Dirig Software last week released a management product designed to help businesses maintain the performance of online stores and other Web-based Java applications.NASHUA, N.H. -\u00a0 Dirig Software\u00a0last week released a management product designed to help businesses maintain the performance of online stores and other Web-based Java applications.Called PathFinder, the product uses server agents to create a map of all the components that a Web application uses, such as Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) and Java servlets. The software then figures out relationships between those components and the paths among them that transactions must take to be completed.Graphical tools help customers make sense of that data and relate component malfunctions to specific applications. The tools look at the data as it relates to other parts of an infrastructure, including databases and Web servers, and can highlight component problems likely to have the greatest effect on an organization's business, according to Dave Wilby, vice president of product management at Dirig.The goal of products such as PathFinder is to pinpoint the root cause of a transaction failure. The job becomes difficult when applications are modified or added and records aren't kept up to date about the components affected. New applications sometimes make use of EJBs that other applications already use."People don't keep track of how they put things together, so problems happen and no one knows what's going on," says Bill Gassman, a research director with Gartner. "At the same time, the [operations] people need to be able to go in and see what's going on. [Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition] is quite transparent, so you can look inside the JavaBeans and look at the attributes.""That's what Dirig is doing," he says. They're looking in the app server at the JavaBeans and saying, 'Who can you call? And who can call you? And what are all the possible things that can happen here?'"Dirig's mapping approach differs from those of competing vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, which has developed tools that use a tagging method to monitor applications."HP has an approach where you inject a tag into the datastream and it marks the different beans that it runs as it goes through," Gassman says. "That's another approach out there being trialed by customers."One downside to the mapping approach is that Dirig's customers intermittently must run a "discovery" process to build an up-to-date map of their applications. This takes 25 to 30 minutes and can be done while applications remain online, Dirig's Wilby says. He acknowledges that performance can be affected while discovery is running.On the other hand, Gassman says the tagging approach tends to require more involvement on the part of the developers.The first version of PathFinder works only with Dirig's other performance management products. During the next year, the company plans to integrate PathFinder with third-party tools from BMC Software and IBM's Tivoli division, he adds.PathFinder is available for IBM WebSphere, Versions 3.5, 4.x and 5.x, and BEA Systems WebLogic, Versions 6.1 and 7.0. Dirig plans to offer a version for Microsoft's .Net platform in the first half of next year, Wilby says. PathFinder costs $40,000 to map six applications and $10,000 more for the next 12 applications.Niccolai is a correspondent with IDG News Service's San Francisco bureau.