Where Good Tools Go To Die

Over the years working in the field of IT I’ve seen many products come and go. Some weren’t all that good in the first place, while others were very promising but ultimately failed to deliver on expectations. When I was working in the large enterprise world, we (those of us who cared) compared notes on what small companies were ripe for takeover and which of the much bigger software companies would buy and ultimately ruin their product. Basically we were betting that some software giant (usually companies with 2 or 3 letter acronyms) would buy a useful product and kill it over time.

How Do You Kill Software?

ripWhat do I mean by “kill it”? It’s not like software is a living, aware entity (yet). Here is what it means to me to “kill” a software product:

  • Let it stagnate so that it falls behind the times and becomes outdated
  • “Integrate” it with your other products in a loose (i.e. crappy) way such that it is a pain to configure and provides little value anyway
  • Ignore the needs (new features and functionality) of the majority of your customers and focus solely on the needs of a few large customers who spend the most money and scream the loudest
  • Provide poor customer service after the sale (slow response to issues, unresolved support calls, etc…)

Who?

Time to take a trip down memory lane…

  • Remember Cyanea? They were founded in 2001, bought by IBM and rename ITCam in 2004. Currently a high ranking member of my “Promising Tools that Went Nowhere” list. Thanks IBM!
  • And who can forget Mercury and HPs brutalization of Performant Diagnostics? So very young. So very sad.
  • Then there was the absolutely horrific beat down of Precise i3. Precise was bought by Veritas, who was then bought by Symantec. Then when Symantec had brought i3 to the brink of death they sold it to a VC company which brought back the Precise name but did little to revive i3. Another promising tool ruined.

There have been other similar acquisitions in the past few years and only time will tell if the trend of large companies snuffing out promising tools will continue. You can see a list here.

Why??????

Why does it always seem to happen? Why can’t a large software vendor keep a product they purchased relevant? I really believe that it is not so much a case of “can’t” as “won’t”. “Can’t” implies that the company is incapable from a technical perspective. “Won’t” has a much worse connotation. “Won’t” is a calculated decision that the company can realize more net profit by selling a product based upon what it once was than by investing and keeping that product current and relevant (more risk). “Won’t” is about putting Wall Street expectations for your next quarter ahead of the needs of your paying customers. “Won’t” seems like a good idea in the short term but ultimately leads to the death of a product in the long term.

Choose Wisely

customer-service

I really hope your favorite software products are not in the process of being killed by a giant software company. It’s really a shame to watch it happen over and over again.

When you’re deciding which software products to purchase it is important to understand what type of company you are dealing with. Look at their history, look at their customer satisfaction and Net Promoter scores, ask about their corporate goals and direction. If you choose the wrong company to do business with your new favorite software product might be headed toward an early demise.

Glassdoor proves AppDynamics is a Great Place to Work!

AD TeamIt’s been almost two years since I joined AppDynamics and it’s been one of the best career moves I’ve ever made. I used to work at a competitor, and quickly realized I was working for the wrong company. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut feeling when it comes to technology–you’ve either got a product that’s special or you don’t, and I know what it’s like to experience both feelings.

At AppDynamics the technology is definitely special, but I also joined a group of like-minded people who shared the same passion as I did for application monitoring. The no-compromise approach to figuring out new ways of doing things that couldn’t be done previously, along with a laser-focus on solving real world problems for customers, is pretty inspiring. Things are never perfect at any company but the passion to make our customers successful, and the will to win business professionally, is unique at AppDynamics. We really believe that enterprise software doesn’t have to suck, it should never be shelfware, and it should be affordable by everyone–which is one of the reasons why we created a free product AppDynamics Lite that now has over 100,000 users and our commercial product AppDynamics Pro is reasonably priced.

In just two years we’ve disrupted an application monitoring market that was previously dominated by expensive complex solutions that quite frankly sucked. This disruption was one of the reasons why Gartner recognized AppDynamics as a Leader in their 2012 APM Magic Quadrant, and we’ve only been selling our product for two years! This speaks volumes for what we’ve achieved in such a short period of time. What’s also great is that our customers are very vocal about their success; our case study page is packed with customer success stories, with several customers willing to publish actual ROI results from their AppDynamics deployments. How many real customer ROI stories have you read recently from any vendor? My guess is not many.

One online community that provides an accurate inside look at companies is Glassdoor.com. It basically lets employees rate different aspects of the company they work for, from compensation all the way through to culture and leadership. If you search for all the APM companies on Glassdoor.com that are currently recognized in the Gartner’s APM Magic Quadrant, here is what the top 10 looks like:

Glassdoor APM ratings

*Glassdoor ratings correct as of 1/10/2013

I’m pretty proud to work for a company where employees are very satisfied and give their CEO 100% approval. That says a lot about the success and leadership of the company–happy employees also means a happy place to work and trust me, this is pretty important when you spend most of your life at work!

One company that didn’t score well was Compuware. Only 38% of employees would recommend a friend and only 68% approve of their CEO. Not particularly encouraging when you need your employees to innovate, run through walls, and beat the competition. A hedge fund recently put an offer on the table to take Compuware private–let’s hope those guys can get the employees jazzed.

If you’re looking for the next challenge, cool technology and a great place to work, you should consider joining AppDynamics. We’ve got 21 positions currently open and we need great people to help scale the great company we’re building!

With customers like Netflix, Orbitz, Fox News, Vodafone and Yahoo you’ll experience the ins and outs of monitoring some of the largest applications in the world.

Oh, and you get to work with a superhero like me!

Appman.

Why I Joined The Leading APM Provider AppDynamics

A new year, a new iPhone and a new quarter. What else is new? How about a new company?

Last month I was fortunate enough to join a stellar marketing team at one of the fastest growing enterprise software startups in the bay area. The company you ask? AppDynamics, and did I mention we’re also the leading next generation Application Performance Management (APM) provider for modern architectures in distributed, cloud, virtualized and on-premise environments? We exceeded our targets for 2011 achieving an astonishing 400% growth in bookings. Not too shabby for being the new kid on the block in a competitive market already inundated with vendors. You have old school APM tools from megavendors like CA, HP and Compuware (was dynaTrace). Then you have the new school breed such as New Relic and AppDynamics. In fact, Gartner’s MQ lists over twenty vendors. So with such a crowded market why did I even consider such a move?

Well there’s a laundry list of reasons, but here are the top ones that come to mind.

1. Business Innovation. This is another kind of BI not just Business Intelligence. It’s really a breath of fresh air to be working with an organization that is not only obsessed with pumping out insanely great technology every few quarters or so, but also open to embracing innovative approaches to every discipline of the business including creative marketing and sales strategies. Often times enterprise software companies unabashedly attempt to cloak themselves in slideware selling a “vision” or an enterprise solution poles apart from reality. Unfortunately when it comes down to an actual evaluation, you end up having to attend a dozen meetings just to see an applicable demo, a one week to two month proof-of-concept followed by throwing millions of dollars at consulting and implementation services, which segues to my next point.

2. Ease-of-Use. This simple yet powerful concept has been repeatedly neglected or intentionally ignored by many enterprise software companies. Luckily, the Leaders of the New School such as Apple, Salesforce, Box, etc. (not Busta Rhymes group) have changed the way end users value an intuitive user interface and design. At AppDynamics, we’ve adopted a similar mindshare. “Easy” is the new world order in this industry because the managers, engineers and folks in IT operations are encountering enough complexity as it is with these modern architectures. I doubt the last thing that they want is another tool to further complicate their lives causing more frustration on the job. At the end of the day everyone is a consumer – the least common denominator – who wants to use software that helps us demystify our lives and makes us successful at our jobs (unless you’re a sadist).

Software that is easy to install, implement and use can have a tremendous impact on the bottom-line of a business. Suppose you end up rolling out a new system but end up having to spend a chunk of company change on implementation and training costs. What impact does that have on your productivity and ultimately your company’s bottom-line? Here’s an example from Avon’s Q3, 2011 earnings transcript,

“Despite extensive pre-implementation testing, we had greater than anticipated implementation challenges in the go-live. Significantly higher business complexity in this market contributed to a greater than expected level of disruption, as I said, when we went to the go-live environment.”

Many vendors make enterprise deployments akin to embarking on an IT version of manifest destiny. I’m sure you can think of a few applications in your own IT toolbox that fit the bill where at some point you ended up asking yourself, “Why can’t this be as easy as [fill in the blank with some consumer app]?”  Fig. 2. See empathetic frustrated user to your left.

That was compelling enough for me to join AppDynamics. We truly understand the business significance as to why software ought to be easy 360 degrees around especially in production. I’m not saying that the work designers and developers have to do to achieve this “Easy” goal is easy in itself. I have an unrequited love for the folks in engineering who possess the talent and perseverance in coding applications, but that doesn’t excuse a vendor from selling you a dream and then leaving you stranded to implement a nightmare all because there wasn’t enough emphasis on ease-of-use.

3. Application Performance. This one is near and dear to my heart and arguably the main reason for me to join AppDynamics. It takes me back to the challenging days and sleepless nights I endured while working on a massive global PDM implementation at LG Electronics jointly with Dassault Systemes. The year was 2008. Skynet hadn’t become self-aware yet. App Man was just A Man in the throes and woes of IT operations, and half way around the world over in Seoul, Korea I was managing juggling recurring performance issues on a weekly basis with our PMO having to answer to the beck and call of the LGE CIO. The project’s launch date had been delayed due to various complications with the implementation (that’s a whole other story). Any ideas what one of those might have entailed? If you guessed “performance”, congratulations! You’ve won! Download your free copy AppDynamics Lite.

Every week new customizations were being released from R&D back in the states, PS in Korea and SI’s sitting on the other side of the room. You could call it Agile development’s nemesis, frAgile development. The dynamic nature of our java-based environment only introduced more challenges to the performance team who were heads-down trying to reverse engineer someone else’s code and refactor it using APM tools that just didn’t provide us with the full visibility we needed to comprehensively profile and diagnose application performance issues (using JenniferSoft). In fact, one of the consultants on our team ended up creating his own profiler to expose these blind spots, but what we really needed was a next-generation APM tool that would visually map and connect the dots for us like the one below.

Then we ran into another stumbling block after we completed migrating legacy data to a new “production” environment. When the time came to retest the entire set of performance use cases in this new environment we experienced all kinds of performance regressions. Since everyone was collaborating so well with each other for over the past two years, we all cheerfully marched forward without any finger pointing as to what the root cause was. Ok, so it wasn’t that utopian. Fortunately, because of everyone’s undying commitment and personal sacrifices, the project went live successfully in mid 2010 with over 2,000 users visiting the system per day. In hindsight, we could have easily saved a month’s worth had we used a better tool thereby eliminating the usual suspects.

From that experience I’ve come to appreciate and understand how business-critical managing application performance is for any company. Now I am on a mission to spread the word of AppDynamics to help companies manage rapidly evolving, distributed environments.

Buckle up 2012, we’re just getting started.

APM Market Disruptors – AppDynamics vs New Relic

Last week a performance engineer called Ben Bramley published a blog entitled “APM Market Disruptors – AppDynamics and New Relic“. The purpose of his article was to provide an overview of AppDynamics and New Relic, whilst also summarizing the key approaches each vendor/solution has taken to simplify and disrupt the APM marketplace.

Firstly, we’re thrilled to be recognized by a blogger, who in this case, had previous hands on experience with Application Performance Management (APM) products like OpTier, CA Wily, HP and dynaTrace. Secondly, whilst it was obviously good (and slightly nerving at times) to read our features and capabilities compared with another vendor (and the APM market in general), it was actually nice to see our freemium and SaaS based go-to-market strategy being recognized as well. I guess these things were actually the main reason why a blogger could access, compare and contrast two next generation APM solutions in the first place. It’s not like IBM, CA or Compuware would make their APM solution available to the masses for evaluation, let alone welcome an independent opinion.

You can read Ben’s blog article in full here.

App Man.

Update: HP does in fact offer their solution (HP Diagnostics v9) via trial, but you’ve got to download and install 4GB of their software.  In the time it takes to do this you could already be up and running with AppDynamics Lite.

Gartner publishes 2011 Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring

On Tuesday, Gartner announced this year’s Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring (APM).   I’ll make a few observations from reading the MQ and then suggest 3 additional criteria that APM buyers should consider to make informed buying decisions.

APM demand is strongThe research report started with an analysis of the APM market growth at 15% year-over-year and $2 billion in total market spend.  These facts reflect what we see every day – the market for APM is very strong and benefits from the high growth in web-driven commerce.  Web apps just can’t be slow.

One key APM growth driver is that modern applications have become more difficult to monitor – with more moving parts and a higher rate of change. Gartner summarizes this nicely in their market overview:

“Unfortunately, at just the moment when executives have become keen about imposing an application-centric view of the world on IT operations, applications have become far more difficult to monitor; in general, architectures have become more modular, redundant, distributed and dynamic, often laying down the particular twists and turns that a code execution path could take at the latest possible moment.”