Rolling Review: Symantec i3, ASD and Insight Inquire

i3 suite holds its own in our Rolling Review.

January 31, 2008

6 Min Read
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Symantec's i3 suite has the depth and breadth of features required for true end-to-end application performance management. The "i3" moniker refers to a trio of applications dubbed Inform, Insight and Indepth. Inform's Alert and Foresight components provide predictive analytics and early warning of performance problems. Insight is a dashboard view that displays current performance and system relationships. Indepth agents are to be installed on devices running J2EE, .NET, SAP, Oracle, SQL Server and Sybase applications. We also tested two additional components, the Application Service Dashboard and Inform Insight, that complement i3.

THE UPSHOT

CLAIM:

Symantec's i3 correlates activity across multiple technology tiers to pinpoint root causes of performance and availability problems. Using a variety of data collection and visualization components, i3 helps IT detect and correct application performance problems before the business is affected. CONTEXT: While Symantec is not often grouped with enterprise management big dogs like CA, HP, BMC and IBM, it has been quietly collecting an impressive set of products to manage infrastructure devices and applications. In addition to the i3 suite, the company can extend application management into its CMDB and portal offerings. CREDIBILITY: Symantec is on equal footing with the other enterprise software vendors that participated in this review—i3 is a robust, comprehensive management suite that will help most organizations detect application performance issues and prevent them from impacting the business. A little more work is needed to integrate all the suite's components and reduce confusion, but most organizations will find i3 compelling.

After surmounting some installation and configuration hurdles, we found the intelligence i3 puts toward problem solving quite impressive. Symantec uses dynamic instrumentation in the Web component, providing client-side data without a client-side software installation. Root-cause analysis, event filtering, and flexible reporting options were also very compelling in our testing.

If you just need a synthetic transaction tool, Inform Insight has the ability to record and test any Web-based application or Java transaction, and the studio for creating transactions is incredibly easy to use. We were disappointed, however, that Insight Inquire uses a separate database to store performance data, so that information is not directly available through i3.

The Application Service Dashboard, or ASD, serves as the window into i3's world. We found a wealth of flexibility and customization capabilities for integrating i3 components as well as external data sources into a dashboard, and multiple i3 installations can be observed from one ASD instance. ASD also has its own users and groups functionality so IT can regulate access to specific data sources or individual dashboard components.

Root of the ProblemIndepth provides drill-down capability to perform analysis from alert to root cause. Once a problem is detected, Inform/Alerts has significant customization capabilities for specifying which alerts should be e-mailed, and where. Additionally, we could customize the severity of alerts and the monitors that create them.

Inform/Alerts also contains SNMP trap forwarding integration, and we could set up log scraping to create SNMP traps for applications that don't support the protocol. Inform/Foresight can produce predictive analysis, but it also generates standard reports and enables customization. All reports are clearly laid out and can be generated for varied times, instances or groups.

After setup, our SQL Inform/Alerts instance showed critical alerts within minutes. These included databases not having been properly backed up and the SQL Server agent not running correctly. Within a few days, the Web alerts indicated critical warnings for large numbers of connections from a single IP, indicating a potential security threat.

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ASD is a highly customizable dashboard with the ability to integrate Symantec and non-Symantec data—organizations will want to add it. to get the true value across infrastructure components. It can generate reports from across technology groups that are segregated within i3, as well as view Insight Inquire data. Because it has its own user and group configurations, it can restrict access to datasets and individual dashboard portlets without users having access to i3.

Symantec's was one of the most cost-effective entries from the larger enterprise vendors in this Rolling Review. Pricing for i3 is based on management station CPUs, not on the number of end-device technologies that are managed, so our price as tested was only $17,200. Price per CPU, per managed technology is about $2,000. For example, i3 for SQL Server is $2,100/CPU. This allows organizations to get their feet wet with Symantec without buying an expensive central management station as a minimum investment. ASD is free with any i3 bundle and Portlet Packs will run about 1,000 per user per pack.

Information Week's Rolling Reviews present a comprehensive look at a hot technology category, beginning with market analysis and wrapping up with a synopsis of our findings. See our kickoff and other reviews:

Application Performance Management .

What More Could We Ask for?

No auto-discovery or remote monitoring capabilities are available, which could make installation challenging for organizations that don't have a handle on their systems inventory or are not using a CMDB. For any i3 monitoring to take place, the i3 listener agent must be installed on target servers, and agents are necessary to observe system or network activity.

Moreover, to access any Inform, Insight or Indepth data users must first select the technology category, such as J2EE or SQL. Within i3 there is no way to see alerts from two different technologies, and in order to get reports from across technologies one must use a specific area of Inform/Alerts to generate the SQL for a report like the one desired then manually change that SQL to query for all the technologies desired and run it to have the results export into a spreadsheet or other format. This was cumbersome without the use of the ASD.

ROLLING REVIEW DETAILS:

FEATURED PRODUCT: Symantec i3, Application Service Dashboard (ASD) and Insight Inquire. Symantec's was one of the most cost-effective solutions from the larger enterprise vendors. Pricing for i3 is based on the CPUs on the management station, not on the number of end-device technologies that are managed. So our price as tested was only $17,200. Price per CPU, per managed technology is about $2,000. For example i3 for SQL Server is $2100/CPU. This allows organizations to get their feet wet with Symantec without buying an expensive central management station as a minimum investment. ASD is free with any i3 bundle and Portlet Packs will run about 1,000 per user per pack.ABOUT THIS ROLLING REVIEW: Application performance management products are being tested at our Real-World Labs at Windward Consulting Group. We're assessing the breadth of support for existing applications, how well the product detects and reports on performance problems, how well the architecture supports distributed application performance monitoring, and whether the software supports a tiered architecture with native high-availability and failover capabilities. We'll also explore how well the offering detects the true performance issue and how seamlessly it integrates with the surrounding environment.ALREADY TESTED:Indicative, NetIQ, NetQoS, Compuware, Nimsoft, Quest, BMC ProactiveNet See all the APM Rolling Reviews here.NEXT UP: Wrap-up OTHER VENDORS INVITED:CA/Wily, HP/Mercury, EMC/SMARTS, IBM, Infovista, NetScout, Oracle

Michael Biddick is with Windward, a firm that helps organizations improve it operational efficiency. Michael is also contributing editor for Network Computing/Information Week. Write to him at [email protected].

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