So You Want to Buy Some APM – You Need Intelligent Contingencies

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Consider that the benefits derived from proactive monitoring do not necessarily come from just one tool, albeit tool selection is a key element, but it is not the only one. “A fool with a tool is still a fool” – Grady Booch.

Listening to what your business partners need from an application perspective and then delivering on that within a tight timeline and a modest budget can create challenging opportunities for any IT Manager. 

Think about how extensible your APM solution should be.  If it is flexible enough to integrate ubiquitously, and dynamic enough to be configured rapidly, then you will be poised for expansion and ready to begin monitoring anything that comes your way. 

Intelligent Contingencies

Focusing on the integration touch points with existing ITSM processes will help anchor a thoughtful APM solution into the IT culture.  A look into ITIL’s Continual Service Improvement (CSI) model and the Application Performance Management (APM) framework indicates they are both focused on improvement. I see them as being two sides of the same coin.

APM defines the approach and tool-sets that CSI uses while leveraging specific processes in Service Design, Service Transition, and Service Operation.  Within the CSI model there are certain ITIL processes that weave themselves in and through the APM methodology that create a fabric of continuous improvement for application performance.

The Incident Management Process is one of these threads and is germane to a successful APM strategy. This process is focused on going from red to green and has an immediate benefit when APM event flow is integrated directly into it.

Here, I’ve listed three elements to consider when outlining an Enterprise Monitoring Strategy which includes integration of an APM Framework.

Build an Automation Center

Integrate, Correlate, and Automate — Consider that it is the correlation of events and the amalgamation of metrics that bring value to the business by way of real-time reporting, and it’s the way the business interprets the accuracy of those metrics that determines your success.

It is also the automation of alerts into actionable incidents, for the support engineers, to quickly troubleshoot issues that provides value to IT.

If an event occurs and no one sees it, believes it, or takes action on it, APM’s value can be severely diminished and you run the risk of owning “shelfware.” – L.Dragich, APM Digest June 2012

Look to customize how you use the APM framework for the business needs you are trying to support, and then integrate that output into your existing ITSM /ITIL processes where you have the biggest need.

Get Your Ops Team Involved

Development and Operations view APM in a slightly different light, largely because it is a concept that consists of multiple complementary approaches for addressing issues surrounding application performance. Understanding the different requirements for Dev and Ops is one of the key elements needed for APM adoption to take off in both areas.

One important distinction to make is that in our situation, the Incident Management, Problem Management, and Change Management processes were already established in the culture for a year prior to implementing an APM solution. This allowed us to integrate right into the Incident Management process, allowing for some quick wins once we got the automation and event correlation in place.

Create a Feedback Loop

It is not necessarily the number of features or technical stamina of each monitoring tool to process large volumes of data that will make an APM implementation successful; it’s the choices you make in putting them together. 

When an event occurs, be prepared to answer the question; what does normal look like?  Operationally there are things you may not want to think about all of the time (e.g. standard deviations, averages, percentiles, etc.), but you have to think about them long enough to create the most accurate picture possible.

Creating an amplified feedback loop between Development and Operations (one of the core tenets of DevOps) to communicate the subtleties in each environment.will help facilitate quick wins and build trust across the silos.

Once you build awareness in the organization that you have a bird’s eye view of the technical landscape and the ability to monitor the ecosystem of each application (as an ecologist), people become more meticulous when introducing new elements into the environment. They know you are watching, taking samples, and keeping a scorecard on successful deployments and operational stability.

Conclusion

It’s important to consider however, that with the abundance of monitoring tools available in the market, you don’t buy APM, you develop it as a strategy and then acquire the tools you need to realize the vision.  Using APM as a cornerstone to a well thought out Enterprise Monitoring strategy will allow organizations to support the speed for Development without compromising the stability for Operations, improving the Customer Experience.