“There was 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every 2 days, and the pace is increasing…,” – Eric Schmidt, Former CEO, Google.
If IT leaders hadn’t already heard Schmidt’s famous quotation, today they are definitely facing the challenge he describes. Gone are the days when IT leaders were tasked with just keeping an organization running, now IT teams are charged with driving innovation. As businesses become defined by the software that runs them, IT leaders must not only collect and try to make sense of the increasing amount of information these systems generate, but leverage this data as a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This type of competitive advantage may come in many forms, but generally speaking, the more IT leaders know about their environments and the ways end users interact with them, the better off they (and the business) will be. Gleaning this type of insight from IT environments is what analysts refer to as IT Operations Analytics (ITOA). ITOA solutions collect the structured and unstructured data generated by IT environments, process that data, and display the information in an actionable way so operations teams can make better informed decisions in real-time. I’d like to discuss five common ITOA use cases we see across our customer base in this series, starting with visualizing your environment. In the rest of this series I’ll examine each of the other use cases and describe how a solution like the Application Intelligence Platform can address each and in turn provide value for operations teams.
The five common ITOA use cases I’ll delve into are:
- Visualize the environment
- Rapid troubleshooting
- Prioritize issues and opportunities
- Analyze business impact
- Create action plans
Visualizing the environment
The first use case refers to the ability for an ITOA system to model infrastructure and / or the application stack being monitored. These models vary in nature but oftentimes are topological representations of the environment. Being able to visualize the application environment and see the dependencies is an important foundation for the rest of the use cases on this list.
In the Summer ‘14 release announcement blog, we highlighted the enhancements we’ve made in regard to our flow maps, which is the visual representation of the application environment, including application servers, databases, web services, and more.
What’s great about the AppDynamics approach is that this flow map is discovered automatically out of the box, unlike legacy monitoring solutions that require significant manual configuration to get the same kind of view. We also automatically adjust this flow map on the fly when your application changes (re-architected app, code release, etc.). Because we know all the common entry and exit points of each node, we simply tag and trace the paths the different user requests take to paint a picture of the flow of requests and all the interactions between different components inside the application. Most customers see something like the flow map below within minutes of installing AppDynamics in their environment.
Now a flow map like this is obviously very valuable, but what happens when the application environment is very large and complex? How does this kind of view scale for the kinds of enterprise applications many AppDynamics customers have deployed? Environments with thousands of nodes and potentially hundreds of tiers? Luckily for our customers, the Application Intelligence Platform was built from the ground up to handle these kinds of environments with ease. There are two characteristics of our flow maps that enable operations teams to manage flow maps of large-scale application performance management deployments; self-aggregation and self-organizing layouts.
Self-aggregation refers to our powerful algorithms that make these complex environments more manageable by condensing and expanding the visualization to enable intelligent zooming in and zooming out of the topology of the application. This allows us to automatically deliver the right level of application health indicators to match the zoom level.
For example, this is what a complex application could look like when zoomed all the way out:
As one zooms in, relevant metrics information becomes visible:
Until you are zoomed all the way in on a particular tier and can see all of the associated metrics you’d care about:
The ability to iterate back and forth between a macro-level view of the application and a close-up of a particular part of the environment gives operations teams the visibility they need to understand exactly how an application functions and how the different components interact with each other.
Self-organizing layouts relates to our ability to automatically format the service and tier dependencies by using auto-grouping heuristics to dynamically determine tier and node weightages. By leveraging static data (like application tier profiles) and dynamic KPIs (like transaction response times) we organize the business-critical tiers in a way that brings the most important parts of the application to the forefront depending on the type of layout you prefer.
One can automatically group the flow map into a circular view:
You can let AppDynamics suggest a layout:
You can create a custom layout just by dragging and dropping individual components:
And you can auto-fit your layout to the screen for efficient zooming in / out:
You’ve seen how AppDynamics can visualize individual applications, but what if, like many of our large enterprise customers, you have many different complex applications that have dependencies on one or more other applications? How does one obtain a data-center view to understand, at a high level, what application health looks like across all applications?
With the cross-app business flow feature, customers can do just that. AppDynamics even supports role-based access control (RBAC) so administers can limit user access to a particular application. We allow customers to group, define, and limit access to applications however makes the most sense for their individual environments and for their business.
As you can see, AppDynamics provides a great way for IT Operations teams to discover and visualize their application environment. We automatically map the application out of the box, we provide flexible layout options so customers can customize the view to their liking, and offer a way for Ops teams to understand how different applications interact with each other.
In the next post in this series, we’ll discuss how the Application Intelligence platform can address the second common ITOA use case, rapid troubleshooting. In the meantime, I encourage you to sign up for free and try AppDynamics for yourself.