On May 8, 2012, EMA announced that it was combining my Business Service Management practice with Julie Craig’s Application Management practice – into the newly unified practice area Application and Business Services. This was something that Julie and I both strongly advocated — after a year of sorting out areas of commonality and difference with increasing levels of mutual frustration — not with each other but with the task at hand. This was all the more true since we really did enjoy working together in sharing our research and participating in many joint briefings.
As I've already written a blog on BSM and APM – around the time BSMDigest became APMDigest — I’ll try to make this discussion complementary rather than redundant. In fact, to a large degree my blog back then — highlighting what was lost when the term “APM” began to gobble up the known universe — came out of my dialogs with Julie. It bore witness to the ascendency of one acronym (APM) largely at the expense of the other (BSM) which had eclipsed yet another acronym (SLM) not that long in the past.
Of course much of the confusion comes from the fact that “applications” and “services” are so closely interrelated that — no matter what side of the “applications versus services” debate you sit on - you must view them as a continuum, even recognizing that all IT services are applications (e.g. telephony) and not all applications, in themselves, make up complete business services.
The value of approaching applications and business services together becomes all the more apparent when you look at the evolution of the industry over the last ten years. Just a decade ago, it was fair to say that most applications management solutions were truly “domain-centric” – with a focus on unique aspects of applications performance, such as transactions, or middleware, but with little infrastructure awareness. At that time, most of the cross-domain innovation was occurring from the bottom up — from the networking side, with its 7-layer model - and a growing number of vendors focused on application flows, session-level transactions, and strong advances in cross-domain triage and even user experience management.
That trend has certainly continued to become an enormous growth area for the network management vendors. But more advanced applications management solutions — especially with the advent of performance-centric application dependency mapping and top-down, infrastructure-aware analytics - have changed the game considerably.
That took a big chunk out of one of the BSM cornerstones - true cross-domain neutrality. BSM is still a place where multiple monitoring tools come together ideally in the context of a service model, with “reconciled sources of truth.” But too many vendors began to innovate in ways that made what was once a hard and fast boundary more of a sieve, including the integration of a kind of service model into their own tools. All this became yet more sieve-like when the world decided that “APM” was the place to be and marketing directions took a right (or left) turn from BSM to APM. (as per this very publication).
Another area of collapsing boundaries was the notion of business impact and business relevance. BSM demands bringing together business impact, relevance and value of IT services from multiple dimensions. And once again many “APM” vendors began to take this on in various ways. I used to say that User Experience Management (back then I called it “Quality of Experience”) would redefine SLM. Then it became a cornerstone of BSM. And low and behold, the world came to view it, erroneously in my opinion, as a subset of APM. Data just in would suggest that I’m correct here — at least in the sense that User Experience, Customer Experience, Business Impact, User Productivity and ultimately even Portfolio Planning belong together as a continuum.
For instance, the biggest area for growth cited from the UEM research was “greater concern for business development and customer management.” And the current top drivers were: overall operational efficiency, business competitiveness and brand awareness, employee productivity, business process optimization and better application performance in that order!
The third area where BSM had clearly extended beyond APM was in its ability to relate performance, configuration and workflow automation into a series of defined processes and interdependencies. Here the bleed has been least conspicuous — although there has been some remarkable growth in terms of capturing application dependency issues, including creating the equivalent of service models, for performance-oriented application discovery. This is a complementary arena to more “traditional” (if the word applies at all) types of configuration-centric application dependency mapping. But these innovations are showing value already in updating CMDB/CMS content with more service impact and more real-time awareness.
There is admittedly yet a fourth area of BSM, involving cost and asset optimization from a service delivery perspective. It is clearly least touched by the APM acronym — and one in which the industry, not by coincidence, is least advanced. It is an area nonetheless where EMA has done some groundbreaking research — “Service Centric Asset Management” in 2011 – which followed a prior research effort in 2007. But because it is way “out in front” of the industry, I spend very little time there for now.
So far the reception from vendors and IT organizations to Application and Business Services has been purely positive. They no longer have to hear Julie and I each go through our duel monologues on how we work together but actually have separate practice areas. And Julie and I are of course ecstatic that no further repeat performances are called for.
I always used to say that by and large we were “looking at the same mountain from different angles” and of course that still remains true. But now vendors and IT organizations can come to EMA for cohesive insights into their management challenges surrounding real-world landscapes of applications and services without getting sidetracked into “service” versus “application” debates — or trying to find that perfect line to show precisely where optimizing application performance and optimizing business performance divides.
Dennis Drogseth is VP at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).