Using Automation to Boost the Effectiveness of Your APM Solution
March 17, 2017

Chris Bloom
Savvius

Share this

Companies are outsourcing their applications to the cloud in droves, and the trend is sure to continue. In fact, the International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts worldwide spending on cloud solutions will reach $141 billion by 2019. 

So, let’s say your company has examined all the potential pros and cons, and moved your critical business applications to the cloud. The advertised benefits of the cloud seem like they’ll work out great. And in many ways, life is easier for you now. No infrastructure is necessary. Software updates happen magically on the backend. You get on-demand scalability. The benefits seem endless. And with these things taken care of, you might even find yourself with some free time.

But as often happens when things seem too good to be true, this honeymoon period is short-lived. Reality has a way of kicking in to reveal just exactly how many things can go wrong with your cloud setup – things that can directly impact your business.

One of the most common problems in cloud-based solutions is slow performance, causing users to wait an extended period of time for applications to respond. These problems can be difficult to troubleshoot, because you no longer have direct control over an outsourced application sitting in the cloud. And because the application is in a remote cloud being accessed over the Internet, network performance can have an effect as well. End-users feel the symptoms of network issues but usually don’t see the cause. If a network is congested or sluggish, for whatever reason, critical applications such as VoIP, ERP and CRM solutions can quickly bog down, particularly if they are hosted in the cloud.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve encountered something similar. This is when you realize that outsourcing your applications to the cloud does not mean your job is done. On the contrary, deploying applications in the cloud or relying on Software Defined Networks (SDN) or Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) architectures to reduce cost or complexity generally means that you’ll need to closely monitor your applications. When they are slow, your only choice is usually to contact the vendor and work with them to get it fixed. Since your company no longer hosts the application, you do not have direct access to it. Instead, you have to go through that vendor, whose priorities may not always align with your own.

When you contact the vendor about a problem, you will often find that the vendor will try to blame the network first, telling you to talk to your network service provider. And when you contact the network provider, guess what they are going to say? This is not fun, because at this point it is on you to prove whether the performance problem is being caused by the network or the application.

Although you do not have direct access or control over the network or the application, you do have access to all of the network traffic. In order to monitor the performance of your cloud applications, you’ll want an Application Performance Management (APM) solution that can measure latency of both the network and the application. When the latency is high, your tools should also help you understand why. Your complete solution should also have packet capture and analysis capabilities to investigate application performance issues.

Automation and APM

A good APM solution should provide automatic updates on performance issues that help to classify applications in real time, and gather the information you need to better understand what is going on in the network. A web-based dashboard or a mobile app can be a huge bonus, giving you real-time application-aware network analysis and forensics capabilities for Layer 4-7 traffic.

If the solution does not have automation capabilities built-in, it should at least have an API to get the analysis out, and ideally extend the capabilities of the analysis. For example, maybe you run a proprietary protocol, and need to extend the APM solution to recognize it. Or maybe there is a type of custom quality measurement you want the APM solution to calculate. APIs can include C++ or a REST-API, which allow scripts and programs to be written to configure and pull data. These types of APIs are also useful when integrating with other systems; for example, changing the settings of switches and routers based on APM thresholds.

Unfortunately, having to write some code to create these extensions can put them out of reach for many IT organizations, who do not have access to software development resources. But that’s ok, as long as the APM solution can output snapshots of the data at user defined intervals in a format like CSV or JSON. This allows other products to pick it up, and put it in a database. That, in turn, enables all kinds of visualization automation and customization.

Many organizations already have a solution to collect all kinds of log data from different systems, allowing them to create dashboards and alerts that correlate the data, providing insight into how they affect each other, and the business. One of those solutions has a “prediction” feature that will forecast trends into the future. The more data you have from the past, the further it can forecast into the future. Imagine getting an alert that tells you that in a week the utilization on your network will reach maximum capacity, or that latency on your most critical app will reach an unacceptable level. Talk about being proactive.

The most important thing to understand about automation is that it’s not all or nothing. Automation is something that can be added a little bit at a time, making your life a bit easier each time you incorporate more.

Chris Bloom is a Technology Evangelist at Savvius
Share this

The Latest

June 28, 2017

In 2017, every second counts and even minor issues can have a significant impact on the success or failure of a brand interaction. Our latest research found that two thirds of people have rising expectations for digital performance, showing that businesses can expect consumer pressure to grow. The App Attention Index 2017 revealed just how unforgiving consumers are of badly performing digital services ...

June 27, 2017

In today's everchanging IT industry, network engineers face a slew of challenges when it comes to network management. As networks continue to grow and become more complex, many IT professionals struggle to get a grasp on key workflows in which network engineers still rely on manual processes, including network documentation, troubleshooting, change management and cybersecurity ...

June 26, 2017

Many organizations are struggling to resolve customer-impacting incidents quickly enough to preserve brand loyalty and revenue, according to PagerDuty's recent State of Digital Operations Report ...

June 23, 2017

"Become the Automator, Not the Automated." While it's a simple enough phrase, it speaks directly to how today's organizations and IT teams must innovate to remain competitive. A critical aspect of innovation is acknowledging the digital transformation of businesses. The move to digitalization enables organizations to more effectively unlock the power of information technology (IT) to fuel and accelerate business innovation. It is a competitive weapon and a survival imperative ...

June 22, 2017

Executives in the US and Europe now place broad trust in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems, designed to protect organizations from more dynamic pernicious cyber threats, according to Radware's 2017 Executive Application & Network Security Survey ....

June 21, 2017

While IT service management (ITSM) has too often been viewed by the industry as an area of reactive management with fading process efficiencies and legacy concerns, a new study by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) reveals that, in many organizations, ITSM is becoming a hub of innovation ...

June 20, 2017

Cloud is quickly becoming the new normal. The challenge for organizations is that increased cloud usage means increased complexity, often leading to a kind of infrastructure "blind spot." So how do companies break the blind spot and get back on track? ...

June 19, 2017

Hybrid IT is becoming a standard enterprise model, but there’s no single playbook to get there, according to a new report by Dimension Data entitled The Success Factors for Managing Hybrid IT ...

June 16, 2017

Any mobile app developer will tell you that one of the greatest challenges in monetizing their apps through video ads isn't finding the right demand or knowing when to run the videos; it's figuring out how to present video ads without slowing down their apps ...

June 15, 2017

40 percent of UK retail websites experience downtime during seasonal peaks, according to a recent study by Cogeco Peer 1 ...