanet/Sun ONE, JBoss, BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere and Macromedia's JRun, as well as Oracle, DB2 and Sybase databases. Extensions that will enable CAM to monitor/manage CAM run on Linux, Solaris and Windows. A version for .NET environments is now being worked on, and will ship later this year, Douglas told IDN.

Before coming to Covalent, many of the project's engineers built the first version of the Apache web server, and while at Covalent built an enterprise-hardened Apache/Tomcat web server in use in many Fortune 500 companies.

Manage Applications, Not Components
Rather than manage specific siloed components/resources, Covalent's underlying "application model" approach allows IT operations to actively manage the web infrastructure within the context of their business application requirements. The detailed application model allows monitoring of dataflow, performance and event state between the web (stateless) and the legacy (stateful) assets, and gives managers the ability to take action from the console.

Among the resources CAM monitors are: platforms (machine/OS combinations), servers (application, database and web), the services provided by those servers (including EJBs, servlets, VHosts [virtual hosts] and database instances) and the application (business logic, executables) that is made up of combinations of those services.

As a result, managers can:
  • Map applications and supporting resources. CAM automatically discovers all application components, down to custom code such as EJBs. The detailed information discovered by CAM is then used to map all hardware/OS platforms, application services and application definitions.
  • Measure application service levels and cut the time needed to diagnose and solve problems. Through CAM's Measure functionality, managers can measure availability, usage, performance and utilization, and can also perform rapid root cause analysis.
  • Control applications to resolve problems. Once a problem is identified, rapid response is imperative. CAM Control provides the capability to respond to application or resource issues through its Global Command and Control Center.
    In Tomcat and JBoss environments, for example, it's typical to serve as many as 40 different application components, and only one or two may be causing problems. With CAM, the manager can get a side-by-side view of the components and shut off the problem-causing service without taking down the entire server -- avoiding a troublesome cluster restart.
  • Analyze application data for reporting, forecasting and planning CAM collects and stores key application metrics in its centralized repository, and makes the data available through the custom portal. Data collected is from 10 to 60 seconds old. Managers can generate reports on service levels, exceptions, trend and historical analysis, and plan for future capacity requirements.

When a problem is discovered, CAM's centralized access to all of the dependent web infrastructure resources supporting the application allows you to quickly drill down to root cause. CAM's integrated command and control center allows you to then take corrective action, resulting in improved service levels. For example, a user receives an alert that an application is experiencing slow response times. He views the "application page" in the CAM Portal, drills down to the list of services, and can see that a newly deployed EJB is slowing response times.

In addition, CAM also features a specialized CAM Query applet, where IT operations can calculate and report service levels for any metric, any time frame and any resource. For example, a manager can define an alert to monitor the condition of the JDBC connection pool. If the connection pool reaches 80 percent of the maximum due to increased customer usage, the alert is triggered and IT operations can reconfigure the server to support additional connections.

Inside the CAM Subsystem

The key to unlocking, retrieving and re-presenting all this service-level data is in the CAM management framework approach, comprised of a range of CAM Server subsystems.
The CAM Server subsystems include:

  1. Application Definition -- Stores and manages the definition of platforms, servers, services and applications under management.
  2. Authentication, Authorization -- Validates user and authorization through permission model and LDAP interface.
  3. Real-time Monitoring -- Collects and manages metrics.
  4. Control -- Provides interface for end users to issue commands to the managed resources (e.g., servers, services).
  5. Event Subsystem -- Responsible for CAM alerting capability.
  6. Scheduling -- Provides a generic scheduling infrastructure.
  7. User Interface -- Responsible for visual representation of CAM data (Portal and CLI); and
  8. Collection of CAM Agents -- Which are implemented with a core that includes a common interface and functionality regardless of the managed environment. This core provides the secure bidirectional communication infrastructure necessary to reliably interact with the CAM Server.
CAM is based on open standards, including SMNP and JMX. Covalent engineers even pushed the envelope a bit on the JMX side, Douglas told , and are considering submitting their work to the Java community to make the JMX standards more attuned for applications management.