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Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt
I’ve always been a believer in the importance of end-user experience monitoring but, in a practical sense, the devil is often in the detail. Modern tools generally don’t have unacceptable overheads but they are sometimes vendor-specific and much more oriented to the needs of the IT group rather than those of the business users who mostly have to pay for business automation initiatives.
I’ve just looked at a German tool, from Servicetrace, a privately-owned German company, which seems like it should be more widely known, partly because it seems to exemplify what this sort of tool should do.
It claims to be a universal end-user experience service monitoring (or application performance management) tool, used to optimise application availability and monitor SLA achievement, which can be used in conjunction with many other tools. The tool, called ServiceTrace, simulates user behaviour, so that the experience of a typical ‘benchmark’ user can be monitored over the working day; another tool such as Compuware DynaTrace (now part of Compuware APM, its Application Performance Management tool suite) can be used to supply rich analytics in conjunction with ServiceTrace, for example. I like this approach; quite apart from the fact that a single tool is unlikely to do everything equally well, many companies will have a significant investment in existing tools and won’t want to be forced into replacing them. I also like the idea that it is usually sold into the business with some sort of workflow, not just sold to IT as a bare tool (perhaps this goes some way towards explaining why it can claim to have only ever lost a couple of customers in its life so far).
A key aspect of ServiceTrace is that it does more than just simulate users at a technical level; it also manages the workflows needed to set-up realistic monitoring (and this facility is designed to be easy enough for business users to use) and has its own management-level dashboards.
It also has some neat technologies: a patented Schematic Image Recognition feature, which works by looking for patterns on user displays, and which ignores minor variations in resolution, colour, etc., for example; and a strong security story. It runs as a hidden Windows service, so it shouldn’t provide an easy way to compromise the system being monitored; and it should be able to monitor different things in parallel.
Servicetrace targets the top 500 companies in a country but it also offers a ‘monitoring as a service’ (MaaS) hosted option, so a company can start small and grow into ServiceTrace, without the barrier of having to justify an initial Capex investment. This is increasingly important, I think, even if most companies will want the option of an on-premises solution (although I wouldn’t be very surprised if it was never taken up).
ServiceTrace is worth a look, I think, if you are interested in end-user experience monitoring (and, if you aren’t, then you probably should be).