After speaking to thousands of APM users during my time with Gartner, I have seen 5 key issues that cause APM failures ...
In Part Two of APMdigest's exclusive interview, Will Cappelli, Gartner Research VP in Enterprise Management, talks about his latest report - Will IT Operations Analytics Platforms Replace APM Suites? - and the future of Application Performance Management.
APM: It seems like there is a positive and negative to the move towards analytics. Obviously, it's a good idea to invest in analytics, but you still recommend that organizations do need to invest in the other dimensions of APM as well?
WC: Absolutely. That's a very good point. I think, because of the enthusiasm for analytics, we are in a kind of danger point right now where organizations say: at last we have the silver bullet, at last we have the one single technology that will allow us to dismiss all other technologies. There are some people saying they can get by just with analytics. That is a big mistake, because analytics technology will end up having to replicate a lot of the core data collection and filtering that is done by more traditional APM tools. Rather than focusing on analysis, they will be focusing on performance and availability monitoring, which is not what they are designed to do.
APM: I agree with you on that point as well, but on the other hand, stats from the report, saying 60% of the enterprises will consider analytics a higher priority than APM by 2016, that makes sense to me.
WC: Priority is a different issue. First of all, analytics is not just confined to applications performance but also virtual environment management, network performance, storage management, and change and configuration management. So in that sense the analytics technology will become a higher priority than APM.
There is an argument one can make that one of the main projects in the last three years has been changing IT operations from infrastructure-centric activity to application-centric activity, and APM tools have been a big catalyst for that transformation. And you could say that the next three years or so, organizations will still be hammering out the implications of application centricity, but now the problem is shifting to a different one: how do we deal with the explosion of data and the complexity of the data sets that are required in order to manage the modern IT stack?
So there is a reason for the shift in prioritization. It is a question of maturity. Many enterprises have achieved a certain level of application centricity, so now they are beginning to look to the next problem on the horizon, which is how to deal with the Big Data issue.
APM: A couple years ago it seemed that application-centric rather than infrastructure-centric monitoring was a progressive concept. Would you say that it is now the mainstream view in ITSM?
WC: I would say it is the mainstream view. It is aspirational for many organizations, of course, but I think the argument has largely been won by the proponents of application centricity. So even organizations that are not on the leading edge of technology deployment nonetheless accept that what they're striving towards his application centricity.
I wouldn't say it is becoming in any way old-fashioned or dated. But it is accepted that this is the way you do IT operations. It is an idea that everyone thinks is obvious now. They've forgotten that this was actually a subject of deep argument for a couple of years.
So when I say things are moving on to some of these issues around data explosion, Big Data and complexity of data sets, this is not a negation of application centricity.
APM: Would you say this makes APM the key to ITSM today, where maybe it wasn't thought of that way a couple of years ago?
WC: Yes, I think very much so. When I look at most organizations now, at least when I look at the disciplines around performance and availability, there is no question that application centricity is the mainstream way of looking at it now. And it is the center of that aspect of ITSM.
APM: Your report mentions that “most of the five dimensional suites on offer to the Global 2000 ... are poorly integrated, difficult to implement and costly to administer.” So we're still a long way from having that vision become a workable reality?
WC: Yes. But I don't know if we ever will achieve a seamless platform that is able to deliver the five dimensions. I think the seams will always show. But that is always the case with enterprise management. The critical thing is recognizing that the problem space requires multiple perspectives, multiple dimensions, and then trying to coordinate the deployment of those different dimensions.
Getting them to work completely smoothly together is a moot point because the underlying items to be monitored evolve. You can look at the integration of these five dimensions as always merging like a tangent off of the curve.
APM: Is there more hope for anyone putting together their own five dimensions from five, or least multiple, vendors?
WC: That is a very interesting point. I think that is very hard to do. It just requires a lot of development. Gartner has clients in the high-end financial services, telecommunications and IT service organizations that do that all themselves. They even build the basic components themselves and weave it together. But for the vast majority of enterprises it is more cost-effective for them to buy an imperfectly integrated suite than to go out and buy best-of-breed products in all five areas and try to weave them together themselves.
This has been a debate that has plagued enterprise management for decades, and it plagues APM as well. I think at this stage in the history of the APM market, the partial integration achieved by a vendor is better than trying to do it yourself, from a cost point of view.
APM: From that viewpoint, would you say that someone who is buying stand-alone analytics would not be purchasing that as one piece out of five but rather as an overlay on top of the APM suite?
WC: That is right. These analytics technologies are actually overarching, synthesizing tools rather than components within APM. In fact, one can go a step further and say that you're actually beginning to see two layers of analytics, although that is very embryonic.
First is local domain analytics, that might be associated with application performance, network performance, CMDB. Then these domain analytics feed into an overarching analytics platform that is an integration point for different aspects of ITSM.
We have been here before too. ITSM as a whole, just like APM, has been a loosely, imperfectly integrated set of functions, and in the market we have pushed a succession of technologies as critical points to tie them together. First we moved to the configuration management database, and then the service catalog, and you could argue that the analytics platform is this continued attempt to provide some kind of integration point around which a variety of different enterprise management disciplines can gather.
Will these analytics platforms be successful in this role, where previous technologies have not been? Right now there is a lot of expectation that analytics platforms can become the new CMDB or service catalog, insofar as they play a central integrating function across the different domains of enterprise management.
APM: With greater focus on analytics in the last year or so it seems like the vendors of traditional APM should be welcoming analytics and working with those standalone solutions, trying to integrate with them better. Is that what you are seeing on the vendor side?
WC: I see two things. Yes they are, and they are also trying to do it themselves. Most are taking a two-pronged attack. Certainly, you can see the ecosystems and partnerships being built up, but there is also a lot of internal investment going on too.
I am not sure I made this call in any of the notes I've written around this area, but Gartner believes that in 2013 you will see many of the incumbent players in APM, and in enterprise management in general, roll out their own analytics platform. They may buy some of the smaller players to give some heft to these platforms, but I think you'll see IBM, HP, BMC, CA, Compuware rolling out generic IT operations analytics platforms, if they are in multiple enterprise management areas. If they are an APM specialist, like a Compuware, their analytic platforms will tend to be more specific to APM.
So I think you will see most of the main characters in the market both trying to partner aggressively with some of the main hot players in the analytics space, while also coming up with their own technology platforms as well.