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RealTime IT News

A New Approach to Trouble Tickets

Officials at business technology optimization (BTO) vendor Mercury Interactive are beta testing a new application suite whose job is to cut downtime from network failures in half.

The Mercury Resolution Center, a product of several acquisitions, ties in technology via acquisitions (Allerez and Kintana) and licenses (Motive) to create an end-to-end product that prioritizes and streamlines network and application failures that lead to downtime.

According to Sue Barsamian, Mercury vice president of strategic marketing, the money lost during downtime extends much further than the industry average of $100,000; for some financial institutions, that figure can run into the millions.

But instead of spending money on software or services to cut downtime out of the equation, she told internetnews.com, many IT organizations put most of their budget on application maintenance.

"The conundrum that IT has is they spend two-thirds or more of their budget just maintaining what they already have, which doesn't give them a lot left over to fund new initiatives," she said. "If they are inefficient and ineffective in the way they are supporting their current apps, they just don't have any money left over."

Mercury believes it has an answer to the problem. The Resolution Center, due out the third quarter of 2004, will incorporate problem isolation, diagnostics, analytics and resolution, with a goal to cut downtime 50 percent out-of-the-box. As the software learns best-practice resolutions from previous incidents, that percentage will increase even more.

The upcoming software package falls under the third, and last, leg of its BTO strategy. IT governance and application delivery are product lines the Sunnyvale, Calif., company has been developing on the past 15 years. The last, application management, is the result of a string of acquisitions and technology buys.

The latest suite follows a whirlwind of activity in the past year, during which the company bought up the technology assets of Allerez, an analytics and reporting tool; it then completed a $225 million acquisition of Kintana, a software company specializing in prioritizing and managing the different assets on the corporate network. Officials later signed a $15 million licensing agreement with software vendor Motive for automated resolution technology.

Taken together, the assets are expected to usher the Resolution Center to popularity with potential customers. Mukund Mohan, Mercury senior product marketing manager, said the software is designed to isolate and help resolve network problems in the time it takes companies today to fix blame for the issues.

"A tier one (Network Operations Center) person will open up a trouble ticket and within a few minutes you have the BBA, network person, application administrator, the developer, everybody on a telephone conference bridge line," he told internetnews.com. "Typically, they'll sit in the conference room for three hours trying to resolve the problem, and you know what happens when you have all the people sitting in a conference room? They all start pointing fingers at each other."

The Resolution Center looks to bypass such conference room bottlenecks by automatically hunting down the cause of the application fault and isolating it as the cause. From there, the tier one NOC technician can forward it out to the appropriate party. It also prioritizes the faults. That way, a Siebel application crash won't trigger the same level of alarm as the printer running out of paper in the CIO's office, Mohan said.

That's not to say Mercury's, or anybody's, software will be able to eliminate downtime entirely. Mohan said the Royal Caribbean International cruise line was able to cut down initial problem isolation time down from between 2.5 and three hours to about one hour after installing Mercury's beta software. Still, that computes to an estimated $100,000 in lost revenues while the system was down.

"What a lot of customers are asking for is preventive and self-healing capabilities, and I'll give you a guarantee, almost vendor is not completely there yet," he told internetnews.com.

There are two reasons why this isn't possible yet, according to Mohan. One, there are too many moving parts in any network -- whether its the variety of applications or servers -- and the complexity of any network is "way too much," he said. Second, companies are willing to spend more time and effort with mission-critical applications, like reservation systems in the case of the cruise line, to ensure it runs 24/7.