An Interview with BlueStripe CEO
September 22, 2011
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In BSMdigest’s exclusive interview, Chris Neal, CEO of BlueStripe, talks about the next generation of Application Performance Management tools.

BSM: Is there something that most companies still do not understand about application performance management today?

CN: Most companies we talk to monitor and respond to application problems in a backward fashion. They begin with specialist tools that look at a single piece of the infrastructure supporting the application and try to understand how transactions performed as they crossed each system. Everyday I hear from IT leaders that this approach takes too long, with too many people involved. The problem is that traditional applications management solutions only manage parts of the application system, hoping that the whole is performing well.

BSM: When it comes to pinpointing the sources of performance problems, what are the traditional APM and BTM tools missing?

CN: For IT Operations and production support to manage application performance and availability, they need to monitor the transactions that are executing, the applications that run them, and the IT systems they depend on to determine why their transactions are slow or unavailable. Traditional APM vendors focus narrowly on the application code or app servers, but don’t see anything else. Today’s BTM tools focus just on the transaction, but have no ability to drill-down to see why a transaction got stuck in a particular system.

BSM: What drove the founding of BlueStripe in 2007?

CN: The company founders all came from the experience of building Wily Technology to help manage what were then new Java applications. After that experience, it became clear that application management was changing beyond the need for code level visibility — the challenge has moved to the platforms, infrastructure, and services needed to run the applications. New technologies like virtualization, SOA, and now private cloud are accelerating this change and increasing management complexity for IT Operations. As we spoke with IT executives across the Fortune 500, it became clear that a new approach that manages the whole application system was needed, one that could monitor both transactions and the IT systems they depend on.

BSM: What is APM 2.0?

CN: APM 2.0 is the next generation of application management. APM 1.0 delivered Java/.NET diagnostics for application developers. APM 2.0, led by BlueStripe’s FactFinder solution, has delivered management of the whole production application system for IT Operations by monitoring both transactions and the IT systems they depend on. FactFinder works for any transaction, running on any TCP-connected application, running in physical, virtual, and cloud. The best part about FactFinder and APM 2.0 is that transaction tracking is automatic (no pre-definition) and continuously updates any time a transaction path changes.

BSM: What is the advantage of having APM and transaction performance monitoring in the same tool?

CN: The advantage is that IT Operations starts with what your users are actually doing: initiating transactions. According to a recent Ziff Davis survey of about 1190 IT professionals, the top application management challenge is trying to find what component is slowing things down across complicated application systems. BlueStripe’s transaction performance monitoring capabilities enable you to follow the performance of transactions at each step in their execution, allowing a single support person to pinpoint exactly where the problem is in just a few minutes, without the bridge call. Once the problem is identified, BlueStripe’s APM capabilities enable drill-down into the server stack to see why the component is failing.

BSM: Explain the meaning behind “If You Don’t Manage Everything, You Don’t Manage Anything”.

CN: That’s actually a quote from Forrester BSM expert J.P. Garbani, and what he meant was that IT Operations is responsible for application performance and availability. Period. That includes every transaction and the systems they run on. If your tools don’t give you a single view into transaction problems, the application platform, the systems underneath, and all of the dependencies that the transactions depend on, your tools don’t manage anything.

BSM: What APM capabilities does a company need in order to confidently deploy business critical applications in the virtual environment?

CN: Virtualization breaks the relationship between the physical hardware and the operating system, which means that application management gets harder. Companies need an APM solution that can follow the transaction wherever it goes, even as it crosses physical and virtual boundaries.

Also, because virtualization means that the IT systems are constantly changing, APM tools need to be able to automatically update in real-time as changes occur.

Finally, companies need their APM tools to tie information about how the virtual hardware itself impacts application performance. BlueStripe’s FactFinder is the only product that enables companies to do all these things.

BSM: What is the difference between managing a transaction in virtual environment vs. a private cloud?

CN: Virtualization is about server technology; private cloud is about the way a company organizes and deploys virtualization as a service. In both cases, IT Operations needs to be able to follow the transaction across every component it touches. However, in a private cloud they also need management visibility that bridges the organizational divide between Operations and other groups.

BSM: What is the next step for APM technology in the cloud?

CN: IT Operations doesn’t get a pass on application performance just because they set up a private cloud. APM technology is going to be moving towards monitoring everything from the perspective of the transaction, instead of the backward systems-first approach favored by the old generation of tools. This is because the value of private cloud platforms will be judged on how well the infrastructure supports the transactions.

BlueStripe’s FactFinder can already provide monitoring of all transactions and the systems they depend on across every environment—physical, virtual, and cloud. FactFinder is leading the APM market when it comes to private cloud because FactFinder tracks and monitors transactions automatically, without requiring any knowledge or assistance from developers.

BSM: Did VMworld give you any insight into how APM or BTM will be changing in the near future?

CN: VMworld continued to confirm for us that virtualization and private cloud are seeing overwhelming adoption across the enterprise. Both of these technologies are accelerants to complexity that create real challenges for the groups responsible for managing application performance and availability.

Secondly, the show confirmed that cloud-adopting IT organizations are demanding the transaction monitoring capabilities of BTM mixed with some of the drill-down capabilities from APM. This demand has created great success for BlueStripe this year and we expect that this demand will increase as more companies hear about how transaction monitoring is leading to faster problem isolation and resolution, while using fewer support team members.

About Chris Neal

Chris Neal is the CEO of BlueStripe. Before founding BlueStripe, Neal was VP of Field Operations for the Americas for Wily Technology, the Magic Quadrant Leader for Java EE Application Management. Neal brings over 15 years of leadership in enterprise infrastructure software sales, including Oracle & NetDynamics, a Java Application Server leader acquired by Sun Microsystems. Neal holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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