Tackling Tealeaf: Maintaining Traffic Quality

 
IBM Tealeaf does an amazing job of capturing and recording your site’s visitor interactions in real time. From there, you are able to analyze data to glean instant insight into what issues cause your customers to struggle. But like any system, it’s bound to encounter errors from time to time. One of the common problems Tealeaf administrators face is maintaining traffic quality.  
 
 
Reading the signs.
When something goes awry, you’re ultimately at the mercy of your data center or network security teams to get usable traffic to your Passive Capture Application servers. Luckily, Tealeaf will give you some indications of the traffic quality that you can pass on. Are you seeing those red X icons next to a lot of hits? That’s one indication that your traffic quality might not be particularly good. Replaying sessions is a great way to do that. 
 
You can also report off of the ‘Req Cancel Count’ system event. If you happened to have good traffic at some point in time and the quality dropped, it’s good to have a reference point in your back pocket.
 
This is an example of a Tealeaf system that’s getting good traffic:
 
 
At this point you might be looking at the chart and saying, wait… what?!  4,700 requests cancelled are acceptable?  As with most information technology questions the short answer is, “it depends.” Do you feel like your reports are accurate and replay is good? Are you getting questions from your users about missing hits? If your report results are tracking closely with other analytical solutions and your replay is acceptable, then that number might well be fine. User support interactions should not have missing hits as their root cause.
 
Now let’s assume that nothing changed about your webserver farm or your Tealeaf system. You come in on a Monday and you have questions in your inbox already from users that can’t replay sessions. Statistics that are derived from interdependent events are off. So you run the Req Cancel Count report for the previous day to see what happened and you see this:
 

 

At this point it’s very clear that you have a problem; something may well have changed upstream from your PCA servers. There could be other causes, but most likely you’ll need to contact whatever team or vendor is responsible for the data feed.
 
This is just one situation where these reports are great for proving to yourself or your boss that there truly is a problem. Unfortunately, without a Tealeaf background, there’s not much in that picture that a network engineer can really work with. You’re essentially pointing the finger at them and they will likely point the finger back at your Tealeaf solution: i.e. you’ll quickly arrive at an impasse.
 
 
Speak the language of IT.
There are actions you can take to ensure that you do not find yourself at an impasse with your network team. My advice is to make sure that you’ve taken the time to configure your PCA’s to send statistics through to your HBR’s. Verify that on your Tealeaf / System Statistics page. This allows you to have historical data stored about the TCP connection statistics. Those charts will give you information that you can use to prove a traffic problem as well as present it in terminology that’s useful to a network engineer.
 
If you select your PCA’s in the appropriate location within the System Statistics screen, you can produce graphics that will show a network engineer that the problem may indeed be in the data center.
 

 

For example, you might want to count ACKed but unseen packets – it means that your PCA saw the ACK but not the SYN. That indicates a problem. Duplicate packets could also be an issue.
 
In any case, consider making use of the Request Cancelled Count statistic as a “canary in the coal mine” for traffic problems. A big change in that statistic from day to day could indicate a problem, but it might not be a great statistic to give your network team.
 
 
You don’t have to do it all.
As the Customer Experience Practice Lead at Stratigent, I have worked through these types of Tealeaf issues at a variety of client locations. If you’re having problems, engaging the expertise of Stratigent’s Tealeaf Consultants is an easy & efficient way to help you get back on track while you stay focused on your other job priorities – after all, I’m sure Tealeaf is not your only area of responsibility.
 
 
Have questions? Leave a comment below!
I can be reached at info@stratigent.com
 
 
 
By Customer Experience Team
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Written by the Stratigent Customer Experience Team.

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