Interactive Data Pricing and Reference Data, a division of Interactive Data Corp., uses Vityl Capacity Management to monitor system performance across the enterprise, to generate Web-based performance reports, and to be certain that systems will provide adequate capacity in the future. In short, it uses Vityl Capacity Management software to ensure its many customers always have excellent performance for their hosted financial applications.
Interactive Data Pricing and Reference Data provides global securities pricing, evaluations and reference data designed to support financial institutions’ and investment funds’ pricing activities, securities operations, research, and portfolio management.
The company collects, edits, maintains, and delivers data on more than 6 million securities, including daily evaluations for approximately 2.5 million fixed income and international equity issues. Interactive Data Pricing and Reference Data specializes in “hard-to-value” information and evaluates many hard-to-value instruments. At the core of this business are its extensive database expertise and technology resources. Data is delivered via direct feeds, a variety of Web-based tools, or is accessed via third party software. Clients include leading banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, money management firms, government agencies, stock exchanges, trading houses, custodians and fund managers worldwide.
To support such a far-reaching network of sites and clients, Interactive Data operates a large number of servers, primarily UNIX (Solaris, AIX and HP-UX), though more recently Linux systems as well. These servers are used by the company to host databases and other applications for its many customers.
“Our typical customer [has] Web-based tools or PC based applications that make use of our applications,” said Steve Amichetti, manager of VM Systems at Interactive Data.
Several years ago, the company relied on basic UNIX tools such as vmstat, top and other freeware to record basic statistics of system performance.
“Once you get beyond a small number of servers, the free tools just don’t allow you to monitor UNIX well enough for capacity issues,” said Steve. “While these tools have value, they didn’t allow us to monitor or analyze a large number of systems effectively.”
As a consequence, he felt his organization was being too reactive in responding to changing traffic patterns and in predicting peaks in demand. As server sprawl caught hold internally, he realized he could do a much better job of capacity management. He looked around for a way to be able to proactively monitor his systems with regard to capacity issues.
Interactive Data began using Vityl Capacity Management software in 2002 following a comprehensive review of a wide range of available management tools.
“We looked at half a dozen products but found that Vityl Capacity Management could do it all when it came to capacity planning and performance management,” said Amichetti. “After a successful proof of concept we decided to purchase the product and began to introduce it to our systems gradually.”
Six years later, Vityl Capacity Management is now on all of the production systems at Interactive Data, most of the preproduction machines and some systems in development.
“Ideally, we would have Vityl Capacity Management on all development systems as we should know the complete performance profiles before we put a new application into production,” said Amichetti.
Vityl in Action
“Vityl Capacity Management is a complete toolset that enables us to really dig in to find out what’s going on,” said Amichetti. “We can compare good days against bad days in order to zero in on the exact problems, isolate the bottlenecks and determine the proper corrective action.”
Steve describes Vityl Capacity Management as his bread and butter. He uses it daily to monitor the environment and analyze potential issues with databases and applications.
Amichetti gives an example concerning a clustered system. A system administrator noticed that one server within the cluster system had “failed.” He contacted Amichetti to help isolate the source of the problem.
“I asked him for the time period it happened and then brought up Vityl Capacity Management to see what was going on,” said Amichetti.
He quickly looked at various statistics for that server such as CPU utilization and I/O. Vityl Capacity Management software can slice and dice performance information to show how business-relevant “workloads” are consuming data center resources. Steve noticed an especially high jump in the number of processes started for a specific Interactive Data workload. Steve then used Vityl Capacity Management’s process drilldown capabilities to quickly pinpoint a specific userid that was initiating ten’s of thousands of processes that caused the cluster node slowdown and ultimate “failover.” With this information, this user was interviewed to find out why he was spawning thousands of processes per minute. According to Amichetti, he might have had to spend days of trial and error trying to solve this without Vityl Capacity Management software. Using Vityl however, it took just minutes.
“vmstat and top wouldn’t have caught this problem; we needed Vityl Capacity Management to be able to look at the processes running,” said Amichetti. “Vityl Capacity Management showed us in minutes what was causing the problem. We immediately tracked down the guilty party and took care of it.”
Data is published in the form of daily reports showing key statistical charts for all production machines. Once a week, a second set of reports is generated showing the most recent peak periods on the various systems. Peaks are tracked in order to determine developing trends. This lets managers observe which days are busier than others, and what cyclical patterns are emerging. Once set up, such reports are generated automatically.
“People used to always have to come to me for the data and that was a real bottleneck,” said Amichetti. “Now that they have access to IT Service Reporter, it saves me a whole lot of time.
More importantly, it saves time for others as they don’t have to wait for me to tell them what’s happening.”
Interactive Data has also begun to use Vityl Capacity Management to look into the future and see how its systems will stand up to forecasted levels of growth or unexpected traffic spikes. For instance, a production machine has a backup machine in a disaster recovery site which doesn’t quite have the same horsepower. Vityl Capacity Management is used to ensure that in the case of a disaster, the disaster recovery machine will be able to take over the entire workload without experiencing delays.
“Overall, Vityl Capacity Management provides tremendous value to us in terms of being able to collect and analyze data, and keep us on top of capacity and performance.”
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Ensures that less expensive disaster recovery systems are adequate to handle current workloads
Allows IDC to quickly zero in on the exact problems, isolate the bottlenecks, and determine proper corrective action
Keeps managements informed regarding cyclical patterns in capacity and performance