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VocaLink uses Precise to keep Oracle and Java optimal

Cliff Saran

Payment processor VocaLink is using Precise application performance management tools to ensure the applications that power the bank automated clearing system (Bacs) and faster payments are running optimally.

VocaLink handles all the hardware and software for Bacs and the Link payment system. It processed £4.4tn worth of payments in 2011, with peak ATM transactions of 403 per second.

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VocaLink is using the Precise tools to manage the performance of its Oracle relational database and WebLogic application server.

Along with checking the responsiveness of the applications, Precise is also being used to check the response time of security checks.

Peter O'Connor, capacity planning and performance manager at VocaLink, said: “We have an issue with SQL response times, which shifts over time.” 

This is because the SQL optimiser used in Oracle continuously makes changes, such as creating an index or running a full table scan to speed up database queries. 

O’Connor said that sometimes these optimisations may have an adverse effect on the application’s performance. “So we keep a tap on it, because it sometimes gets it wrong,” he said.

In Bacs, users submit a file or files called a submission. Each file is a set of transactions, such as a request for an employer to make a payment to an employee on a particular day. The submitter’s credentials and the submission have to be validated before the payment is accepted.

Given that 90% of UK salaries are paid through this system, VocaLink uses Precise to measure the length of time it takes to handle Bacs security checks.

Precise is also used to ascertain whether its WebLogic Java application server needs restarting. This can happen if the automated memory manager in Java gets overloaded.

O’Connor said: “If we find we have an issue, we work with Unix and DBAs, and Unix and database guys to fix it.”

Precise is used on the live systems. “Every morning we check all our systems,” he added.

On the live system O’Connor said VocaLink takes a baseline measurement of SQL response times, which is then used to check on-going performance. The Precise tool also allows VocaLink to ensure there are no performance issues when new hardware is added.


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