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P&O Ferries considers cloud after implementing Compuware software

Ferry operator able to get a better view and optimise its systems

P&O Ferries has said that by implementing Compuware's DynaTrace software to gain a better view of its systems, it is now able to consider integrating new cloud providers into its architecture - something it wasn't able to do previously.

Computerworld UK spoke to Jonathan Pheils, quality assurance manager at P&O ferries, who explained that up until three years ago the company struggled to optimise its enterprise applications, which are deployed via an enterprise service bus architecture.

The set up created complexity for P&O, which found that when things went wrong it wasn't able to easily identify a problem and order a fix. This inability to locate the problem meant that bringing additional cloud suppliers into the bespoke in-house system was difficult.

P&O has a core port handling system, a reservation system, a website and web services, with its enterprise service bus covering the whole architecture, and Pheils found that he was operating in what he described as a 'defunct ping-pong situation'.

"A lot of the problems we were having were when working with our suppliers for various service improvements and it was down to our people who really understood the code to point at a machine and say: this is the problem. But we didn't have any contractual considerations where one supplier was contracted to fix X, as well as fix Y and Z," said Pheils.

"We needed something that could identify exactly what is going on, where the problem is and then we can say that it is that it is this supplier's responsibility to fix it."

P&O's tiered service orientated architecture also meant that when testing was carried out, Pheils was handed too much information to properly asses where issues occurred.

"If we had a bottleneck and we needed to do something about it, we would put a test load on the system and try and monitor each tier. What would happen is that you would get a huge amount of information from log files, from SQL tracing, from the database layer and from JVM monitoring tools," he said.

"You can pump out all this data but when you have a service orientated architecture, you get XML messages flying across all the different services, so to work out that it was one particular service causing a problem was difficult."

He added: "(It) was really hit and miss. It was often our architects spotting the problem - but this was very costly and very time consuming."

P&O implemented DynaTrace three years ago and works by hooking into P&O's Java virtual machine and presents dashboards to performance managers of how the entire system, across all tiers, is operating.

Pheils said that P&O can now identify a problem and put a cost to it, as well as optimise systems before things go wrong.

"There are huge time saving benefits for us. The biggest benefit has been being able to inform management that when a system problem occurs, we can tell them what it's going to take to fix it. We can say whether it will take a week, a month, or a year," he said.

"DynaTrace can tell you exactly which Java services are the problem, so you can immediately put a timescale and a cost to the fixes."

Pheils ability to clearly understand which services are causing the problem, and who should be responsible for fixing them, means P&O is now able to consider integrating cloud providers into its stack.

"We are trying to use cloud services. Something like a new HR system is the sort of thing that we should be thinking about using cloud for. For us, it is about using cloud around the edges. I can see that it will be a huge benefit, where we can now say to the provider you are running that bit of my business and you have to fix X now," said Pheils.

"A lot of companies now have multiple providers - one set of people hosting the tin, another load of application providers, another bunch doing the networks. It's difficult having all these people involved and then you have a performance problem. DynaTrace will be able to help us with that."

In other news, Experian also recently deployed DynaTrace to help improve the roll-out of new financial services. The credit checking and financial information systems firm chose Compuware's solution to help reduce time-to-market and improve the quality of new applications and services.


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