Bringing the Power of the Crowd to SaaS
November 15, 2013

Patrick Carey
Exoprise

Share this

Every day, compelling new applications, built to support the needs of enterprises, are turning up in the cloud. As the significant benefits of these SaaS and hybrid cloud services become more evident, it's no surprise that cloud is playing an increasing role in enterprise application portfolios.

Over the last couple of years a new class of mission-critical SaaS applications providing core communication services (e.g., email, VoIP, online meetings, document storage/collaboration, etc.) have come to the fore, enabling organizations of any size to cost-effectively provide highly sophisticated services to their users.

However, while the reward is great, because these apps are mission-critical and deployed to your entire workforce, so is the risk. If your cloud-based CRM system is unavailable, the sales team is certainly impacted, but if email, IP and/or VoIP communications are unavailable, the entire organization takes a productivity hit.

To address this risk, IT must take a fresh look at how they monitor and manage these services. Moving your mission-critical apps to the cloud doesn't absolve IT of responsibility for the quality of service. If users can't access email, they are not going to call Microsoft or Google or Amazon. They are going to call the IT help desk and the IT team will be expected to fix the issue regardless of where it exists.

Therein lies the problem. With SaaS applications, IT does not have direct access to most of the server and network infrastructure running the services. They may have access to a service provider status dashboard, but those often do not provide anything close to real time information. Nor do they provide any information on the health and availability of the various networks (yours, the ISP's, the regional backbone, etc.) connecting the users to the service.

To effectively monitor and manage mission-critical SaaS applications, IT needs to be able to identify and isolate problems that may exist outside the infrastructure they own and operate. But how?

Bring on the Crowd

SaaS applications are by definition shared by a global community of customers. So it stands to reason that monitoring of these services could and should be done in a shared manner as well.

There are certainly examples of the crowd monitoring the cloud already happening in informal ways through Twitter. It's not uncommon for users to check Twitter when they are having problems with a cloud service. Twitter in effect becomes an impromptu global network of monitors, watching the service from hundreds of thousands of access points.

The problem with Twitter though is that it is primarily anecdotal and qualitative information and generally does not give organizations using mission-critical SaaS applications the fidelity needed to fix issues impacting users.

Despite Twitter's limitations as an IT tool, there is a lot to be said for the "power of the crowd" that is so fundamental to Twitter. What if IT could take that same model and use it to proactively monitor SaaS applications?

First, you need to go from ad hoc qualitative observations (e.g. "My email seems slow today") to consistent collection of performance data from a broad user community. This requires some type of active monitoring at the locations where users access their SaaS applications. Monitoring from the organization's points of access is critical. A solution that monitors from arbitrary points on the Internet will still be blind to local or ISP issues affecting a specific office.

Monitoring from a single location gives you real-time data for that location, which is certainly an improvement over the service provider dashboards, but that isn't enough. From a single point of access, an outage will look much the same regardless of whether it's local, in the network, or as the provider. This is where the crowd model comes in. By aggregating data from multiple locations, you can start to see trends and spot anomalies between them.

But why stop there? Why not aggregate data across all users of the SaaS service? The greater the number of monitoring points, the more accurately you can detect and isolate specific problem spots. Think of it like GPS for the cloud, pinpointing the issues that degrade service levels and user experience.

Armed with this level of visibility, IT could do a better job of optimizing their environment and minimizing the time to resolution of any service impacting issues. In doing so they regain the ability to ensure their users get consistent service and a high quality user experience.

A Call to Action

Obviously, no single consumer of a SaaS application can expect to gather all this data themselves. Cobbling together measurements from multiple office locations would be challenging enough and collecting data from other organizations would be downright impractical. This is where the industry needs to innovate and bring new SaaS solutions to market that enable IT organizations to realize the benefits of the cloud without losing the visibility and control they've had with their traditional systems.

The power of the crowd is a pervasive and growing force enabled by cloud-based technologies. Virtual crowds come together every day to do everything from building software to funding start-ups, from collecting funny cat pictures to overturning oppressive governments. Maybe it's time IT was able to leverage the power of the crowd to help manage the ever more complex array of cloud applications and services they depend on.

Patrick Carey is VP Product Management & Marketing at Exoprise.

Patrick leads product management and marketing for Exoprise (www.exoprise.com) a provider of Crowd Powered performance monitoring solutions for enterprise SaaS applications like Office 365, Salesforce.com, Box and others. He has over 20 years of experience delivering software solutions to both enterprises and service providers.
Share this

The Latest

May 28, 2020

On Wednesday, May 6th, iOS users all over the world experienced an app crash when they tried to open popular apps such as TikTok, GroupMe, Spotify, and Pinterest. How did simultaneous crashes occur across so many independent apps? What's the common thread that would cause widespread app crashes? Turns out, it was a change in behavior in the Facebook API ...

May 27, 2020

Keeping networks operational is critical for businesses to run smoothly. The Ponemon Institute estimates that the average cost of an unplanned network outage is $8,850 per minute, a staggering number. In addition to cost, a network failure has a negative effect on application efficiency and user experience ...

May 26, 2020

Nearly 3,700 people told GitLab about their DevOps journeys. Respondents shared that their roles are changing dramatically, no matter where they sit in the organization. The lines surrounding the traditional definitions of dev, sec, ops and test have blurred, and as we enter the second half of 2020, it is perhaps more important than ever for companies to understand how these roles are evolving ...

May 21, 2020

As cloud computing continues to grow, tech pros say they are increasingly prioritizing areas like hybrid infrastructure management, application performance management (APM), and security management to optimize delivery for the organizations they serve, according to SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT ...

May 20, 2020

Businesses see digital experience as a growing priority and a key to their success, with execution requiring a more integrated approach across development, IT and business users, according to Digital Experiences: Where the Industry Stands ...

May 19, 2020

Fully 90% of those who use observability tooling say those tools are important to their team's software development success, including 39% who say observability tools are very important ...

May 18, 2020

As our production application systems continuously increase in complexity, the challenges of understanding, debugging, and improving them keep growing by orders of magnitude. The practice of Observability addresses both the social and the technological challenges of wrangling complexity and working toward achieving production excellence. New research shows how observable systems and practices are changing the APM landscape ...

May 14, 2020
Digital technologies have enveloped our lives like never before. Be it on the personal or professional front, we have become dependent on the accurate functioning of digital devices and the software running them. The performance of the software is critical in running the components and levers of the new digital ecosystem. And to ensure our digital ecosystem delivers the required outcomes, a robust performance testing strategy should be instituted ...
May 13, 2020

The enforced change to working from home (WFH) has had a massive impact on businesses, not just in the way they manage their employees and IT systems. As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, enterprise IT teams are looking to answer key questions such as: Which applications have become more critical for working from home? ...

May 12, 2020

In ancient times — February 2020 — EMA research found that more than 50% of IT leaders surveyed were considering new ITSM platforms in the near future. The future arrived with a bang as IT organizations turbo-pivoted to deliver and support unprecedented levels and types of services to a global workplace suddenly working from home ...