4 Reasons Why Virtual War Rooms Are Essential To APM

Just over a year ago in our 4.0 or Fall ’14 release we announced ‘The AppDynamics Virtual War Room’ feature that enables business, IT development and operations teams to easily collaborate through the AppDynamics console. With applications increasing in complexity due to Microservices architecture techniques, container technologies and reliance on third party systems, the need to be able to see application information in context and collaborate seamlessly via an APM solution is critical for any digital business and this is the capability that our Virtual War Room’ provides. With our 4.2 release we are further refining the Virtual War Room with the following feature enhancements:

  • Save room as a template – This was one of the features that was requested by our customers over the last year. It means that you can save a Virtual War Room that you have created as a template and then open it up again with all the widgets that you created. This is incredibly useful for troubleshooting repeating application issues or collaborating during a major application change or release as the right data will already be in your Virtual War Room.
  • Create widgets using application analytics – In our 4.2 release, Application Analytics is embedded within the Application Intelligence platform (note: licensing is separate though) which means that from the virtual war room you can create analytics based searches and charts based on transaction, log file, browser request, mobile request and mobile crash reports (see below). This means that it is easier to tie technical metrics to business metrics, so for example, with an eCommerce application, how is a performance problem impacting the number of checkouts?  This enhances the virtual war room as participants can not only see the technical performance impact of a problem as it unfolds but also the business impact.

Adding Application Analytics widgets into your virtual war room

Through 2015, I spoke to a number of enterprise customers about their use of the virtual war room feature and here are four specific use cases that highlight the value of this feature:

1) Speed up Mean Time To Resolution (MTTR)  

During an emerging high priority application performance issue there are two goals: 1) Resolve the root cause before it impacts your customers and your business (MTTR), 2) Understand and learn why the issue happened to avoid it happening again. AppDynamics APM automatically baselines all important application performance metrics and creates alerts based on standard deviation which means that emerging application issues can be identified immediately by application support teams. Alerts are displayed in the AppDynamics console and from the alert a ‘virtual war room’ can be launched to troubleshoot this further:

Launching a Virtual War Room on an emerging issue

The Virtual War Room then provides one dashboard that various support (application, operations, database etc) and line of business teams can then use to understand the root cause, fix and then verify that the app is working again. Each participant, so long as they have the appropriate permissions, can create their own widgets (real time streaming data (including log files), charts and graphs) and can communicate with each other. With complex applications this means that all professionals working on resolution have access to the information and colleagues they need which helps to speed up MTTR:

Collaborate together on an emerging incident and understand the business impact

The ability to bring in Application Analytics widgets into the Virtual War Room in 4.2 means that it’s easy to bring in live business performance or outcome widgets (the screenshot above shows live checkout value $ data). This means that  participants can quickly understand how an emerging problem is beginning to impact the business.

2) Provide Application Performance Visibility To 3rd Parties

Last year I worked on The performance blame game report which highlights that the difficulties that an enterprise faces when managing the “software-defined supply chain”. In short, it’s not just technical complexity but increasing process and people complexity that needs to be managed, as many enterprise applications rely on third party systems to deliver an overall service to a customer or employee.

AppDynamics APM can monitor Business Transactions as they span third party systems as we are able to track and monitor asynchronous transactions. Additionally the Virtual War Room allows support teams to invite third parties, outside your organization, to view (third parties have view only rights) information and participate in troubleshooting or optimizing an app. This helps to make sure that everyone has the same facts and source of truth.

Invite third parties into your Virtual War Room so that everyone sees the facts 

3) Train New Support Staff On What Metrics Are Critical To An App’s Performance

During one DevOps conversation with a large retail bank last year we discussed the fact that a number of new people were being hired or moved to support the new ‘digital efforts’. We talked about how the AppDynamics console could be used to bring new support staff up to speed about how important applications are architected and what metrics are key to technical and business performance. While the AppDynamics flow maps show clearly how an application is architected, a Virtual War Room, in real-time, can show new support staff which metrics are important to track and why they are monitored. The fact that new charts can be added easily and the Virtual War Room shared with many people means that that this feature can be very useful during an interactive training session. With 4.2, the ability to save the Virtual War Room as a template means that these dashboards can be reused easily during new staff induction or orientation activities.   

4) Collaborate In Real Time During An Application Release Or Change

My colleague, Jonah Kowall, in a recent article highlighted how APM played an important role in continuous integration and release. Jonah mentions how one of our customers, The Container Store, uses AppDynamics in their development lifecycle (see a video here from AppSphere 15) by utilizing features such as ‘Compare Release’ to easily understand the performance of two different releases. Another use case for a ‘Virtual War Room’ is during a major application release as it can be used as a temporary dashboard to display key technical and business metrics prior, during and after release activity, to make sure that the release went as planned. The fact that participants can chat to each other using ‘War Room Notes’ function means that everyone involved in the release can be made aware of any abnormalities quickly. 

Check in real time application performance during a major release and collaborate with the release and support professionals

So as you can see there are a number of use cases for our Virtual War Room and our 4.2 release brings a number of enhancements. I would love to hear about any more use cases for this feature if I missed any.

Fall 2014 Release Enables Modern Collaborative Troubleshooting

Today, I am very pleased to announce our Fall 2014 Release which is packed with exciting new features and platform enhancements. We gave a sneak peak of some new features at AppSphere back in November, but for those who couldn’t make it to Las Vegas I wanted to highlight what our team has been working on. At a high level, the features and capabilities can be grouped into four themes:

  • Cutting edge collaboration capabilities
  • Deep visibility into complex applications
  • Application Analytics
  • Platform collection & processing enhancements

Modern collaborative troubleshooting for rapid resolution

The Application Intelligence platform has several new features that make it easier for DevOps teams to collaborate in full context to reduce mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR) and learn from the past to better manage future issues.

Virtual war room

In traditional war room scenarios, there is a mix of chat windows, online meeting rooms, teleconference calls, emails, and different dashboards on everyone’s screens which make the process painful and really difficult for remote employees to participate in. To add to that, each person in the room is focused on Mean-Time-To-Innocence metric than MTTR. After resolution, this information is usually lost and cannot be accessed again in the future.

With the troubleshooting virtual war room capabilities, AppDynamics now provides customers with a powerful ad-hoc virtual space that gives Ops & Dev teams one place they can chat, make system changes in real time, view and annotate events on second-interval charts so everyone (even non-AppDynamics users) can collaborate in a view that unites the different aspects of troubleshooting to provide common context and common data to all. The entire decision-making process can be indexed in knowledge management systems.

By leveraging a common view and context of the environment during troubleshooting exercises, AppDynamics reduces the time it takes to resolve application issues, reduces the business impact of unplanned outages, and allows organizations to learn from past troubleshooting situations.

Scheduled & shareable reports

One important aspect of improving collaboration is making sure key stakeholders have access to necessary information whenever they need it. In order to get that information, usually someone had to log into a monitoring system, configure a report, run it, then manually send it over to a colleague for consumption each time they wanted to share data.

With the new emailed reports feature, DevOps teams can setup and schedule reports to be shared via email with anyone they’d like.

Now, AppDynamics customers can foster a more open and transparent culture by making it extremely easy to share reports across an organization.

Companion iOS app (beta)

IT Ops teams typically have some kind of alerting & ticketing system already set up, but what happens when they aren’t at the office or don’t have access to their laptop?

With the introduction of AppDynamics’ native mobile app, customers can be sent push notifications when alerts are triggered and can access KPIs for their mission-critical applications straight from their iOS device.

Customers can now easily access AppDynamics notifications and application metrics while on the go!

Deep visibility into complex applications

AppDynamics has introduced functionality to make it easy for ops teams to monitor and troubleshoot the most complex interactions and transactions in modern application environments.

Business flow

Large enterprise business architectures are typically built on multiple large applications such as a fulfillment application, inventory application, etc., service oriented architectures that oftentimes are shared across different business processes. Getting both a macro level view of the dependencies and drilling down into a particular service are required for proper performance management.

The Business flow feature allows customers to be flexible in terms of how they define and visualize their applications and dependencies, and enables app to app metrics and flow map visualizations, snapshot drill-down to a different app, and role-based access control so IT Ops teams can see how their apps are interacting with shared services at a high level, without needing drill-down access into the service itself. Separation of concerns is used in this context.

Now, customer applications are more manageable without loss of control.

Asynchronous transactions & improved visualizations

Async transactions are notoriously difficult to trace and monitor because tracking the true end-to-end latency of these requests is nearly impossible. When IT Ops teams don’t have visibility into the most complex transactions they are effectively disadvantaged at monitoring their environments due to blind spots. Most real world apps have async transactions in them.

AppDynamics automatically traces and monitors all async requests to give visibility into these complex distributed environments. With our new release we’ve taken this to the next level, giving you a model to easily track overall latency and the ability to customize when long running async business processes start and stop.

IT Ops teams now receive powerful granular visibility into how these transactions impact overall application performance and the end user experience.

WebSocket support

Within traditional monitoring solutions, WebSocket requests usually appear to be very slow / stalled transactions since they have long running/open connections. So, very often they may receive what is essentially a ‘false positive.’

Customers now have the ability to understand the actual performance of WebSocket connections from the end user perspective, identify the business transaction using the websocket URL, and monitor the true latency of requests.

With this visibility into WebSocket requests, AppDynamics delivers a comprehensive view of the performance of these requests to better arm IT Ops teams with the real-time view they need to uncover abnormal WebSocket behavior.

Application Analytics

Today’s software-driven businesses operate in highly distributed environments where each business function is a modular standalone application. These applications are generating humongous amounts of structured and unstructured data that are siloed in nature as well. AppDynamics Application Analytics eliminates these silos by automatically propagating end-to-end business transaction context across analytics datasets without the need for any application code changes. By leveraging Application Analytics, business and IT users can now quickly unlock actionable business insights to answer more meaningful questions than ever before, and all in real time.


business impact analytics2

Platform collection & processing enhancements

We’ve added native support for a number of different technologies that are prevalent across our customer base. With the Fall 2014 release, AppDynamics has added support for:

  • WebMethods
  • Cassandra backends
  • SQL Azure databases
  • Single page apps
  • C/C++ (currently in beta)

We’ve also eliminated the pain of collecting and storing large amounts of metrics generated from complex enterprise applications. AppDynamics announces an infinitely scalable metrics store, available via on-premise or SaaS deployments. Now, we enable customers to capture and analyze trillions of events with ease!

Try these features for yourself, download AppDynamics for FREE today!