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Ah, 2008: Lady Gaga debuts, Britney Spears makes her comeback, and individual transaction tracking is born. Yes, it was a great year.

There has been a lot of recent hype, most of it created by new application performance management vendors, around the importance of individual transaction tracking. I was a bit amused and did raise an eyebrow that anyone in 2012 would dare try claim "First off the block" for this feature … It's been around for at least four years, if I consider how long we have been capturing individual transactions within our APM, INETCO Insight.

"Blue" skepticism aside, it was enough to spark my curiosity about whether individual transaction tracking and capturing payload information from business transactions have made the "must have" lists of IT operations teams today.

The good news is that it has become much easier for IT ops to weave transaction monitoring into the fabric of the application environment and cope with changes. There are a couple of options to do this.

One option involves installing agents on every server, and hooking into the underlying operating system to monitor every process and TCP connection. You make sure the agent is integrated into your master OS image(s), so that when you provision a new server, the agent gets included. If your APM vendor updates their software, all you have to do is integrate and test the new collector, include it in each of your master OS images, and then push the new image to each of your servers.

I can't see this option seeming too sexy to an IT operations team that is constantly deploying new applications or moving servers within their distributed production environment.

Another option that is proven (yes, it has been around since 2008), and non-intrusive, involves monitoring network traffic accessed from core network switches (virtual or physical) and forwarded via SPAN ports to software that runs on a server of the IT operations team's choice. You can deploy new applications or move servers around, and your instrumentation remains. If you update your APM software, you can instantly take advantage of new functionality without touching your instrumentation.

It's great to see an interest in individual transaction tracking, and we hope to see it appear more often on IT monitoring requirement lists. It's something we've always believed that IT operations teams need in order to fully understand application performance problems and their impact on the business.

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Marc Borbas
Marc is vice president of marketing at INETCO Systems Limited, a leading expert in business transaction management software for the financial services and payments industry.
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