Welcome!

Java Authors: Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Yakov Fain

Related Topics: Java, SOA & WOA, .NET, AJAX & REA, Web 2.0, Big Data Journal

Java: Article

Ten Questions to Avoid a Classical Business War Room Scenario

Make sure you have the real facts available in order to get through these situations as fast as possible

I personally don't like the term "War Room" when describing a firefighting situation that many software companies have to deal with when systems go down or have problems. The way these war rooms typically play out is that key personnel (engineers, operations, business) are summoned into a room until the problem is solved. This was the case back with the Apollo 13 mission and still is now when we look at the famous Facebook war room from Dec 2012:

The War Room back then - And Now: Not a whole lot different

What's the problem with these pictures? There are a lot of people in the room that have no clue whether the problem on hand is actually something they can fix or are responsible for. All of these people are summoned without first figuring out which people should look at the problem. Why is that? Because the collected "evidence" in the form of infrastructure monitoring data, log files, user complaints, etc., just shows symptoms but doesn't tell us anything about the actual impact and root cause of issues:

Would you know whom to bring into a war room based on these "facts"? Would you want to be one of them?

Looking at the previous image, it is hard to tell which people need to get in a room. Do we just need an Ops guy to restart the process that consumes all of the CPU? Or do we need an application expert that sifts through log files? Do we need to contact our mobile solution provider because it is an actual problem in the 3rd party mobile native app? The typical MO is to simply call-in everybody to figure out the root cause of the problem and with that pulling critical resources from other important projects without even knowing if these folks can actually help solving these problems. How can we change this? By asking the right questions first!

The 10 Real Questions to Ask
You don't need nice and shiny dashboards that show you an aggregated overview of twitter statuses, infrastructure health or insight into slow application transactions. You need data to answer the following questions - whether it is presented in nice dashboards or log files doesn't really matter:

Having answers to these 10 questions avoids calling too many people in a war room and improves handling of critical application problems

1. Is an individual user complaining?
Is it "just" the CEO that complains about a problem with your newly deployed internal app because a report doesn't work on his old IE6? Or is it "just" the end user in a remote location that still uses dial-up? Knowing whether a problem just happens for a single or a very small group of users is important to prioritize.

Analyzing the problem of the complaining user lets us assess whether it is a problem related to just "that" user, e.g, using an unsupported browser version, slow network connectivity,...

2. Are "all" users impacted?
If a large number of users are impacted but you may not have individuals that really complain about it you still need to know as it is very critical to you fix any problems that impact a large number of your users?

Having the evidence that a large number of people in a certain region, using a certain browser or a certain device makes it easy to prioritize this issue

3. Is the problem in the application?
The next question, after knowing whether users are impacted or not, is to figure out if the problem is in the application or not. This allows us to call in the application experts, architects and developers if needed. Looking at the performance distribution gives us an overview where our hotspots really are:

Where are the performance and problem hotspots? Is it really the application? Or do we need to involve other teams?

4. Is there a problem in the delivery chain?
Modern web applications rely on a long list of services along the delivery chain that lies outside of our own data center. That includes CDNs, third-party services, ISPs or mobile networks. Knowing the status of these services and their impact on end user performance of our own application allows us to answer whether to look into our own data center or calling up Akamai, Facebook & Co:

Do CDNs or other third-party services experience any performance issues and is that the root cause of our complaining users?

5. Is one uncritical transaction impacted?
When the error rate goes up - is it a critical transaction such as search? Or is it rather uncritical such as the Contact Page. Or is a BOT causing lots of errors because it crawls through pages that do not exist anyway or that require authentication and with that skews the overall error rate?

Analyzing which transactions drive the error rate may show you that these are not critical because either caused by a BOT or on pages that are not business critical

6. Are critical transactions impacted?
What if your critical transactions are impacted such as the landing page, login, search, or entering a ticket in your support system? These are critical transactions to you, your end users, or your colleagues that need to use the back office software for their daily tasks. If these are impacted you need to act fast. Therefore it is important to monitor these critical transactions on failure rate as well as performance. If these are impacted it is more important to act than other transactions that are not vital to your business - and - you also know which subject matter experts to call:

Monitoring your critical transactions allows you to identify problems on those areas that are critical for your business

7. Is the problem related to bad coding?
If application response time is getting slower, the first question is whether it is because of bad coding. Analyzing the performance hotspot to the code level can tell you whether most of the time is spent because of inefficient algorithms or just not following coding and architectural best practices:

Throwing thousands of exceptions to control program flow is not a good coding practice and also impacts performance

8. Does the infrastructure cause an issue?
What if it is not the app itself, but the app is running low on resources provided by the infrastructure? What if the CPU required to run the Garbage Collector is not available because the machine also runs lots of other services on an already over utilized machine? In that case it is time to think about the infrastructure - better distributing these applications and services or scaling the infrastructure:

Where does the memory shortage come from? Does it impact other processes on that machine? Which processes to move to a different machine?

9. Is the AppServer the issue?
Depending on the AppServer you are using you have multiple configuration options to optimize the usage for your environment. The question remains whether the AppServer might be responsible for performance issues caused by an incorrect setting or corrupt deployment. Correct resource pool (threads, database connection, ...) sizing, security settings or logging options can impact the performance. If it turns out that the AppServer is the problem contact your IBM, Oracle, Microsoft ... specialist:

A global synchronized logging feature of IBMs WebSphere caused this performance issue which can be resolved through configuration settings in the AppServer

10. Is the problem in the virtual machine?
Leveraging virtual compute power - whether it is from your local running VM server farm or running in one of the cloud providers - provides lots of flexibility. But it can also be the reason for performance problems if the virtual machines are not properly sized or are battling for resources with other virtual machines on the same virtual server. Knowing the impact of virtualization on the application allows you to call in the VM experts and not the app developers to solve a problem:

Understanding what is going in EC2, Azure or your VMware ESX Server allows you to figure out whether the virtualize environment is the root cause

Have an Answer to These Questions?
Now that you have an idea about the right questions to ask before you call a war room session together - or before you accept a call into such scenario, you can start focusing on preventing these sessions. Whether you are a developer, architect or on the business side, make sure you have the real facts available in order to get through these situations as fast as possible by calling in the RIGHT people and giving them the RIGHT data to analyze.

Better than spending time in War Rooms however is to prevent the number of times these situations come up. If you want to learn more about this check out some of the other blogs we recently wrote such as Performance-focused DevOps or - in case you happen to be getting ready for the holiday shopping season - Verify Readiness in Test & Pre-Production.

More Stories By Andreas Grabner

Andreas Grabner has more than a decade of experience as an architect and developer in the Java and .NET space. In his current role, Andi works as a Technology Strategist for Compuware and leads the Compuware APM Center of Excellence team. In his role he influences the Compuware APM product strategy and works closely with customers in implementing performance management solutions across the entire application lifecycle. He is a frequent speaker at technology conferences on performance and architecture-related topics, and regularly authors articles offering business and technology advice for Compuware’s About:Performance blog.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it’s a mix of architectural style...
Connected devices are changing the way we go about our everyday life, from wearables to driverless cars, to smart grids and entire industries revolutionizing business opportunities through smart objects, capable of two-way communication. But what happens when objects are given an IP-address, and we rely on that connection, sometimes with our lives? How do we secure those vast data infrastructures and safe-keep the privacy of sensitive information? This session will outline how each and every connected device can uphold a core root of trust via a unique cryptographic signature – a “bir...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash Inc., will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone a...
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, will discuss how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
Predicted by Gartner to add $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is based on the idea that devices, systems and services will connect in simple, transparent ways, enabling seamless interactions among devices across brands and sectors. As this vision unfolds, it is clear that no single company can accomplish the level of interoperability required to support the horizontal aspects of the IoE. The AllSeen Alliance, announced in December 2013, was formed with the goal to advance IoE adoption and innovation in the connected home, healthcare, education, aut...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...