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Financial services typically depend on IT environments where handling high transaction volumes and complexity is the norm. Banking and brokerage are transaction intensive and information driven. These financial services must also be customer service oriented at the same time.

Without application performance monitoring, it is impossible to deliver consistent service levels. The array of applications within the IT infrastructure is just too complex. Anywhere from 500 to 10,000 different applications and hardware structures may be involved. All it takes is one application to fail, cascade to its dependents and the provision of financial services may be catastrophically impacted. Without the benefits application performance monitoring provides, financial service productivity can grind to a halt. Meanwhile, expenses can escalate while IT personnel are trying to locate the issue.  Furthermore, these problems can consume all IT talent, thus making it very difficult to implement new services and grow the business.

Application Performance Monitoring – Removing the Mystery of IT

The sheer complexity of financial IT environments makes them an unfathomable mystery without application performance monitoring. Install the right application performance monitoring solution and the most complex IT environment becomes transparent.

Real-time, multi-tiered visibility is a vital component for financial IT management. The ability to see exactly where every message and transaction has come from and where it has gone guarantees there are no blind spots. Whenever the information is needed, a dynamic, role-based dashboard provides a detailed path for each separate transaction. Application performance issues can be traced to their exact cause–a logic error that caused unexpected results, for example.

Application Performance Monitoring – Embracing Rather than Replacing

Changing the structure of an IT environment is costly. The ability to integrate legacy applications and migrate them service by service to hybrid cloud-based infrastructures can save a financial service firm considerable money. The right application performance monitoring solution should have the ability to work with existing monitoring tools for the networking infrastructures, web servers, application servers, middleware, databases and mainframes already in use and in effect, improve the IQ of these existing investments.  In this way the data these tools provide will be correlated with the data from the application performance monitoring tool and consumed by a complex event processing engine to predict and prevent failures.

Service oriented architecture (SOA) and cloud servers can offer real advantages to financial services as long as visibility is maintained. Of special concern in the financial industry is the middle office. It is the hub of efficient transaction performance after the trade. When applications are monitored for performance in the middleware layer, it can prevent mistakes in reconciliation and assure compliance with regulatory agencies. Failure in both these areas can cost thousands of dollars or more, while consistently successful transactions can save thousands or more a day.

Application Performance Monitoring – Managing Business Transactions from One Place

Some financial IT environments are still being monitored by separate applications designed to track the behavior of the specific components. Each application has its own dashboard and provides the specific information the application was designed to provide. This means that a networking infrastructure may appear to behaving correctly and a database may appear to be performing its functions as expected, but the two may be interacting abnormally.

This type of situation is very dangerous for a financial institution. Not only can it lead to stealth waste through increased IT labor costs, it can lead to mission critical breakdowns, and delay the mean-time-to-know (MTTK) when there is an application problem.

Application Performance Monitoring – Choosing Vital Features

Financial IT managers should look for the following features in an application performance monitoring solution:

Monitoring tools that can utilize the existing tooling for instrumentation across web servers, application servers, middleware, databases, mainframes, service oriented architecture (SOA) and cloud-based applications that comprise the financial IT enterprise and from that provide an actionable, deep-dive analysis.
Complex Event Processing (CEP) engine with the ability to analyze, interpret, predict and prevent problems from the patterns identified in the collected information.
Business rules that are invoked automatically by CEP when a reoccurring situation arises (in order to prevent its impact)
Automatic alerts delivery when a business abnormal condition between applications occurs.
Automatic problem resolution using intuitive event correlation data (via complex event processing).
One dynamic dashboard from which to interpret information from the entire IT enterprise.

Application performance monitoring benefits the financial industry in multiple ways.  It demystifies the complex IT environment so transactions can be identified from end-to-end. It reduces the costs of incorporating new IT structures into the existing IT enterprise. And it eliminates the often inaccurate information generated by parallel monitoring solutions by creating a communication bridge between them.

Dale Corbett is a new member of the Writing as a Ghost team. He writes on technology solutions the empower business managers to provide better customer service.

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