Tracking down application exception errors and performance problems in production code is a challenge for every organization. Software applications are complex beasts, and problems are bound to occur even in the best-written and tested applications.

AVIcode's Intercept Studio Version 2.3 is an application-monitoring tool that helps you diagnose both application exceptions and application performance bottlenecks. Intercept Studio's exception monitoring lets you see the application's call stack and variable values from the failed module at the time the failure occurs. Plus, for further diagnosis, you can drill through to the actual source code. Because Intercept Studio is tightly integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio, it lets you use the Visual Studio development environment to bring up the problem source module.

For performance monitoring, Intercept Studio lets you set user-defined thresholds to monitor the response time of critical application components. The Intercept Server Agent will send and capture event notifications (similar to the way event notifications are delivered and exception events are generated) when thresholds are exceeded. To help you determine the root cause of performance problems, Intercept Studio displays a stack of the application's resource calls. For example, every time an application accesses a database or the file system, the Intercept Server Agent tracks the call time, records the elapsed time, and highlights the slowest calls in the Intercept Structured Event (SE)Viewer (SE-Viewer). A graphic source chain view also displays the hierarchy of resources used. As with exception monitoring, you can drill down into the source responsible for the routines that make each resource call.

Unlike some other application monitoring products, Intercept Studio doesn't require any changes to your application's source code. Instead, you simply load the Intercept Server Agent onto the server that hosts your ASP.NET applications. The Server Agent uses port 80 or HTTP Secure (HTTPS) port 443 to send events to Intercept SE-Viewer, which is typically installed on a management workstation. The SEViewer can also send events to other Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)-compliant monitoring systems, such as AVIcode's Management Pack (MP) for Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). (For more information about the MP for MOM, see the Web-exclusive sidebar "AVIcode .NET Management Pack," http://www.sqlmag.com, InstantDoc ID 48820).

AVIcode's Intercept Studio has three components to install: the Intercept Server Agent (which you install on the .NET Web server), the Intercept SE-Viewer Server (which you install on a management workstation), and the Intercept Visual Studio Plug-In (which you install on the developer's workstation). Intercept Studio requires Windows Server 2003 with the Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 Service Pack 1 (SP1). In addition, you must install Microsoft Visual Studio .NET or higher with Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0 on the developer's workstation.

Installing each component is quick and easy and takes less than a minute per component. After completing the installation, you configure the Server Agent and the SEViewer. Using the Intercept Management Console, you add the Web applications that you want to monitor below the "Web applications" node. The Executable Application node lets you add monitoring for WinForm applications as well. For each Web application you add to the Intercept Management Console, you can either accept the default monitoring values or customize the monitoring settings. You use a set of supplied XML files to provision the SE-Viewer Server to store event information on a Windows Access or Windows SQL Server database. You can also configure the SE-Viewer Server to monitor applications running on one or multiple workstations. AVIcode Intercept Studio comes with a set of six basic prepackaged reports that you can view as tables or bar charts. Some of the notable reports include the Critical Exceptions and Critical Performance Hotspots reports, which list the most frequent application exception areas and performance problem areas, respectively.

Overall, I found AVIcode's Intercept Studio 2.3 to be a powerful and easy-to-use tool that performs a vital function for any business running mission-critical .NET applications.

AVICODE INTERCEPT STUDIO 2.3

PROS: Easy to use, no code modifications required, monitors both Web and Winform applications

CONS: Monitors only .NET applications

RATING: 4 out of 5

PRICE: $9995 for (1) Intercept SE-Viewer License and (1) Intercept Server Agent (monitored server). Each additional agent (monitored server) is $2495.

RECOMMENDATION: AVIcode Intercept Studio 2.3 lets you monitor .NET applications for exception and performance problems without requiring any application source code modifications.

CONTACT: AVIcode * 443.543.0030 * http://www.avicode.com