What APM Vendors can learn from building Supercars

P1McLaren this year will launch their P1 Supercar, which will turn the average driver into a track day hero. What’s significant about this particular car is that it relies on modern day technology and innovation to transform a drivers ability to accelerate, corner and stop faster than any other car on the planet–because it has:

  1. 903bhp on tap derived from a combined V8 Twin Turbo and KERS setup, meaning it has a better power/weight ratio than a Bugatti Veyron
  2. Active aerodynamics & DRS to control the airflow so it remains stable under acceleration and braking without incurring drag
  3. Traction control and brake steer to minimize slip and increase traction in and out of corners
  4. 600Kg of downforce at 150mph so it can corner on rails up to 2G
  5. Lightness–everything exists for a purpose so there is less weight to transfer under braking and acceleration

You don’t have to be Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher to drive it fast. The P1 creates enormous amounts of mechanical grip, traction, acceleration and feedback so the driver feels “confident” in their ability to accelerate, corner and stop, without losing control and killing themselves. I’ve been lucky enough to sit in the drivers seat of a McLaren MP4-12C and it’s a special experience – you have a driving wheel, some dials and some pedals – that’s really it, with no bells or whistles that you normally get in a Mercedes or Porsche. It’s “Focused” and “Pure” so the driver has complete visibility to drive as fast as possible, which is ultimately the whole purpose of the car.

How does this relate to Application Performance Monitoring (APM)?

Well, how many APM solutions today allow a novice user to solve complex application performance problems? Erm, not many. You need to be an uber geek with most because they’ve been written for developers by developers. Death by drill-down is a common symptom because novice APM users have no idea how to interpret metrics or what to look for. It would be like McLaren putting their F1 wheel with a thousand buttons in the new P1 road car for us novice drivers to play with.

It’s actually a lot worse than that though, because many APM vendors sell these things called “suites” that are enormously complex to install, configure and use. Imagine if you paid $1.4m and McLaren delivered you a P1 in 5 pieces and you had to assemble the engine, gearbox, chassis, suspension and brakes yourself? You’d have no choice but to pay McLaren for engineers to assemble it for with your own configuration. This is pretty much how most vendors have sold APM over the past decade–hence why they have hundreds of consultants. The majority of customers have spent more time and effort maintaining APM than using it to solve performance issues in their business. It’s kinda like buying a supercar and not driving it.

Fortunately, a few vendors like AppDynamics have succeeded in delivering APM through a single product that combines End User Monitoring, Application Discovery and Mapping, Transaction Profiling, Deep Diagnostics and Analytics. You download it, install it and you solve your performance issues in minutes–it just works out-of-the-box. What’s even great is that you can lease the APM solution through annual subscriptions instead of buying it outright with expensive perpetual licenses and annual maintenance.

If you want an APM solution that lets you manage application performance, then make sure it does just that for you. If you don’t get value from an APM solution in the first 20 minutes, then put it in the trash can because that’s 20 minutes of your time you’ve wasted not managing application performance. Sign up for a free trial of AppDynamics and find out how easy APM can be. If these vendors built their solutions like car manufacturers build supercars, then the world would be a faster place (no pun intended).

Appman.

Not Everyone is an Application Expert

The majority of us in IT are specialists, with the exception of a few VPs of engineering who are “special” in their own “special” world of being “special.” What I mean by this is that no single person has the skills or experience to do everything well in IT. IT is too big for me to explain or summarize in a few words, other than it requires a lot of different people with different skills to make it tick along. Despite applications being the living breathing entities of the business, a large portion of folk in IT have little context of how applications are built, how they execute, and how they consume resource across the IT infrastructure. Many people simply don’t care as their responsibilities are completely void of anything application related. That’s fine–but the reality is that everyone in IT should have one eye on the business. The whole reason IT exists is so the business can be more competitive and make more money. If this happens, IT gets more budget and is allowed to innovate more. IT and the business need each other to survive, which is why when applications slow down or break, both parties bitch at each other.

Operations need better visibility

Unfortunately for both the business and IT, the people (Operations) who manage the performance and availability of applications in production aren’t application experts. They are also not stupid either; their skills sets are wide and broad across many technologies and platforms that underpin applications. They manage a lot of things that application developers take for granted, like networks, databases, storage and virtualization. While Operations monitor the health of these infrastructure components, they often get bombarded with crap from the business when end users and business transactions are being impacted by slow performance, despite all system monitoring showing everything is fine. This lack of understanding between the Business and Operations is because both parties see things from different perspectives.