From time to time, I like to speak with someone who actually is using a vendor's technology. This gives me a much better idea of the quality, performance and usability of that vendor's products. This time, I had the opportunity to communicate with Dan Gerad, Divisional Vice President for Technical and Web Services at the Bon-Ton. Thanks, Dan, for taking the time to give me this information!"
Please introduce yourself and your organization.
The Bon-Ton, a Pennsylvania corporation, was founded in 1898 and is one of the largest regional department store operators in the United States, offering a broad assortment of brand-name fashion apparel and accessories for women, men and children as well as cosmetics, home furnishings and other goods. We currently operate 275 stores in small, mid-size and metropolitan markets in 23 Northeastern, Midwestern and upper Great Plains states under the Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers nameplates and, in the Detroit, Michigan area, under the Parisian nameplate, encompassing a total of approximately 26 million square feet.
I'm Dan Gerard. I have over 30 years' experience in programming, capacity planning, design, and architecture. I began as a mainframe systems programmer, back in the days when Big Iron ruled the world.
Since then I've done technical work on every leading operating system and with over a dozen programming languages, for companies ranging from Credit Suisse and Rite Aid to IBM. In 2010, I led the technology team that implemented the new WebSphere Commerce platform for the Bon-Ton. As the Divisional Vice President for Technical & Web Services at the Bon-Ton, I currently provide architectural support and guidance for the company’s application development including areas such as multichannel, social, mobile, and customer loyalty programs.
What were you doing that needed this type of technology?
The Bon-Ton decided in early 2010 to in-source our e-Commerce web presence. We realized early on that we would need a highly functional APM tool to enable us to properly plan for capacity and performance of the site.
What products did you consider before making a selection?
We looked at multiple products from several vendors, including CA, IBM, HP and others.
Why did you select this product?
dynaTrace proved to us to be easier to install, less maintenance-intensive, and provide deeper insight into the operation of WebSphere Commerce than any of the tools we looked at.
What tangible benefits have you received through the use of this product?
Many. Our biggest win was just after go-live but before our first Black Friday event. We discovered a performance issue with WebSphere Commerce. The ability of dynaTrace to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem (thousands of SQL queries being generated when there should have only been a few) and show the problem clearly to IBM support saved us many days of problem determination. This was extremely valuable at the time as we were on the critical path to our busiest sale day of the year. We use the dashboarding and alerting capabilities of dynaTrace to find site performance issues in real time, and to monitor our internal and external services.
What advice would you offer others facing similar circumstances?
Perform proof of concept tests to evaluate the various products. Consider the factors of ease of use and maintainability, the deep dive capability of the products, and the dashboarding and alerting capabilities.