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Addressing Application Performance Management in a Complex IT Environment

The complexity of today’s IT environment has drastically changed the requirements for application performance management solutions. Today, organisations have more business critical applications, operate on larger global networks and they depend on smartphones and tablets to drive productivity. Similarly the introduction of new initiatives such as cloud, virtualisation and data centre consolidation means that diagnosing and spotting problems is becoming increasing difficult.

Providing visibility into critical services in the face of all these changes is a daunting challenge. Organisations must be nimble and invest in monitoring solutions that can adapt to the new world of location-independent computing. So, what are some of the requirements businesses should consider when evaluating monitoring solutions?

When choosing a visibility solution, here are a few things to take into consideration:

Measure Performance where it Matters An end-user’s experience with an application can mean the difference between success and failure. So, whenever possible, measuring the actual performance as experienced by the end-user on their system from their browser is the best determinant of the quality of their experience. A measurement tool that includes very detailed data about individual transactions and also shows high level data for all users by country or by type of browser is ideal. This enables IT teams to examine how well the application is performing regardless of the end user’s location or platform.

Visibility across the Enterprise As applications are shifted around the data centre or to the cloud as a result of consolidation, cost savings or virtualisation, it’s not always practical to quickly relocate the monitoring tools to avoid loss of visibility. Therefore, organisations should leverage monitoring solutions that are an embedded part of the infrastructure. For example, solutions that use flow data such as NetFlow collected throughout the environment will provide the much needed application insight no matter where the application is moved.

Flexible Deployment With applications increasingly virtualised and run in the cloud, appliance based performance management solutions aren’t always practical. That’s why it is critical to implement a visibility solution that is as flexible as the application itself. If a virtualised application is migrated to a different set of servers, the monitoring components must be easy to relocate as well without loss of visibility.

Performance Matters Quickly resolving complex application problems requires access to a lot of detailed metrics. So having a solution that can efficiently store and retrieve the relevant data quickly can make the difference between solving a problem in minutes versus hours or even days. Ideally the product should have user friendly workflows that enable IT teams to quickly drill down from summary level views to low level metrics. A solution should also be evaluated in scenarios that are as close to production as possible. Only by simulating real world scenarios can an IT organisation be confident that the monitoring solution will hold up when it really matters.

Measuring Performance in to the Code Being able to instrument and measure the performance of a running application is an important aspect of any performance management solution. For modern applications, this involves supporting development environments, like Java and .NET, that are commonly used to build enterprise applications. It also means having instrumentation that provides comprehensive metrics, measured each second, with low overhead so as not to introduce performance problems.

A high performance, big data repository is also a must. This repository must be coupled with a powerful user interface that facilitates quickly pivoting from a high level view of all transactions to examine problematic areas of the code. Finally, the flexibility to monitor applications both in development and in production using the same solution is essential.

Testing Critical Application Capabilities One of the best ways to ensure a critical application function is working is to test it frequently. Implementing automated tests to validate an application either in pre-production (test) or in production will ensure applications are operating as expected. These tests can be simple or arbitrarily complex and if a test fails, IT can address the problem ideally before end-users notice the failure.

Scalability and Analytics As you might expect, collecting detailed data about transactions in a running application or capturing all of the network traffic for that same application requires highly scalable data repositories that can be searched quickly. Unfortunately, too many organisations identify the cause of a problem by blindly searching large amounts of data thereby engaging in a mostly hopeless process that is not efficient at solving the problem. Instead comprehensive analytics that are always monitoring the incoming data for signs of trouble provide the needed visibility and scalability.

Support for Software Defined Networks As network virtualisation becomes more commonplace, having tools that understand both the logical network and how that relates to the physical infrastructure is critically important.

Today, applications can be located anywhere – data centres, local offices, the “cloud” – and employees and customers are located everywhere. To drive success in this new landscape, businesses need to turn distance and location into a competitive advantage by ensuring flawless application performance and the best user experience, regardless of location. In order to keep up with this new fluid environment, CIOs need to have full visibility and control across an application performance infrastructure that is also location-independent.

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