Confio Software has just announced its support for Sybase ASE to add to its existing support for the Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server databases and various J2EE environments. However, although it has a few UK-based and European customers (the company has a UK partner) Confio is not particularly well-known outside of the United States. So, I had better tell you what they do.
Confio, through its Igniter Suite, provides database performance monitoring and root cause analysis. Where it is different from most other suppliers in this market is that it focuses on monitoring "wait times". When a SQL statement is sent to a database for processing it goes through a number (often many hundreds) of steps, each of which takes a finite amount of time. What Confio does is to monitor each of these steps so that it can identify any bottlenecks and pinpoint whether any particular bottleneck is the result of poorly written code or because of a database problem.
In order to minimise any negative impact on performance from the process of monitoring, Confio uses an agentless architecture that imposes an overhead of less than 1%. The software monitors memory and details are pulled back to the Confio server every second (together with additional contextual detail every 10 seconds). The number crunching then takes place on the server and all relevant information is presented to the DBA via a single screen (rather than the multiple screens you tend to get with database vendor utilities). The company has experimented with other polling rates but not found any significant increase in accuracy from polling the data more frequently.
Of course, database performance is not the only potential bottleneck in application performance but research suggests that it accounts for between 70 and 80% of application delays and therefore it makes sense to consider the use of a specialised database performance tool to be used in conjunction with more general purpose tools such as HP OpenView or even other database management tools such as those provided by Embarcadero.
The big difference between Confio and nearly all of its competitors is this focus on wait times rather than just counting operations, which is what other products tend to do. And once you realise that, it is not hard to understand why Confio can offer significant advantages: users are, after all, interested in how long it takes for information to come back to them. To give a concrete example, one of Confio's customers was previously using not just Oracle utilities but also database monitoring tools from two other vendors—when it encountered a performance problem for which it could not find the root cause (it needed to close its monthly books in 3 days but was actually taking 9). It determined on a new hardware investment at a cost of $740,000—however, before committing to this it downloaded and installed (a process that takes 30 minutes) Confio's software. As a result the bottleneck was discovered within 24 hours and fixed shortly thereafter. With Confio's charge at $14,000 that's a pretty hefty, and fast, ROI.
As far as I know there is only one other product on the market that uses this same wait time approach as Confio and this is Symantec i3 (previously Veritas i3 and before that Precise). However, the big difference between the Igniter Suite and Symantec i3 is that, in a mixed database environment, with Confio there is a single installation whereas there are separate versions of i3 for each database, each of which has to be licensed and installed separately.
In my view, a focus on wait times is significantly superior to counting operations. Given that, if you are serious about database performance monitoring then you have only two products to look at: those of Confio and Symantec. And in a mixed environment, which is, after all, most common, most people are going to prefer a single product with a single install, and that is what Confio offers.