Payments Processors Optimize Use of System Resources

The explosive growth in card-not-present e-commerce transactions coupled with ever increasing card-present transactions has spurred tremendous business expansion while presenting new challenges for operations staff responsible for maintaining service levels at global payments processors. At the heart of each company’s operations are several mission critical, high availability systems, delivering the performance and industry-leading up-time required for these high-volume 24x7x365 customer facing operations. Critical to achieving response time goals is each company’s ability to rapidly identify and resolve any problems in its processing, networking and communications systems. Delivering and monitoring this high level of system wide performance take a variety of solutions as Sightline Systems discovered when recently working with two global payments processors that are responsible for handling billions of merchant transactions per year. One company was using an in-house tool to monitor system performance in real time, requiring several hours of IT staff time each day, while the other company used a product that provided ad-hoc reports on system performance. Each organization recognized the need for a comprehensive automated performance management solution that would provide point-and-click visibility into the end-to-end real-time performance of its payments processing systems.

Business Objectives:
Each company developed a similar set of objectives for effectively monitoring and managing system performance:

  • Automate the continuous collection of live performance data from multiple sources
  • Perform near real-time analyses of the data and present the results graphically
  • Make it easy for operations and management staff to explore the graphical results
  • Enable users to view analysis and correlation of selected data on demand • Maintain the high performance levels of the production system

The Solution:
Based on positive experiences with a trial installation, each company chose the Sightline™ software suite from Sightline Systems corporation. Sightline is a real-time performance and capacity management solution designed for complex “lights out” IT environments. The software continuously captures, stores and analyzes real-time performance and event data, producing actionable information to help detect and diagnose performance issues. Key features of the Sightline solution are its powerful data collection capabilities, robust analytic engine, and interactive user interface.

Specially designed data collection agents capture real-time performance data across the entire processing environment, including server systems, applications, networks, databases and other external sources. Data is aggregated, stored and sent to a dedicated server for analysis and display. Historical data is maintained in a centralized database, providing input for sophisticated trend analysis used to project future capacity needs.

Automated analysis tools apply application-specific “rules” to identify abnormal conditions that may impact service levels. Rule parameters are based on user-defined metrics and thresholds, and are configured after a discovery session with a Sightline engineer. Periods of abnormal activity are flagged and isolated, and user-defined alerts are issued. An industry-leading correlation engine compares interrelationships within the cross-tier data collected, offering insight into potential causes of performance problems.

The user-friendly Web interface presents a consolidated graphical view of multiple data sources. Authorized users can isolate specific periods of abnormal activity and drill down into the data, or initiate further analysis on demand. Customized reports and alerts are delivered through the Web-based interface, ensuring any time, anywhere access to critical performance information.

The Results:
Sightline’s ability to layer performance metrics helped IT staff at one company resolve a system problem that had been plaguing them for some time prior to the installation. By examining the impact of several metrics simultaneously, they were able to quickly trace the performance problem to a source code issue. complex mission-critical operations. Sightline’s real-time analysis and visualization capabilities enable both companies to pinpoint problems in minutes rather than days or weeks, freeing up IT staff to focus on other responsibilities. As a result, one company was able to expand the role of key members of IT staff previously dedicated to monitoring system performance.

Operations managers and executives at both companies use Sightline as a business analysis and planning tool. Easy access to Sightline’s graphical displays and customized reports enables them to track service levels and view performance metrics. whenever they want. After running a trend analysis using 18 months of historical data, one company projected a need for additional capacity to accommodate an upcoming busy shopping season. As a result, the company was able to proactively plan and budget for the additional capacity, while ensuring it could deliver superior service throughout the upcoming peak period.