AppDynamics Cloud Arrives in Europe

Ask people where “the cloud” is, and most will likely respond “it doesn’t matter.” And that is true in the absolute sense. The physical location of cloud services is unknown and in theory should not matter.

Except when it does.

For many organizations today, and in particular those in the EU, data residency (where the bits actually live) and control over data processing have become hot topics, especially focused by the privacy law updates in the form of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As announced, AppDynamics customers in Europe are already meeting their data residency needs by taking advantage of a new cloud using the AWS Region in Frankfurt, Germany. In addition to the benefits of guaranteed availability and encryption of data in transit and at rest, all AppDynamics SaaS customers can be assured that AppDynamics and Cisco have also been preparing for GDPR readiness to help our customers with this new regulation (for more information about AppDynamics and GDPR, check out www.appdynamics.com/privacy/gdpr).

To understand some of the reasons why AppDynamics brought their cloud to Europe, I sat down with Kahnan Patel, Director of SaaS Engineering, Steve Jenner, Vice President Worldwide Sales Engineering and Craig Rosen, Chief Information Security Officer for AppDynamics:

Bradley: What kind of things did you think about when coming up with AppDynamics European SaaS Offering?

Kahnan: One thing we continued to hear from our customers was a desire for data residency in the EU.  At the same time we were looking to leverage some of the latest technology that Amazon had to offer in AWS which would allow us to more easily scale our services to allow us to address on-demand capacity needs.  It made sense to use this opportunity to do both – by building a SaaS capability in the AWS Frankfurt Region.

Bradley: Transitioning our core services to AWS seems like a big effort.  How did you feel about that move?

Kahnan: You know, a lot of our own customers are doing the same thing right now – moving their core services and customer facing applications to AWS.  Such lifting and shifting of cloud services requires product back-end tweaking as well as endless performance and quality testing to make sure the migration does not cause any negative impact of service reliability, availability, scalability and performance.  By doing this, we will be able to stay on the leading edge of technology more easily and offer those improvements in performance and security to our customers.

Bradley: The other day, I heard you mentioning how we drink our own champagne here at AppD. Can you talk a little bit about how we are using our own products to monitor our own applications in AWS?

Kahnan: Sure. One of the ways we provide a high level of service to our customers is through the use of the AppDynamics platform to monitor and manage the performance from our customers’ perspective.  We use the entire portfolio and consistently are able to proactively identify any issues before our customers notice them. We have always done this in our existing cloud and are continuing to do so with our SaaS offering in the Frankfurt Region, taking advantage expanded capabilities leveraging the tight integration we have with AWS.

Bradley: Steve, it seems like this is bound to be a popular SaaS option – what has been the response from our customers in the EU?

Steve: The response has been nothing short of amazing.  Clearly, there has been a pent-up demand for enterprise-grade APM solutions hosted in the EU region as we have started to see some very large organizations jump in early to take advantage of the opportunity.  We have even had some customers in the region, but outside the EU, subscribe to the new service.

Bradley: There is a lot of buzz around GDPR.  How has AppDynamics helped customers address their concerns about GDPR?

Craig: GDPR certainly impacts many of our customers, so the European SaaS offering coinciding in the same timeframe as the GDPR enforcement date is an opportunity for us to reinforce our commitment to building security and privacy in to our program by design. Regardless of geography, most of our customers are very glad to see all of our SaaS offerings, including our European SaaS offering, as being GDPR-ready because it enables them to meet the new data protection guidelines that GDPR brings front and center.

Bradley: That brings up a great point about our broader efforts around security and privacy. Craig, what are our goals as it relates to that effort?

Craig: In addition to ensuring our customers are able to comply with the latest privacy and security regulations, at AppDynamics we continue to focus on security and privacy as a priority for our customers. There are many goals and efforts underway, too many to list, but our primary goal at AppDynamics has always been to provide assurance to our customers by building a strong security and privacy program and product platform.

Bradley: Can you talk a bit more about how we are doing that?

Craig: Sure. The AppDynamics SaaS platform extends the work we already do to build a secure product with a security and privacy-minded operational footprint. This includes features and capabilities like access controls, data encryption at rest and in-transit, and service isolation, some of which leverage the security services offered to us through AWS. We couple that with a highly-capable team of experts that provide security design-led development, security testing, security monitoring and DevSecOps practice integration to ensure a continuity of security as environments shift and scale to meet customer demands. Our program also maintains a regular cadence of SOC2 attestations that establish an independent assessment of our SaaS based security controls.

Bradley: We have talked a lot about how we watch the market for technology trends and listen to our customers requests for new capabilities.  Given the high demand for SaaS, what kind of additional things can we share about future plans?

Kahnan: There is a lot of investment going into the AppDynamics platform right now.  One of the things I am most excited about is taking what we have built in the European SaaS capability and making that available in strategic AWS Regions worldwide.  We have looked at quite a number of great ideas from customers and are working on some additional features to meet these demands in partnership with Amazon and the advances they are making with AWS.  Stay tuned for more details as this comes to market soon.

Bradley: It sounds like there has been a very positive response to AppDynamics SaaS in Europe. Where can customers go to get more information if they have additional questions?

Steve: Customers can reach out to their account managers for more information or contact us at info@appdynamics.com or https://www.appdynamics.com/company/contact-us.

For more programmatic details and information about AppDynamics’ commitment to security, see https://www.appdynamics.com/security.

An Introduction to the Data Cloud

As data has grown exponentially at many sites, companies have been forced to horizontally scale their data.  Some have turned to sharding of databases like Postgres or MySQL, while others have switched to newer NoSQL data systems.  There have been many debates in the last few years about SQL vs. NoSQL data management systems and which is better.  What many have failed to grasp, though, is how similar these systems are and how complex they both are to run in production in high scale.

Both of these systems represent what I call a Data Cloud. This Data Cloud is logical data set spread across many nodes.  While developers have heated debates about which system is better and how to design code around it, those in DevOps usually struggle with very similar issues because the two systems are mostly the same.  Both systems

  • Run across many nodes with large amounts of data flowing between them and from/to the application
  • Strain both the hardware of all nodes, and the network connecting them
  • Maintain duplicate data across nodes for fault tolerance, and must have failover ability
  • Must be tuned on a per node and cluster-wide bases
  • Must allow for growth by adding additional nodes.

Running this Data Cloud in production presents a new set of challenges for DevOps, many of which are not well understood or addressed.  One of the main challenges is the management and monitoring of these systems, for which few (if any) tools or products exist at this time.

When systems were smaller and you ran a single Database in production, you probably had all the necessary systems in place.  With a plethora of products for Management, monitoring, visualizing data, and backups, it was not hard to be successful and meet your SLAs.

But now all this is much more complex once you move into the world of the Data Cloud.  Now you have a large number of nodes, all representing the same system and still needing to meet the same SLAs as the old simple DB from before.  Let us look at the challenges for running a production Data Cloud successfully.

Capacity Planning

Do you know how many nodes you need?  How many nodes do you put in each replica set?  How much latency and throughput do you need in your network for the nodes to communicate fast enough?  What is the ideal hardware to use for each node to balance performance with costs?

Monitoring

How do you monitor dozens, hundreds or even thousands of nodes all at once?   How do you get a unified view of your data cloud, and then drill down to the problem nodes?   Are there even any off-the-shelf monitoring tools that can help?  Your old monitoring tool won’t be very useful anymore unless you are willing to look at every node one by one to see what is going on there.

Alerting

How do you set up a common set of alerts across all nodes?  And how do you keep your alert thresholds in sync as you add nodes and remove them?   More importantly, even assuming you have alerting in place,  once staff receives critical alerts, how will they know where to find the troubled node in the massive cloud, or whether it’s a node level  issue or more global in nature?  This must be done quickly during critical outages.

Data Visualization

How does your staff view the data when it is distributed?  In case of data inaccuracy, how can they quickly identify the faulty nodes and fix up the data?

Performance Tuning

As performance degrades, how do you troubleshoot and identify the bottlenecks?  How do you find which nodes by be the cause of the problem?  How do you improve performance across all the nodes.

Data Cloud Management

How do you back up all the data while consistently tracking which nodes were backed up successfully and when?  How do you make schema changes across all the nodes in one consistent step without breaking your app? And how do you make configuration changes on various nodes or across all nodes?  And how do you track the configurations of each node and keep them consistent across your system?

By now you should see that there is a lot to think about before endeavoring to launch a production Data Cloud.  Too many companies focus all their energies on deciding which DB or NoSQL system to use and developing their apps for it.  But that might turn out to be the lesser of your challenges once you struggle to put the system into production.  Be sure you can answer all the questions I have listed above before your launch.

Boris.