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Insurance company simplifies testing with APM

SafeAuto Insurance Company implemented Application Performance Management (APM) to catch bugs and speed up performance in its SOA.

When SafeAuto Insurance Company began to move the focus of its car insurance quoting process from a call center model to a SOA-based Web application, it faced challenges in getting application performance up to its standards. The company soon found that any slowness in its servers and client applications had a direct impact on business revenue. To keep the system running smoothly, SafeAuto implemented an application performance management (APM) system that monitors performance all the way from client to server.

It is tougher to diagnose general slow-downs than major production issues, said Jeff Fields, CIO at SafeAuto. "When you just have slow-downs in the environment, those are like chasing your tail sometimes," said Fields. "They don't happen all the time, they're never on a schedule and it could just be the environment at the time."

SafeAuto runs a service-oriented architecture with mostly .NET and C#, and IBM DB2 in the datacenter. Some newer systems have been written in Java and use WebSphere application servers. Fields said the application infrastructure runs about 25 different Web services at the moment. For about three years, the company has been building out its e-commerce system.

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Starting around two years ago, the company's IT shop adopted Gomez adVantage from Compuware Corp. to handle APM. This offering combines Software as a Service Gomez, which looks at performance from a client perspective, and Vantage, APM software that runs inside the datacenter. Before implementing these tools, SafeAuto did not have a lot of capabilities for monitoring performance from end users on through its call center applications, Fields said. Over the past two years, he said IT's approach to QA and testing has become much more efficient.

"Before we'd have to set up logging tools and maybe even go in and change the application to capture more information," said Fields. "Now we have tools that sit across all that, where we can actually drill down in some cases and look at the code to see what SQL is being called or what the issue is. So where we're saving money is in time spent trying to diagnose and in not entering a bug into production."

Gomez looks at a Web application's performance as it affects the end user. It gathers metrics from datacenters around the world as well as a peer network of actual personal computers and devices, the owners of which Compuware pays for system resources. There are around 100,000 such peers, said Mark Burns, Compuware's director of product management for Vantage-Gomez solutions.

"We see the trend continue that applications are becoming more and more a mashup of sorts, leveraging various components on the Web and assembling them on the browser," said Burns. "Browser performance and speed is becoming more and more critical as we begin to assemble all these different components in the browser."

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