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|by Troy Bebee, Ecetera Technical Director|
Lessons learned from the Click Frenzy e-fail?
The anticipation and hype around yesterday’s inaugural ClickFrenzy e-sale, was audatious for its claims and incredible in failure. A flow on effect of the generated traffic meant that many retailers were either down or very slow for the first few hours of the sale – collectively missing out on thousands even millions of dollars worth of revenue. For ClickFrenzy and retailers this was a failure however for Australian IT as a whole it was an embarrassment. Most importantly the online and mobile customer experience was appalling. For some retailers this may have been a test of what is to come, with the Christmas period just starting and the Boxing Day sales just around the corner. There are many questions now being asked of retailer IT departments – what now? And how do we stop this happening next time? The good news is that there were some organisations that participated in ClickFrenzy that made it through unscathed; Target for example remained open and responsive throughout the entire event and they can have confidence going into the next sale. Their success should give other online retailers the assurance that a stable and responsive website is a possibility under extreme load. There are a number of steps that can be undertaken prior to these events that can ensure your site does not fall over under stress and your customers have the best possible experience purchasing from you: 1. Measure with certainty the application’s performance and capacity of your service 2. Optimise your infrastructure and applications for responsiveness and scalability 3. Engage professionals in the area of Application Performance Management At Ecetera we are the authority and have been working with large online clients in Australia for many years, bringing performance to mission critical websites and infrastructure. We have a reputation and trust from our customers for delivering the right and most appropriate solution. For more information about how Ecetera can assist you in getting ready for the next big sale – please contact us.
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|Ecetera has teamed up with Strangeloop to help Australian companies double the speed of their web applications. As lack of high-speed internet threatens e-commerce, innovative technology allows site owners to fight back.|
Under the partnership, Ecetera will offer both the Strangeloop Site Optimizer and the Strangeloop Mobile Optimizer to its customer base. These solutions utilise front-end optimisation technology to accelerate web pages and enterprise web applications on both desktop and mobile devices.
Web performance has become a hotbed political issue in Australia, as bandwidth limitations have resulted in internet access becoming slower and more expensive relative to other developed nations. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that Australia ranked 25th worldwide for use of fibre to the home or building as the preferred method of broadband. The resulting slowness has been linked to Australians’ slow adoption of online commerce. According to the report, Australian companies generated just 5% of their annual revenue from electronic commerce in 2011, compared with 25% or more in other developed nations.
"This is an opportune time to bring the benefits of Strangeloop's acceleration technology to our customers," said Ecetera CEO Peter Brown. "Slow load times hurt every business metric, from customer retention to revenue. We may not be able to fix our country's bandwidth limitations, but with Strangeloop, we can make our customers' sites faster and more responsive."
Strangeloop’s acceleration products optimise HTML to speed up application rendering, using practices such as rewriting object names, re-ordering when/how objects are rendered, and re-ordering when scripts are executed. The result is applications that load up to twice as fast for both desktop and mobile users.
To learn more about Strangeloop, please join us for a webinar/demonstration of the technology on November 21st at 10:30AM. Register here.
For more information on Strangeloop, please visit the Strangeloop website.
By Ajith Thampi, Ecetera ALM technician
ALM is a service that falls in the application development space. As such, it involves working with your technical teams – the developers, project managers and other engineers who all work at that critical stage where your application is being created – long before a working version is made customer facing.
With this in mind the tools I’m personally interested in are those that help manage issues commonly dominating the production environment – issues surrounding project management and development planning, for example.
But when we’re focusing on ALM it’s not just the production environment we need to be thinking about. The pre-production environment is just as critical and it needs to be managed and monitored in a particularly distinctive way because this environment is accessed and controlled by the engineering team and is often in a state of constant change. Changes resulting from issues that leak into the pre-production environment could destabilize the controlled production environment. And the implications of that can get very messy.
So it’s worth taking a close look at that pre-production environment and making sure you get your ALM strategy correct from the very beginning of your application’s development.
A different type of monitoring
Hopefully everybody monitors their production environment. But there’s a different kind of monitoring required when we’re looking at the pre-production space – and that is the monitoring of activities or tasks related to putting an application into production or service.
In that sense, effective ALM is about anticipating the bottlenecks and performance capabilities of the development environment and managing the activities surrounding the software development lifecycle. What you’re aiming to do is push those activities into the production environment quickly, efficiently and robustly.
And inevitably that involves automation – automating the right data to the right people so your organisation can act quickly and create a highly productive development environment. Equally, it’s about creating a collaborative, high performance working culture between the engineering teams and management within your organisation.
Getting back to the source
So let’s go back to the beginning. ALM is particularly active in the pre-production environment and runs throughout the whole production cycle. The process we’re talking about can be more rightfully called the SDLC (software development lifecycle) because it takes the application through design, development and testing and other sets of iterative activities. It’s at this birthplace of your application’s development that good processes and environments should be put in place.
So who is working for you at the early development stage? Usually it’s a team. A set of dedicated, sincere human beings working towards a common goal – at least, we hope so. Let’s examine this team closely. Do they have a workable environment? What are you providing so that they can work at optimum efficiency?
Perhaps I have a vested interest in saying this, but when you focus on the requirements of your service developers – providing them with the learning environment and tools they need, you get the best out of them – it’s as simple as that.
So what does focusing on their requirements actually mean? And why are so many organisations getting it wrong?
Firstly, a collaborative environment is instrumental in ensuring your engineers gain a sense of ownership, freedom and growth. In my opinion, this is what is missing today in most organisations – leadership loses focus on how to improve the working environment of its development resources.
Commonly, a lack of team collaboration is the result of a distributed team setup where one is in, say India and the other in Australia. It is often exacerbated by project specific training where you build singular experts in different tools.
Equally, organisations often treat each project under a different governance model whereby information may not be shared openly. There can be a restrictive air surrounding this information because of the creation of a separate team and management structure; or the use of tools familiar to that team but not to others, or because the team or knowledge is the result of a legacy process that has been handed over from previous iterations of the project.
When non-collaborative teams play an independent role within an organisation everybody loses. There is no sharing of information, no information re-use and it quickly becomes about re-inventing the wheel again and again. For many organisations with disjointed teams and distributed resources; it is unlikely that development teams are even aware of the resources and capabilities at their disposal – they work within their bubble.
Teams and tools – getting it right
For development teams to work at optimum efficiency they need the right tools. Procuring tools that don't integrate is a regular problem, as is a general ignorance about ‘right tools’ because regardless of the cost, the right tools for the job will always add benefit.
But it’s not just about having the right tools. It’s about having the vision and expertise to consolidate and integrate software assets into a single platform so that you achieve high performance for every application development throughout your organisation.
Great – so how do you achieve that?
See it in action
A team usually works on specific technologies - say Java for example. As part of a development process a certain set of artefacts is generated. These could include design documents, project plans, resource allocation plans, code control, code integration, testing and release.
You obviously need tools to do these activities and more often they are disparate tools from different vendors. Disparate tools might allow a limited integration where you could have a version control system to control code and documents, a project management tool to define tasks, and so on. But associating these artefacts across projects can be tricky, and creating ‘experts’ in singular disciplines or projects does little to breed collaboration or knowledge sharing – as we’ve discussed above.
This is where Integrated Tooling comes into its own. A version control code is associated to a project plan and in turn associated to a specific document. There is bi-level association generated between every tool in your application development – your tools start working as a team.
Integrated Tooling – the Holy Grail of ALM
In actual fact integrated tooling is the main component of ALM. That’s because ALM itself is about defining a platform to connect to any vendor application and creating a communication portal around it.
To explain this better in terms of application development, I’ll show you an example using just one each of the many available tools.
A project typically requires.
In a regular cycle of application development, all source code is pushed into a source control tool such as Subversion. Developers make changes and put those changes into Subversion for code control. This code is the source of the application and every change will have a plan or task associated to it.
To manage what sets of changes go into Subversion for any particular project, we need to assign tasks in a task management tool such as Bugzilla. Once all changes are in Subversion, developers need to generate a binary or running application, which is done via a build management tool such as Jenkins.
It’s all about building code and managing it and in this particular context, the true benefit of ALM is in the seamless interaction or even communication of these processes. When we can create a communication channel across these three tools we can track changes from the source control tool to the task management tools and to the build management tool. Equally, a user can access all of this information in one go rather search for them separately
Now, let’s assume we need to add a test cycle to all of this - and that this will be provided by a third party vendor – HP, for example.
An ALM solution will support the integration of this testing tool into the existing mix of tools and also create a communication channel there. This is automation in action – tools working together, building lines of communication and making sure your engineers have the technology to do their jobs well.
A final word
ALM is a platform that allows the integration of various tools regardless of their vendor status. Naturally there are conditions for this integration and expertise is required – and that’s where ALM specialists like Ecetera can add genuine value in providing a consultative role to organisation so you can achieve a scalable integrated solution.
Equally, before embarking on a successful ALM strategy you need to understand where your organization currently stands. As such it’s a good idea to invest in a formal assessment of your development processes and practices from all angles. That might include analysing your repository architecture, development processes, code branching and merging methodologies, continuous integration strategies, additional IP practices and platform optimisation.
My next blog will take you down the formal assessment path and explore the key benefits you should aim for with ALM – namely Centralization, Asset Re-use, Visibility, Automation, and deployment through Cloud. If you can’t wait that long, feel free to contact independent ALM specialists Ecetera for a complimentary ALM consultation.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Marius Brecher, Managing Consultant
I. Introduction: About Ecetera
Ecetera is a services and technology provider. We help organisations to improve the performance and availability of their mission critical web applications.
Each company has its own specific way of doing business and this quickly becomes an integral signature for their success. We are proud of doing things differently. We care about the organisations seeking our assistance and will guide and help them to achieve the same best practice results when they’re working on their own, well into the future.
Since 2004, Ecetera has evolved to become one of Australia’s leading services and technology providers in the field of performance engineering and testing. We help organisations to build, test and genuinely understand their fast, reliable and ever-changing technology.
We promote innovative and new technologies to suit the needs of each individual customer and we start with an in-depth process of research, testing and due diligence. Through this method, our customers receive the best-of-breed without the risk.
Ecetera's unparalleled expertise comes from years of experience in solving business critical application problems. With a portfolio of proven technologies and an expert Professional Services team; we enable the most complex enterprise applications to meet the highest levels of performance.
From application monitoring through to testing lifecycle management, our Professional Services team can help maximise the performance of your enterprise applications.
II. How is Ecetera Different?
Ecetera adds value. We achieve this by following some basic guidelines; ensuring we always stay one step ahead of our competitors and intrinsically different to the way other services and technology providers operate.
a) Ecetera strive to offer a broad selection of innovative technologies and we make sure
our customers are always equipped with the most suitable tools for their needs, without compromising on quality and specific requirements. Just as important, we ensure our customers have the information they need to make the best decisions. Ecetera will alway promote free basic tool functionalities and configurations where appropriate, empower in our customer to make their own decisions should further configurations be needed.
b) Ecetera will never compromise on quality. We are proud of the people we have on board. Our resources are experienced and well trained for the projects they are assigned to. Our customers will be informed from the start about the specific specialties our assigned resources posses and the value they can add to their requirements. Likewise, Ecetera will never assign unqualified resources to a customer just to feel a gap; if we feel we don’t add any value to our customers, we won’t assign resources.
c) Ecetera is proud of its open culture. Our teams will integrate with the teams of our customers’, making sure they don’t create a ‘team within a team’ environment. We believe that an open customer relationship leads to honest communication and better results.
d) Ecetera will go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. We will educate, make recommendations and discuss potential risks that may impact our deliverables or customer’s satisfaction - even when these are not part of the immediate requirements.
e) Ecetera evolves to suit our customers’ needs. We listen to our customers’ issues; identifying grey areas in the market so we can further develop our offerings and provide better services.
III. Performance Terminology and Methodology
Over the past few years, Ecetera has observed how Performance testing and engineering terminology is so loosely used in the marketplace.
Using the wrong terminology and not understanding the exact nature of the resource expertise required will impact your project planning, resources management, deliverables and overall project costs.
Performance engineering consulting is a process by which a service provider achieves the strategic outcome of optimising system performance, in support of the client’s business requirements.
Performance testing is a subset of performance engineering. It’s an emerging computer science practice that strives to build performance into the design and architecture of a system, often prior to the start of the actual coding effort.
The terminology around performance testers, consultants and engineers has been used for a long time to describe the resources level of experience or seniority; when in fact it should have been representing the technical ability and specialised area of expertise of the individual resource.
Ecetera adds value to its customers not only by recommending to the customer the exact resources needed; but also by understanding that an excellent performance tester must share some of the knowledge and activities of a performance consultant; and the performance consultant must share some of the knowledge and activities of the performance engineer.
As such, Ecetera will provide accomplished performance testers that are able to identify the bottlenecks - whether through infrastructure, application code or JVM behaviour - and resolve those issues. An example might be that a good performance tester should be able to use tools such as AppDynamics or Introscope to identify time spent within an application under loaded conditions.
Ecetera’s customers will not get numerous resources capable of doing just one specific task, but fewer resources with multiple performance testing and engineering expertise and capabilities.
The following three roles within the performance-consulting arena will need to be identified and understood before resource allocation takes place.
The following are some of the required roles and responsibilities.
1. Performance Tester:
a) Design the Application Simulation Model (ASM).
b) Build the automation suite and artefacts.
c) Execute test and tuning cycles.
d) Analyse results to compare with requirements.
e) Daily test results reporting to stakeholders.
f) Data creation.
g) Utility scripts maintenance.
h) Perform knowledge transfer activities and documentation.
2. Performance Consultant:
a) Develop performance standards and best practice processes.
b) Establish data creation and management processes.
c) Identify business requirements.
d) Investigate necessary test scoping information.
e) Design the performance test strategy and plan.
f) Establish monitoring and metric gathering solutions.
g) Maintain communication with various stakeholders.
h) Establish training and knowledge transfer procedures.
3. Performance Engineer:
a) Exposure to development and infrastructure components.
b) Code reviews and application profiling.
c) Environment configurations, tuning and supplying remediation activities to performance issues.
d) Performance related activities to identify bottlenecks and resources utilisation related issues.
e) Establish test driven development processes and recommendations.
f) Performance enhancement and performance monitoring tools recommendations, to specifically match customer’s needs.
g) Application Life Cycle Management (ALM).
h) Application Performance Management (APM).
i) User Experience Monitoring
Ecetera will continue to educate and inform our customers about the accurate terminology of the evolving fields of performance engineering, performance testing and performance consulting.
We will ensure our customers are aware of the different types of performance testing available; the multiple skill sets required and the different types of performance testing approaches.
Ecetera believes that the more knowledgeable our customers become in the performance engineering area, the more value we can provide them.
By Ben Bramley, Managing Consultant
How changing the culture of your organisation can have a significant impact on achieving consistently high web application performance.
It’s no real surprise that Australian business is changing. Ease of deployment has created new and richly interactive environments for our consumers, whilst highly integrated web applications now underpin the foundations of most of our leading enterprises. As such, Application Performance Management is fast becoming the Holy Grail, with Australian companies striving to minimise the impact of application and performance issues.
Because without a doubt; ubiquitous web coverage also leaves organisations vulnerable. Revenue-generating web applications strongly influence our customer’s experience and must be fast, reliable and highly responsive. Equally, most consumer facing applications are fiercely competitive and prone to instant and extensive viral criticism. If your performance issues aren’t fixed immediately, the social media backlash can be surprisingly harsh.
Likewise, when your entire business process is underpinned with cross platform, integrated applications, issues need to be isolated and diagnosed with almost outer world speed if they’re not to cause significant problems throughout multiple departments.
In this sense, the very definition of ‘Mission Critical’ is expanding, as systems become ever more integrated and essential to business function and process. At the same time, expectations are becoming increasingly harder to meet as both consumers and products mature – research now shows almost imperceptible changes in response times can trigger significant effects on user behaviour.
In this dynamic environment your organisation needs to be much more than performance aware. It needs to create its own culture of optimisation and be supported internally with specialist knowledge and best practice. Equally, in an industry that simply won’t stand still, you need a reliable conduit to conduct independent research, highly specific expertise, and insight into the scope and limitations of new technologies. It’s worth noting that the APM market has grown as quickly as the web based applications themselves; creating a complex minefield of solutions, technologies and vendors.
For many organisations, the most cost effective way of cutting through the solutions minefield is to bring in an independent optimisation specialist who can identify and diagnose application issues and recommend an ideal solution. One of the key reasons Australian-based performance optimisation specialists Ecetera have gained significant market share over the past few years is that they offer agnostic performance testing. They diagnose, monitor and test the applications using the diagnostic tools they believe are best of breed and meet your specific issues or application environment. In this way companies access the entire solutions market through a team of independent industry specialists.
Creating a performance culture
The specialist consultant approach works and can be as long term as required. But many companies are complementing their application performance strategy by engaging consultants to bring that expertise in house to develop their own optimisation capabilities.
Optimisation specialists like Ecetera will now help your teams develop core competencies in diagnostic methodologies, provide technical coaching in diagnostic tools and actively demonstrate how issues can impact the end user experience. Often, it’s a case of demonstrating how technical blips ‘behave in real life’ so your staff can genuinely understand what creates the trigger. It’s not just about implementing new technologies and making sure you have the best diagnostic tools at your disposal (though consultants provide valuable insight into the tools and deployments of the crowded APM market) but also creating best practices that run throughout your departments, ensuring all staff remain committed and focused on the customer experience.
A formal extension of this service is the Ecetera Performance Academy. The Academy was recently launched to provide in-depth training on Application Performance Engineering and teaches optimisation methodologies, practices and diagnostic tools. Equally they provide in-depth analysis on industry-based techniques and deployments.
Courses are also regularly tailored for different levels of requirements and range from the basic fundamentals of performance engineering through to highly specific application classes (such as a one day crash course in Subversion integration) when your team needs a jumpstart in a highly specialised discipline.
Engaging a team of independent optimisation experts will make sure your critical web applications are consistently fast and reliable. Leveraging that expertise to build up your internal capabilities strengthens that position further. As web based applications and the markets supporting them continue to grow in scope and complexity; industry knowledge, coupled with real world insight and the ability to make informed technical decisions will become ever more critical. It will pay to access the expertise that’s out there.