The Hidden Benefits of TeaLeaf: Passive Capture Application Edition

Why do users come to your site? Why do they chose to interact with some elements rather than others – and what makes them convert
For many organizations, the answers to these questions can shape an overall customer experience strategy, which is important given that 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% six years ago. That’s where IBM Tealeaf comes in. 
IBM Tealeaf provides optimal in-depth analysis of a user’s interaction across a website. To handle such complex customer experience management, the robust architecture plays a vital role by providing excellent processing servers. A key player in this role is the Passive Capture Application Server (PCA), which captures the network traffic on the website. Here’s what you need to know. 
The backbone of Tealeaf
The PCA serves as the most integral part of the Tealeaf architecture. After the data is duplicated using a SPAN port/Network TAP port, PCA captures the stream of network packets. The major functionality of the PCA server is to assemble request and responses into hits. SSL traffic can be decrypted at this level based on the client’s expectations. Privacy based manipulations can be applied and the best place to invoke in such situations would be REQUEST privacy rules. 
Here are a few important points about the PCA server:
  1. It only supports Linux-based servers
  2. On premise installations must be a physical server 
  3. It requires a low level access to the network interface card (NIC) to assure all packets will be captured
  4. Since it’s a listen only interface, PCA cannot request re-transmission of missing packets
  5. At least 8 CPU cores are recommended
  6. The minimum RAM required is 2 G.B per core
  7. 70-100 GB of hard disk space is required 
Once you have access to these elements, the PCA will be streamlined.
How data is processed
The PCA consists of core processes which are responsible for making sure that the captured data is processed in a right manner and being delivered to the right servers. The following are the core processes inside PCA:
  • Listend – This serves to capture network traffic packets from the configured primary and secondary interfaces, sending them to reassembly process. Listend acts as a packet sniffer for PCA
  • Reassd – The primary function of this process is to reassemble TCP packets and decrypt SSL traffic. It acts as the core process of PCA and is usually the most CPU intensive process because of HTTP and SSL processing being core components
  • Pipelined – This retrieves the reassembled HTTP request and response from Reassd, formats them into a Tealeaf hit, and performs any post processing which includes data compression, privacy block and filtering
  • Tcld – In short, this process decides whether a hit must be sent -- and to whom it must be sent -- by providing TCL based script processing
  • Deliverd – The primary focus of this process is to deliver the Tealeaf formatted hits to one or more Tealeaf Transport Services on remote machines by establishing the network connection
Taking advantage of these processes ensures data is sent correctly, allowing you to track a complete customer interaction. 
Looking ahead
When you look at the PCA from a high level, there’s no question that it acts as the heart of Tealeaf. In order to be effective, all the configuration settings need to be implemented accurately to ensure the correct flow of data. 
Ultimately, clients engaging in Tealeaf should focus more on their PCA configurations for setting up privacy rules and keep other servers in the Tealeaf architecture light in terms of configuration. This not only helps you understand how a customer interacts with your site, but also gives you the insight you need to refine your customer experience strategy in the future. 
Are you a fan of the PCA? For more information, check out all our customer experience solutions here
By Akshay Ahluwalia
About the Author:

Akshay Ahluwalia is an Analyst at Stratigent.

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