Production outages are never a good thing, but they are particularly painful when you're responsible for handling the cash accounts of Fortune 500 customers. Unfortunately for the Treasury Services Group at JPMorgan Chase, those outages were the norm back in 2003.
"We would get calls from clients because they couldn't send a wire, or transfer money between accounts," recalls Kurt Hansel, assistant vice president at JPMorgan Chase. "And it was going on a few times a week. That has a real financial impact on the bank."
The problem for Hansel was that every time the systems went down, it could take hours to get them running again, pulling key people off their jobs to hunt down the cause.
Quite often the cause was simple human error, harmless by itself. But with systems as complex as those of JPMorgan Chase, one keystroke error can affect hundreds of interdependent applications, shutting down an entire department.
Companies like JPMorgan Chase invest millions in system-overview software, such as CA's Unicenter, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView or IBM Corp.'s Tivoli. But what they don't spend a lot on, at least not yet, is software that maps dependencies at the application level.
In fact, that kind of software didn't even exist four years ago. "We needed something that could look at the applications, tell us what had changed, and alert us when a mistake had been made," Hansel says.
Two years ago, when Hansel put in place some application discovery mapping software, from Relicore Inc., the results were immediate. The company reduced its outages from a couple of times a week to less than once a quarter. The software puts an agent on each server in the network and maps out how each application is related.
"What happens in most companies is when they start a project, they have a pretty good idea of where the different pieces of software will be live and how they will be used," explains Jean-Pierre Garbani, a vice president at Forrester Research Inc. "The problem is, it is documented once, and then totally forgotten."
Though it is a new breed of software, the uptake among big companies with complex systems is expected to be rapid. In November of last year, IBM acquired Collation Inc., one of Relicore's competitors.
BMC Software Inc. and CA have also announced that they will include new application mapping software in their current products. Subsequently, Garbani expects that the number of large companies using dependency mapping software will balloon from just 24 in 2004, to more than 1,200 by 2007.