Applications talk to each other, and you should know who they are talking to

 

Applications constantly rely on communication between different servers to deliver data to end-users. The more applications end-users require to do their job, the greater the complexity of application environments and those communication based relationships.

With the release of Server & Application Monitor 6.6, we introduced an Orion Agent based feature, called Application Dependencies, which enables system administrators to quickly gain an understanding of which applications servers are talking to one another, as well as see related metrics, to help with troubleshooting application performance issues.

 

How do you enable it?

The ability to discover and map Application Dependencies is enabled by default. This allows SAM to actively collect inbound and outbound communication at the application process level. This is paired with an ability to collect connection related metrics (latency and packet loss), which is disabled by default. You can find all of the configuration options in the Application Connection Settings section of the Main Settings & Administration screen.

 

What does it show you?

At its core, Application Dependencies help you understand if application performance issues are associated with server resource utilization or network communication. For example, Microsoft Exchange is heavily dependent on Active Directory for authentication and other services. Application Dependencies show you the relationship, and the communication, by adding a few new resources in SAM.

 

The two main areas where you can see the Application Dependency information. One area is in a new widget that is available on application and node details pages. This widget will show you the discovered application dependencies, specific to that monitored application or node. Notice in the screen below that you can see where multiple Exchange servers have a dependency on the Active Directory server, ENG-AUS-SAM-62, and more specifically the Active Directory service that is running on it.

 

The second area where you can see Application Dependency information is in the connection details page, which is linked from the above mentioned connections widget. This will allow you to see all of the application monitors, and associated processes, process resources metrics, and ports, responsible for the discovered communication, between two specific nodes. You will also see the latency and packet loss data, if you have enabled the Connection Quality Polling component. The screen below shows the relationship between ENG-AUS-SAM-62 (Active Directory) and ENG-AUS-SAM63 (Exchange), in greater detail.

What’s going on under the covers?

There are two, new Orion Agent plug-ins that help deliver this new functionality. One is the Application Dependency Mapping plug-in, and the other is the Connection Quality Polling plug-in.

The Application Dependency Mapping plug-in is responsible for collecting the active connection data from the server. That information is then sent back to the Orion Server, where it is correlated with component monitor and node data, already being collected by SAM (Note: You must have at least one component monitor, like the process monitor, applied to the server). As SAM matches the collected data from the different application servers, it creates the connection details pages and populates the connection widget.

 

The Connection Quality Polling plug-in is responsible for a synthetic probe, which measures latency and packet loss. This accomplished by sending TCP packets to the destination server, on the specific port identified by the active connection information collected by the Application Dependency Mapping plug-in. It is important to note that the Connection Quality Polling plug-in includes the NPCAP driver for use with this synthetic probe.

 

If you would like to read more about how this feature works, you can find more information in the SAM administrator guide.

 

Is that it?

Application Dependencies is not the only feature that was released in SAM 6.6. You can read more about the other features in the release notes. You can also check out Application Dependencies, live in action, in the online demo.