Mercury to root out e-business problems

Testing software gets a new module to find the root cause of customer problems on Web sites
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor

Mercury Interactive is to launch a product which automatically diagnoses problems with e-commerce systems. Topaz AutoRCA (Automatic Root Cause Analysis), which will be launched on Monday, is a module for the existing Topaz application monitoring product, whose customers include financial information provider Standard & Poor's.

Unlike root cause services from system management companies such as Tivoli and BMC, the Mercury offering diagnoses problems in the user experience of the site, rather than problems apparent in the server, according to European product marketing manager Andy Crosby. "Other products measure the speed of response, but not whether the page returned is the right one, or whether other requests were lost," he said. "You shouldn't start diagnostics from the server."

Competing analysis products have a major claim to being better than TopazRCA, because they automate the whole process, diagnosing the problem and suggesting fixes. Topaz AutoRCA merely suggests a top five list of possible causes, but Crosby points out that this could be a better service, since the Mercury product includes monitoring of actual user transactions, and diagnostics are not reliable yet.

Before launch the module was tested by some Mercury customers, and when available it will cost £11,000 in the UK, compared with a typical £20,000 for a Topaz installation. It is likely to sell first to existing Topaz users who are currently spending hours on analysis of problems, or whose applications lose large amounts of money per minute of downtime, said Crosby.

"During testing, one major UK building society used AutoRCA to find a problem, in a few minutes, that took the incumbent enterprise system 14 hours to find," said Crosby. "The system -- an inter-bank business-to-business application -- was losing £100,000 an hour, so the company saved £1.4m."

Another benefit for existing Topaz users is the fact that AutoRCA works on historic data as well as live data, according to Crosby. Where the product picks up recurring problems with a service provider, some users may find it pays for itself in the money it allows them to claw back through service level agreements.

Mercury started life in 1989 with products that test enterprise applications and claims to have a 65 percent market share for its Load Runner load testing tool; after the Y2K panic raised the profile of testing to the board room, it moved to monitoring the performance of Web services.

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