How APM Can Support Service Assurance

I’m a New Zealand-based Senior Sales Engineer for AppDynamics with more than 12 years of experience in the IT sector. I’ve had a lot of interesting work-related experiences over the years—living in Thai hospitals, traveling by armed convoy to remote gold mining sites, and even getting down and dirty with calculating the yield of offal and tallow within the primary industries. And while the organizations I’ve worked with spanned a variety of industries, each shared a common objective: the need for service assurance.

The idea of assurance came to me from an AppDynamics customer, whose company was trying to move all of its IT expenditures from CapEx to OpEx, which meant a major shift to managed services. The company had a few key partnerships it relied upon heavily, partners that provided Level 1 support, infrastructure and, in some cases, both application-level support and applications-as-a-service (SaaS).

Rather than buy an application performance monitoring solution directly from an APM provider like AppDynamics, the company wanted to consume APM as a service from another vendor such as a service provider. Why take this approach? The customer—as is often the case with many organizations—was looking for service assurance that an MSP could provide. A laudable goal, certainly, but one with considerable risk as well.

Retaining Visibility

When an organization outsources numerous managed services, it starts to lose visibility into its operation. It grows unsure of what’s going on behind the scenes. And while this organization may be very happy with the managed services it’s receiving, it has no visibility into what’s coming down the line. If, for instance, it’s 10 minutes away from a critical failure, it may not be able to see the event coming. In short, it lacks visibility into its own operations.

In this scenario, the company becomes uncomfortably reliant on its partners, who may not be willing to readily accept blame for a problem, largely because the admission of fault may reflect badly upon them and trigger contractual obligations. And if the company uses multiple MSPs, the situation will be worse, with each MSP pointing the finger away from themselves and saying, “It’s that guy’s fault.”

How APM Can Help

By providing advanced visibility into an application, APM enables the end customer to quickly find the fault, work with the appropriate MSP, and not waste support hours diagnosing a problem with the wrong vendors.

APM offers comfort—or assurity—that the end customer can very quickly identify the area at fault, thereby reducing its mean time to identify (MTTI). And because the customer is working with a single APM provider, it can reduce its mean time to recovery (MTTR) as well.

MSPs benefit, too. Providing service providers with access and visibility into faults can help with reductions in MTTR. And when multiple vendors are involved, the single-pane-of-glass view provided by an APM dashboard can be utilised by all parties for diagnosis and repair.

Keeping Them ‘Honest’

As an end customer, what level of assurance do you have that your MSP is operating as expected? And how do you know if an application, which you invested heavily in, is behaving properly? If your MSP is only telling you that the app is “available,” that’s not good enough.

It’s not always easy to determine whether an application is performing well, though, and which metrics best gauge its overall business impact. In addition to technical metrics, you’ll also need to identify the business transactions (BTs) that are most valuable to you, and whether they’re delivering their expected value.

You should encourage your MSP to have a service-level agreement (SLA) that covers not only technical metrics and BTs, but also valuable business metrics such as sales conversion, digital service adoption, and so on.

APM delivers these insights by providing real-time visibility into the performance of your business. Instead of relying on daily or monthly business intelligence reports to see if you’re meeting your SLAs from a technical and business standpoint, you get this information in real time.

In addition to helping you get the best return from your MSP, these insights enable you to make informed, moment-by-moment decisions, such as driving users to a particular channel as part of a digital transformation, i.e. steering customers away from an overloaded call center and toward online support.

The MSP also benefits from APM, which becomes a value-added service they can offer customers, one providing complete transparency and forging a true strategic partnership with customers.

A True Strategic Partnership

Outsourcing has its advantages but can also lead a loss of control, creating risk for organizations and individuals alike. Service assurance provides a level of comfort, giving an organization control and insight into the performance of its application, as well as confidence that its MSP is providing value.

From the perspective of the MSP, this also demonstrates a willingness and openness for a true strategic partnership with its customer. This strong and trusted partnership is critical to ensure success for the customer, the MSP and, most importantly, service for the end user.

CGI, a leading IT and business process services firm, had a major infrastructure contract that required end-to-end service delivery, but the nature of the environment made this difficult to achieve. To comply with its SLA, CGI needed an efficient way to measure business transactions end-to-end. CGI integrated AppDynamics into its existing platform and immediately began getting insights into system performance, enabling it to demonstrate SLA compliance, get complete end-to-end visibility of business transactions, and build a more robust process between its development, testing and production environments.

Schedule a demo to learn how AppDynamics can help assure your own service success!

Faster and Better On-Boarding for MSPs

Managed Service Providers have a big task these days. A few years ago applications were much less complex and understanding those application architectures and dependencies before on-boarding was much more simple. These days we have applications that combine classic architecture, service oriented architecture, cloud architecture, big data components, etc… On-boarding a new customer application can be risky and if it goes wrong can leave a bad taste in your new clients mouth.

The risk alone is cringe worthy so to minimize that risk most MSPs seek out and pay top dollar for experts that know about the particular type of application they need to on-board. This is a pretty effective solution from a risk perspective but from a cost perspective this takes away from the MSPs bottom line.

Reduce Risk Without Driving Up Cost

Some of the best MSPs out there have figured out that there is a way to substantially reduce on-boarding risk, time and cost. Here is the secret recipe these MSPs have discovered:

  • Automatic discovery and rendering of all application components (Figure 1)
  • Automatic discovery and correlation of application dependencies (Figure 1)
  • Automatic detection and identification of application problems (Figure 2)
  • Automatic discovery and correlation of application load and resource consumption. (Figure 3)

The recipe above is all about letting the right tools collect, analyze, correlate, and visualize the important application aspects that every MSP needs to know before they attempt to on-board a customers application. The alternative is spending a bunch of time and money trying to manually piece together this information from tribal knowledge, log files, shell scripts, trouble tickets, etc…

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Figure 1: Application components, flows, and dependencies.

business Transactions and CPU

Figure 2: Automatic detection and identification of application problems.

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Figure 3: Capture and correlation of resource consumption.


Verification and Validation

An awesome side effect to using a tool for all of those tasks above is that you can use the same tool to prove to your new customers that you successfully moved their application onto your platform. Verifying the architecture, response times, stability, and dependencies is critical to calling any application move a success so if you use the same tool for your before and after analysis you are way ahead of the game.

All of the functionality mentioned in this blog post is available today in AppDynamics Pro. If you plan on moving an application you need to see for yourself how much AppDynamics Pro can help. Click here to begin your free self-service trial of AppDynamics Pro today.

Turnkey APMaaS by AppDynamics

Since we launched our Managed Service Provider program late last year, we’ve signed up many MSPs that were interested in adding Application Performance Management-as-a-Service (APMaaS) to their service catalogs.  Wouldn’t you be excited to add a service that’s easy to manage but more importantly easy to sell to your existing customer base?

Service providers like Scicom definitely were (check out the case study), because they are being held responsible for the performance of their customer’s complex, distributed applications, but oftentimes don’t have visibility inside the actual application.  That’s like being asked to officiate an NFL game with your eyes closed.

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The sad truth is that many MSPs still think that high visibility in app environments equates to high configuration, high cost, and high overhead.

Thankfully this is 2013.  People send emails instead of snail mail, play Call of Duty instead of Pac-Man, listen to Pandora instead of cassettes, and can have high visibility in app environments with low configuration, low cost, and low overhead with AppDynamics.

Not only do we have a great APM service to help MSPs increase their Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), we make it extremely easy for them to deploy this service in their own environments, which, to be candid, is half the battle.  MSPs can’t spend countless hours deploying a new service.  It takes focus and attention away from their core business, which in turn could endanger the SLAs they have with their customers.  Plus, it’s just really annoying.

Introducing: APMaaS in a Box

Here at AppDynamics, we take pride in delivering value quickly.  Most of our customers go from nothing to full-fledged production performance monitoring across their entire environment in a matter of hours in both on-premise and SaaS deployments.  MSPs are now leveraging that same rapid SaaS deployment model in their own environments with something that we like to call ‘APMaaS in a Box’.

At a high level, APMaaS in a Box is large cardboard box with air holes and a fragile sticker wherein we pack a support engineer, a few management servers, an instruction manual, and a return label…just kidding…sorry, couldn’t resist.

man in box w sticker

Simply put, APMaaS in a Box is a set of files and scripts that allows MSPs to provision multi-tenant controllers in their own data center or private cloud and provision AppDynamics licenses for customers themselves…basically it’s the ultimate turnkey APMaaS.

By utilizing AppDynamics’ APMaaS in a Box, MSPs across the world are leveraging our quick deployment, self-service license provisioning, and flexibility in the way we do business to differentiate themselves and gain net new revenue.

Quick Deployment

Within 6 hours, MSPs like NTT Europe who use our APMaaS in a Box capabilities will have all the pieces they need in place to start monitoring the performance of their customer’s apps.  Now that’s some rapid time to value!

Self-Service License Provisioning

MSPs can provision licenses directly through the AppDynamics partner portal.  This gives you complete control over who gets licenses and makes it very easy to manage this process across your customer base.

Flexibility

A MSP can get started on a month-to-month basis with no commitment.  Only paying for what you sell eliminates the cost of shelfware.  MSPs can also sell AppDynamics however they would like to position it and can float licenses across customers.  NTT Europe uses a 3-tier service offering so customers can pick and choose the APM services they’d like to pay for.  Feel free to get creative when packaging this service for customers!

Conclusion

As more and more MSPs move up the stack from infrastructure management to monitoring the performance of their customer’s distributed applications, choosing an APM partner that understands the Managed Services business is of utmost importance.  AppDynamics’ APMaaS in a box capabilities align well with internal MSP infrastructures, and our pricing model aligns with the business needs of Managed Service Providers – we’re a perfect fit.

MSPs who continue to evolve their service offerings to keep pace with customer demands will be well positioned to reap the benefits and future revenue that comes along with staying ahead of the market.  To paraphrase The Great One, MSPs need to “skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”  I encourage all you MSPs out there to contact us today to see how we can help you skate ahead of the curve and take advantage of the growing APM market with our easy to use, easy to deploy APMaaS in a Box.  If you don’t, your competition will…

Hey MSPs … Don’t get lost in the clouds, differentiate with APMaaS!

MSP APMaaS

Introduction

If you already know what APMaaS is then feel free to skip to the next paragraph. For the rest of you, APMaaS is Application Performance Management as a Service. It is an offering that provides end user experience monitoring, application component discovery, transaction mapping and tracking, deep application diagnostics, and analytics all working together to identify the root cause of application performance and stability issues. Now that you know what it is let’s talk about why you should offer APMaaS to your customers.

Background

MSP APMaaSEveryday life as a Managed Service Provider (or Cloud Provider or Managed Hosting Provider) can be tough. I used to work for a large financial services company in their Managed Services organization. Our group was tasked with creating valuable IT services that we had to market to the rest of the enterprise. There was NO upper management directive to use our services, NO guidance on what services to create and offer, NO outside assistance in any way. In essence we were a small business operating within a large enterprise left to live or die on our own.

Our main competition within the company was the traditional enterprise IT organization. This type of organization is almost always a lumbering beast over-encumbered with processes designed to handle every oddball situation that may arise. They also provide many valuable services so there was definitely direct competition for the same business. We had two key elements driving our decisions.

  1. Show meaningful differentiation (innovation) to prospective customers between the Enterprise IT offerings and our own.
  2. Build a reputation for providing amazing service by showing that our hosted applications were more stable and better performing than those in the rest of the enterprise.

This was the way we would survive and thrive. And it worked!!!

The World As We Know It

The same concepts hold true for the slew of MSPs that exist in todays marketplace except the competition is much stiffer. Get online and search for “Managed Application Hosting” and you’ll see a ton of providers in the search results. So how does one MSP differentiate themselves from the rest? Let’s think about it from the perspective of the customer. If I have a revenue generating application I need the following:

  1. My app must respond as fast as possible without throwing errors
  2. always be available
  3. and have the ability to handle spikes in traffic (holiday shopping, special events, etc…) without slowing down or crashing.

This is exactly what Application Performance Management (APM) with workflow automation enables, but here is where it gets interesting. Providing APM as a Service (APMaaS) is not a new concept. Many MSPs have tried it using “traditional” APM products and quickly realized that the cost of APM software and services far exceeded the amount most of the customers were willing to pay. We’ve heard directly from our current MSP partners that those traditional tools (the other guys) were too difficult to deploy (required knowledge of the application code to instrument), too hard to use (most people are not APM tooling experts), and that the vendors were too hard to work with (loading contracts with tons of services and not flexible enough with pricing models).

Exploiting APM

If you’re not familiar with how AppDynamics works please take a minute to watch this video as it will really help with the next part of our discussion.

Long, long, long, long, long ago people made fire by rubbing a couple of sticks together. To whomever invented the match, we are eternally grateful. Implementing APM shouldn’t be as difficult as rubbing sticks together to make fire. Here are the features of our “match”:

  • AppDynamics compared to other APM solutions.Core Platform
    • You can use our SaaS platform to collect data from the agents. This makes initial deployment fast and easy and means that your APM infrastructure is automatically managed and upgraded by us.
    • You can deploy a full APMaaS infrastructure within your own datacenter if you offer or require PCI, HIPAA, FISMA, etc… compliance.
  • Deployment
    • Our agents automatically discover your customers application components, business transactions, and application code. This means you spend much less time trying to instrument an application and have more time to focus on growing your business.
    • You get all of our features (see a list of feature here) from one product instead of having to install a suite of tools. Less complexity and fewer monitoring components equals easy, fast deployment.
  • Usage
    • Traditional APM tools are notoriously difficult to use. You and your customers need to be able to solve problems in just a few clicks. That’s where AppDynamics shines. You can quickly show your customers that the performance bottleneck is not in your infrastructure but in their application code. (Watch this video to see how easy it is.)
    • Since our user interface was designed to be intuitive you won’t need to spend excessive time training your staff and customers to use it. Spend that valuable time working on your business.
  • Workflow Automation
    • AppDynamics has built in Workflow Automation. This means that you can dynamically respond to changing application conditions to meet the needs of the customer. Automatically spin up a new application instance when response time is too slow. Your customers will love you for it!
  • Business Considerations
    • We have flexible pricing options which are specially designed for MSPs. We know your business model and challenges are unique so we have multiple options available to suit your needs.
    • We don’t want to load up contracts with tons of services hours. That only drives up your costs and reduces your margin.

What we are trying to say here is that we really understand the MSP business. We provide a managed service of our own and know what it takes to run a successful and profitable APMaaS business. As an MSP you need to stand out from the crowd and offer innovative solutions to customer problems. We can help you do that. Contact us to find out more about the AppDynamics MSP program and stop rubbing sticks together.