In Part 3 of this exclusive interview, Cameron Haight, Gartner Research VP, IT Operations, discusses the new focus of his research: Application Performance Management (APM).
APM: Now let's talk about APM. When you look at APM today, what is your overall assessment of APM as an industry?
CH: It has been eight years plus since I directly covered APM, although I have been keeping track of some parts of it. But as I look at how Gartner identifies APM functionality today, we define APM with five functional requirements, but none of those are new. In the past we were doing end-user monitoring, application topology discovery and visualization, transaction profiling, component deep dives. Analytics were not very big in the past. The concept of analytics is not new but it is relatively new being applied to the APM domain.
So for me it wasn't like that scene in the movie Somewhere in Time where Christopher Reeve goes back in time wearing the completely wrong style of clothing for the era. My lapels might be a little wider back in that day, but it isn't like this is totally different than what I saw eight years ago. Some of the APM vendors may beg to differ with me. We will find out.
I think the technology has gotten better. Certainly in some areas. SaaS was not that big eight years ago. We had MSPs and ASPs before, but that was not a very successful business model in the early 2000 timeframe. Now it is more and more. But I don't see SaaS as necessarily providing a better function. It is providing a different delivery mechanism that improves the consumption of the service to be sure. And I think it has the potential to provide better function, by the way. But I don't necessarily see that today.
APM: You mention Gartner's definition of APM, with the five components. Do you foresee any changes to this definition?
CH: At Gartner, we are sensitive to the fact that what we do has a market impact. So any changes, if they were to occur, would not happen overnight. I'm not envisioning any changes, in the short-term. It seems to be working so far in terms of what Jonah Kowall and Will Cappelli (former and current Gartner Analysts) have been doing. They have recognized that a well featured APM tool should have these capabilities. They've captured a good pattern so far.
APM: What is your take on the fact that so many companies are still not using APM, despite its popularity and obvious benefits?
CH: As an outside observer of APM, I think we build a lot of complexity into these tools. And the complexity or price performance trade-off may not be there for a lot of companies.
I did a presentation a couple years ago on complexity. In the presentation I said that I don't have enterprise clients calling me and saying I have a complexity problem. But interestingly enough when you talk to them, complexity bubbles up as the underlying cause, whether it's complexity in process, complexity in organizational structure, complexity in technology. We make it very difficult to consume a lot of IT Operations Management (ITOM) and APM tools. It is probably an overused example but I always like to point to smartphones. That is a very complex device. No one ever picks up a manual to use it. So why can't we take the same approach to the tools that manage IT?
APM: Make IT tools more intuitive?
CH: Yes – a lot.
APM: So you're saying that complexity increases the cost, and makes it harder for people to adopt it? They need an expert or maybe a team of experts, etc.?
CH: Yes, like in the case when using SaaS. It solves the maintenance and deployment complexity but doesn't necessarily solve the user interaction complexity. Very few of these tools, based on my past history, enable you to pick up and say I know how to use this. It takes some time and training to use it. By the way this is not just APM. This is the whole portfolio of enterprise software from ERP to databases to everything else that we use every day in IT. It takes a lot of work and pain to make them work. That's why some companies say: enough. We are going to put this in the cloud and consume it from someone else, but even then we have other kinds of complexities, so it never totally goes away.
APM: In your recent blog you touch on the exponential growth of APM generated big data, with factors looming on the horizon like the Internet of Things. Do you feel APM today is not equipped to handle this deluge of data?
CH: It was more of a question because I don't know. Are we designing systems to manage hundreds of thousands of objects? Do we need to manage hundreds of thousands of objects? I don't think we are doing a great job managing what we already have. And the numbers on the horizon are kind of scary if in fact we are tasked to manage them. Analytics will hopefully address some of this, cut through the digital tsunami of info and data. But even then, are we really improving our situational awareness? It is a question more than anything else.
APM: Do you mean the IT user's situational awareness of the environment?
CH: Yes. What do we need to focus on here and now? How are our OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loops improving, so that we can take the actions we need to prevent bad things from happening?
Look at other areas where sensory overload can result in disasters, like with airplanes. An automation system decides to stop working and the situational awareness is not there for the humans in the cockpit. Fortunately we don't face that life-and-death struggle in IT, but I would assert that we still have a lot of things going on in a typical NOC (Network Operations Center) environment, that we just don't know have a good handle on.
Jonah Kowall and Will Cappelli have done a great job in covering this area, and I will have big shoes to fill. One of the points I would like to focus on is improving situational awareness. It is not going to be just a technology enhancement to make that happen. We have to rethink how the workplace and the processes are designed as well.
ABOUT Cameron Haight
Cameron Haight is VP in Gartner Research. His primary research focus is on IT Operations Management (ITOM) and Application Performance Management (APM). His previous focus was on DevOps and associated technologies, processes and organizational structures. He has also developed the concept of web-scale IT, which seeks to enable enterprises to develop capabilities typically found only in large cloud services providers, such as Amazon and Google. Prior to Gartner, Haight worked at both BMC Software and IBM.
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