Applications used to be so simple, some self-contained code linked with a few system libraries that accessed local data: a distinct bundle where everything required was on a single machine. Client-server software complicated things a bit, but the demarcation was clean and the hub-spoke design pattern straightforward. No longer. Apps are now composite mashups, often mixing custom and packaged code, accessing both public and private data sources and using APIs to access multiple Web services that each run on highly distributed cloud infrastructure. Gone are the boundaries between an application, associated infrastructure and data. Of course, this fusion of apps and infrastructure is transparent and irrelevant to users, but to developers, release managers, business owners and IT it’s a nightmare of complexity that makes monitoring, troubleshooting and maintaining application performance frustratingly difficult. Indeed, as I detail in this column, the situation requires a new approach that mixes traditional application performance monitoring (APM) and IT operational intelligence (OI).
Maintaining application performance is a looming problem since as I wrote last year, applications are central to business success. As CA’s CEO put it at the time, “applications now define a business’ relationship with its customers and fuel the productivity of its employees. We now live in a world where customers are no longer just loyal to the brand or product or service. Instead, they are loyal to the complete experience a brand delivers. And that experience is delivered by software.” No one cares if the code on their smartphone is working flawlessly if an application can’t access the data sources or remote cloud services required to view information or complete a transaction. Furthermore, the composite nature of modern apps means there’s a wider array of stakeholders in application performance that most importantly includes customers. What’s the first thing many Gmail or Google Drive users do when they can’t access the service? Hit the Google Apps Status Dashboard. This means APM is no longer just the domain of developers.
As the lines between applications and infrastructure have blurred, the worlds of APM and operational intelligence (OI) have collided, there are a couple obvious strategies for meeting the needs of next-gen APM. Given the dynamic nature of the problem and technology, it’s unclear how the specifics will evolve, however it’s obvious that organizations need a new, comprehensive approach to APM that reflects the same blending of development and operations that spawned the DevOps movement.
Read the rest of the column where I explain how next-gen APM looks a lot like this and represents the next big data opportunity.