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.

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