Events, Analytics, and End-Users: Changing Performance Management

Changes in end-user behavior and the resulting “consumerization” of IT have contributed to the changing and expanding definition of Application Performance Management (“APM”).   APM can no longer focus just on the application or the optimization of infrastructure against abstract limits; APM must now view performance from the end-user’s access point back across all infrastructure involved in the delivery of the service. Increasingly fickle end-users, are forcing application business-owners to an intimate engagement and collaboration with IT to monitor, assess and manage to assure an optimal end-user experience. This involves aggressive event monitoring at multiple levels, application of sophisticated analytics that will either predict and avoid service disruptions, or quickly determine root causes and appropriate corrective actions.

It also requires that IT operations staff be aware of the quality of the end-users’ experience in real-time.

The End-User

Consumerization has changed end-user expectations and demands in terms of the services they want, the functionality they require, and the interfaces they demand to access applications and services.

The spread of mobile computing has fundamentally raised the dynamics of service delivery, monitoring, and management to a whole new level of complexity. Services are no longer tied to single platforms. The end-to-end pathway to service implementation and delivery generally move across multiple boundaries.   Instead of encompassing just the enterprise data center, it can now include a mix of private, hybrid and public Cloud operations. This impacts every level of monitoring, management and control.

With mobile computing, end-users expect ubiquity of access, ease of use and rapid response through consistent, secure interfaces. They are intolerant of poor performance and have no problems making their dissatisfaction known by changing suppliers.

Dissatisfied customers, switching suppliers do damage to both the enterprise revenue streams and the careers of Application/Service owners. When the underlying performance problems are linked to and identified with IT infrastructure operations, the resulting conflict benefits neither the business managers nor IT.

End-users have not been completely ignored. There exist multiple products and services that endeavor to monitor and inform business managers as well as IT operations about the end-user experience. The experience to-date remains less than overwhelming. We hear repeatedly how IT only becomes aware of a serious service disruption when distraught end-users overwhelm the Service Desk with complaints.

This is because APM has traditionally focused on monitoring, analyzing and managing the IT infrastructure. The most time and effort has been invested on keeping the infrastructure operating at ‘optimal’ levels of performance. Unfortunately, the performance metrics frequently focused on the technology and physiology of the infrastructure not the business.

Efforts to change this have been made; Business Service Management (BSM) being one wide ranging area that has focused on efforts to link infrastructure operations to business results. But, the results have been less than satisfactory. There were a number of reasons for this failure.

One reason was the complexity in keeping track of the dependencies between infrastructure, applications and operations in service delivery. Another was that the infrastructure had to achieve a level of automated self-management that allowed it to automatically adapt to resolve problems in a timely manner.

The Rise of Analytics

Although the use of analytics to get business advantage dates back to the 1800’s, their full potential had not been widely exploited. The mathematics required to understand how to apply them slowed adoption. Also contributing was the amount of computational power and time needed to get results. The complexity involved in structuring the analysis and computation limited the areas where analytics were being effectively and economically applied. Data mining has been successfully used but effective application of analytics lagged except in specialized areas like financial analysis.

Things are changing rapidly both due to the increase in available compute power and as vendors begin to provide multiple, easily accessible ways to apply analytics. Analytics can be accessed as ‘Analytics as a Service’ (like Google Analytics). Vendors are beginning to offer embedded analytics to evaluate data as it is collected. Vendors are embedding and automating the use of predictive analytics in their monitoring solutions. The challenges of working across multiple, different types of data sets from different sources are being addressed. This will make the work of analyzing data easier and improve the quality of the results.

The Importance of ‘Events’

Monitoring and tracking begin and end with significant ‘events’. One of the most important results of more processing power and sophisticated means that more collected data can be exhaustively and productively processed to yield important information in less time.

Effective APM requires identifying the changes in data that either correlate with or will cause a significant disruption in service delivery, then making sure that appropriate action whether it is ‘break, fix, repair’ remedy or a work-around avoidance of the problem device or element is identified and implemented.   It all starts with capturing and working with the data.