Intercept Studio 4.1
Application Monitoring at its Best
By Anand Narayanaswamy
Developing applications for both Windows and Web environments is indeed a challenging task for developers. It is extremely critical to gauge the loading speed and monitor several activities of an application, such as performance, stability, testing, uniformity across different browsers, and much more. If a Web application loads slowly, then efforts should be taken to reduce that so visitors can access the site quickly. My search for software to monitor the health of my .NET applications lead me to Intercept Studio. Developed by AVIcode, Inc. (http://www.avicode.com), Intercept Studio provides a powerful engine with which developers easily can test various functions of ASP.NET, Web services, remoting, and ADO.NET-based applications.
To work with Intercept Studio you must install five executable files (including the files for a 64-bit system) and a help manual. I tested the product on a Windows XP Professional SP2 system with 512 MB of RAM. I first went through the documentation, particularly the Quick Start section, to find out which files I should install; it clearly outlined the required information, along with detailed steps. The installation is a two-step process; I had to install the SE-Viewer Server and the Agent. While the SE-Viewer is a browser-based application (see Figure 1), the agent looks similar to that of the Internet Information Server (IIS) console (see Figure 2).
Figure 1: SE-Viewer Server loaded with a performance result of an application.
Figure 2: Intercept Agent Console in action.
The server utility installs as a virtual directory on the management system and receives events generated by the Agent console. It is very easy to work with Intercept Studio if you correctly follow the initial steps mentioned in the documentation. One note of caution: change back the initial settings to its earlier state after working with Intercept Studio; otherwise, it continues to automatically monitor all applications as you open them.
The core feature of the product is that it closely monitors your application at run time by seamlessly integrating into the .NET Framework with minimal impact on performance, and also delivers real-time notification of any performance or code problems that occur, including complete root-cause analysis (as shown in Figure 1). You ll also see the name of the computer from which the event has been invoked, but I have deliberately erased it for security reasons. Moreover, Intercept Studio is WMI compatible and can easily integrate with other WMI products. It enables event routing between your monitored system, management system, and the developer s workstation using the server, agent, and plug-in utilities, as mentioned earlier.
The monitored system is where the .NET applications run, and the Intercept Agent monitors various critical factors, such as Exception, Performance, Event log, and Instrumentation-related problems through Exception Diagnostic, Operations, and Service monitor. On the other hand, the management system utility named SE-Viewer Server retrieves and displays all events generated from the monitored system. An interesting feature of the tool is that it allows you to view events and also enables you to route events to other event Management Systems, such as MOM, or to defect tracking systems. It also supports monitoring non-networked computers and 64-bit .NET 2.0 architecture applications.
The product collects and correlates key performance counters, such as State Counters, Trend Analysis Counters, and Event Context Counters. It supports on-the-fly configuration, which enables faster customization of data collection thresholds and triggers. An interesting feature of Intercept Studio is that developers can easily create reports by utilizing the built-in support for Microsoft Reporting Services, and it integrates with Team Foundation Server. You ll find the complete list of all the features at http://www.avicode.com/productsinterceptstudiofeatures.htm; you can also download product brochures in PDF format from http://www.avicode.com/resourcesproductliterature.htm#Intercept.
The vendor also provides the required plug-in files for integrating the product with Visual Studio 2005. With the help of the plug-in, you can view the actual line of defective source code and rectify the problem to prevent your application from behaving badly. Intercept Studio comes with comprehensive documentation, which explores all the features of the product with helpful screenshots. I was impressed by the way in which the information is presented; even beginners can get started working with the product if they follow the step-by-step instructions outlined in the manual.
The vendor provides excellent support (http://www.avicode.com/supporthome.htm) through phone and e-mail, and conducts live orientation training through Live Meeting for those customers who want to explore quickly the full benefits of the product. Moreover, you can download free video demonstrations by visiting http://www.avicode.com/resourcesvideosanddemos.htm. I hope these resources will be of great help for those who want to learn the advanced features of the product.
AVIcode provides access to a secured portal for customers, from where they can download new releases of the product, as well as updated documentation. Customers can also browse through the knowledge base hosted on the portal and directly contact the product team if they have any questions. I d also like to see AVIcode create an online public discussion forum so visitors to the site can learn more about the product.
Unfortunately, Intercept Studio is not affordable for ordinary developers or small shops. However, with several key features not found elsewhere, large companies and corporations would be wise to invest in Intercept Studio so as to provide their developers with a world-class product for application monitoring.
Anand Narayanaswamy, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), works as an independent consultant and runs NetAns Technologies (http://www.netans.com), which provides Web hosting services based in Trivandrum, India. Anand also works as a technical editor lead for http://ASPAlliance.com. He runs http://www.Learnxpress.com, http://Dotnetalbum.com, and http://Csharpfaq.com. Anand is the author of Community Server Quickly (Packt Publishing). You can explore more information about the book at http://www.communityserverbook.com. Find out more about him at http://www.visualanand.net or e-mail him at mailto:[email protected]
Web Site: http://www.avicode.com
Price: One monitored server, US$11,995; additional licenses, US$2,995