APM: In addition to the current challenges of Cloud and mobile - discussed in Part Two of the interview - do you foresee any more long-term challenges to APM?
One challenge I am keeping my eye on is SDN (Software Defined Networking) and OpenFlow. People tend to think of those as strictly network issues but the uptake is super fast. Last year we said SDN was really cutting edge, for universities and leading-edge companies, and we didn't expect it to be a major thing for a while. But by this year there were many companies announcing SDN capabilities, and that is interesting because it changes the nature of networks. It makes networks more like applications. I think APM vendors need to keep an eye on that. It changes the way you approach application performance.
APM: Speaking of networks, in the last few years the term APM has gained significant momentum, as totally separate from NPM. But your report seems to deal with network and application performance together. Do you see APM and NPM converging?
JR: Totally. If you go to the websites of the top 15 APM vendors and the top 15 NPM vendors, you would see a lot of the same terminology. It is all about the applications now.
Traditionally, just go back a couple years, and the NPM vendor would be talking a lot of network terminology. They would mention applications but only in a tangential way. Over the last several months there has been a real focus on applications.
No one really cares how the network is performing. Even when somebody calls IT and says "the network is slow" they really mean "the application is slow". So in the end every issue is just an application issue, and I think we are seeing this realization from NPM vendors. They realize that even though they have a network focus, it is really about application performance. They are just approaching it from the network side.
APM: In your reports you advise to “mind the gap” which I understood as integrating monitoring and management tools better. What is the best way to make sure the tools work together better? Is it about purchasing tools that are more open, or is it about internal integration skills?
JR: I think it is a little bit of both. Obviously you want to be wary of any tool that is completely proprietary and has limited ability to understand or share information. To me, that is a red flag. Tools don't have to be open source, they don't have to provide giant APIs, but you want to see that the product has the ability to work with other systems, and extend, and pull in data from other sources, and export data to other sources. That is getting close to a must-have. As you are building out or upgrading infrastructure, that is something you want to look for. You need to get away from the closed proprietary systems.
APM: In your research on APM in the Cloud, it sounds like fast alerting and response time is a top capability. Why would this be any different from APM in the traditional infrastructure? Why is quick response more important in the Cloud?
JR: You are absolutely right, it is a key factor in traditional infrastructure as well, but when something is completely 100% under your control, then you have a tiny bit more leeway to figure out the situation, to bring applications back up and to understand what happened. In a Cloud-based infrastructure, your margin of error is much lower. You need to be able to address the problem right away.
APM: Your research seems to say that analytics is a key differentiator for success in the Cloud. Is that for the same reason?
JR: Yes, and because in a Cloud-based system you are dealing with different sources of information. You are getting performance data from the Cloud provider, the virtualization management system, and some of your ITSM systems. You can be dealing with 5, 10, 15 different data sources. So having good analytics to be able to parse through all that data - taking that Big Data approach to your performance information - is extremely important.
APM: Plus analytics seems to deliver on several of the top requirements you talk about in the report, like setting baselines and identifying performance patterns.
JR: Yes. This is about visibility. If you don't know what your problems are then you can't fix them. The better analytics and the deeper visibility you have, the closer you are to end-to-end visibility, to find out where problems occur, and figure out a potential problem is going to happen before it actually hits end users. That is the differentiator between success and failure in the Cloud.
APM: Do you have any predictions about how APM is going to evolve in the next year or two?
I think the move from a network focus to an application and end-user focus is going to continue. I think you're going to see more movement toward, if not full on end-to-end, then systems having a lot more openness towards integrating with other systems, to enable end-to-end type capabilities. Obviously there's going to be a lot more built-in capabilities for virtualization, Cloud and mobile, so they can work with those systems seamlessly.
APM: Any upcoming reports that you can tell us about?
I'm going to be looking at the challenges of virtualization and how it is redefining APM. Especially when you start bringing in technologies like VDI. Those are huge impacts on networks and and we need to be aware of how to best optimize networks for delivering virtual desktops.
Another interesting report coming up is on managing performance in companies with wireless networks. That is the way that most companies are going now, and there are different issues when the entire network is entirely wireless.
ABOUT Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza is a Senior Research Analyst focused on the increasing performance pressures that organizations are confronting within their network and application infrastructures. As emerging technologies such as Cloud and mobile change the way that applications are consumed and delivered, dealing with performance issues becomes more complex. Rapoza’s research has examined how organizations are facing these challenges and developing effective solutions to manage network and application performance in today’s complex environments.
For over seventeen years Rapoza has been using, testing, and writing about the newest technologies in software, enterprise hardware and the Internet. He served as the director eWEEK Labs, an award-winning technology testing lab based in Massachusetts and California. Rapoza is also the winner of five awards of excellence in technology journalism, and co-chaired a summit on technology industry security practices. He is a frequent speaker at technology conferences and expositions and has been regularly interviewed as a technology expert by national and local media outlets including CNN, ABC, NPR and the Associated Press.
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