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Improving GIS performance with AppDynamics

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Twenty years ago I started my professional career working in a niche field of IT called Geographical Information Systems (GIS) – basically mapping systems. This is an area where Big Data was prevalent, long before the term was officially coined, GIS covered a range of concepts from satellite imagery and aerial photography processing to geo-demographic data analysis, address cleansing and geocoding to routing analysis, spatial algorithms and finally to publishing maps & associated data.

Google and Microsoft Bing have recently commoditised a lot of the publishing aspects of background mapping data, but the need for analysing and publishing an organisation’s own geographic data is as important today is it has ever been.

Historically, Application Performance Management (APM) and GIS have never made good bedfellows mainly due to the effort required in deploying APM.  At a recent conference I spoke to a GIS developer who stated they had no interest in APM because “they work in GIS.” Upon further questioning, this GIS developer acknowledged processing and accessing these large datasets is complicated and it’s slow and that’s “just how it is.”. So I challenged this and decided to demonstrate AppDynamics on GeoServer,  an open source mapping server written in Java that allows users to share and edit geospatial data.

Within a few minutes of installation, AppDynamics automatically detected key transactions such as publishing a map layer.

Mapping Layers as Business Transactions

Mapping Layers as Business Transactions

Taking this a step further, we looked at how AppDynamics can help a system administrator understand which parts of their service is accessed most and which components are the slowest (in this case average response times for publishing mapping datasets).

Individual Map Layer performance and access

Individual map layer performance and access

In the race to prove innocence, the challenge is to be able to determine whether any slow service calls were due to the end user or consumer of a service rather than the service itself — to understand if users are doing something you did not expect. For example, they could be pulling back too much data from the service (this applies to any system dealing with data).

In the case of mapping systems, AppDynamics can capture the bounding box representing the coordinates used to outline and return an area of interest, if the area of interest retrieved is too large and that leads to a slow transaction, then it’s likely a system administrator is allowing users to pull back too much data in one go:

Capturing HTTP parameters for a map image request

Capturing HTTP parameters for a map image request

If an administrator does see a slow down in the service they can drill into the service to isolate where performance problems occur. Problems in this type of application can manifest themselves in coordinate conversion, vector data reading (roads, rivers & buildings), database queries, grid handlers (reading image files such as satellite and aerial images), writing to an image file: 

Method level breakdown for publishing a map layer

Method level breakdown for publishing a map layer

System administrators and owners can improve their application or data processing times by identifying bottlenecks. The following example shows how an address lookup service was sped up from processing 60 calls per minute taking a second each, to more than 700 calls per minute taking less than 50ms.

Geocode Response Time

Capturing the SQL for an Address Search ("Reverse Geocode")

Capturing the SQL for an address search (“Reverse Geocode”)

AppDynamics for Databases identified the cause of the slowness as the spatial query used to query the postcode, without an index it went from querying 1,684,930 rows…

Postcode query with a Full Table Scan

Postcode query with a Full Table Scan

To just 5,976: -

The same postcode query using an index

The same postcode query using an index

Tuning this query led to a tenfold performance improvement!

“Software is eating the world” [Marc Andreessen] and ensuring your application or service is performing is key. This message applies across all sectors, not just banking and ecommerce, “typical” APM customers, but everyone who offers a service or process. Our customers & consumers expect Google-like response times for all online services and we need to deliver.

Using AppDynamics, you can halve or better your data processing times, free up resources, achieve a faster time to market or execution and ensure your consumers in the wider world get that up to date map when they need it.

Take five minutes to get complete visibility into the performance of your production applications with AppDynamics Pro today.

The post Improving GIS performance with AppDynamics written by appeared first on Application Performance Monitoring Blog from AppDynamics.

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