Proactive resolution with Application Performance Management

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Jim Cavanaugh, President, Asia-Pacific, and Japan, AppDynamics, talks about application performance management and full-stack observability with Enterprise IT News.

EITN: Please explain what full-stack observability is

Jim: Full-stack observability is the ability to monitor the entire IT stack – from traditional, legacy IT systems and new, hybrid cloud environments to customer-facing applications, core network and infrastructure. A full-stack observability approach allows technologists to control, analyse and fix their entire software stack on a single platform, allowing organisations to properly align their infrastructure with application performance and end-user behaviour.

Full-stack observability is increasingly vital for IT teams who are responsible for identifying and resolving performance issues before they negatively impact customer experience and the overall business.

Jim: Applications are the lifeblood of any business. But they’re only as good as their ability to keep running and effectively serve end users and the business. Downtime, application failures and the associated scrambling around for a solution is never good. It costs businesses money.

Most APM solutions allow you to observe the front-end, back-end and infrastructure performance of your application. This gives IT teams a view of how the end user is experiencing the application and the performance of the services running in data centres and cloud deployments supporting applications.

As APM solutions have developed over the years they have become more closely linked to business outcomes and the unique requirements of each organisation. The magic of APM really kicks in when the solution maps the technology stacks needed for the application to perform a specific function and monitor them to identify what normal looks like for monitored business transactions.

Modern Application Performance Management (APM), and observability platforms, enable enterprises to get on the front foot, fix problems before they impact customers and the business, and prioritise actions based on the business impact.

The response to the pandemic has resulted in a further shift for technologists and APM. The pandemic has forced a rapid acceleration of digital transformation programs and cloud computing initiatives in particular. This has created a more complex IT estate across which it is much harder to monitor performance and identify issues quickly.  The sheer scale of digital transformation has led to an overwhelming deluge of new data engulfing IT departments and this data noise is adding even more complexity for technologists.

As a consequence 96% of technologists (according to Agents of Transformation 2021: The Rise of Full-Stack Observability) recognise that having the ability to monitor their entire IT estate – known as full-stack observability – and directly link that performance to business outcomes is now essential to delivering first-class digital experiences.

EITN: What are the challenges to full stack observability that AppDynamics can address?

Jim: Technologists across every sector recognise the benefits of having full visibility across the IT estate. They acknowledge the risks of continuing with the status quo, where they often have to rely on gut feeling and instinct, rather than hard data, to make decisions. However, their efforts to implement full-stack observability are meeting a number of challenges.

Three quarters (75%) of technologists believe that their organisation needs to connect full-stack observability to business outcomes within 12 months in order to remain competitive. But 96% of them point to at least one barrier their organisations must overcome in order to adopt a full-stack observability solution.  These barriers include concerns around technology integration and implementation, scalability and developing a robust business case for investment.

Perhaps most significantly, 35% of technologists express concern about a lack of skills within their IT department to deliver a sophisticated level of IT observability and connect this to business data. No doubt, much of this anxiety relates to the surge in cloud computing initiatives during the pandemic, the monitoring of which requires a whole new set of skills within IT operations teams.

Implementing full-stack observability isn’t as simple as integrating a new monitoring platform, and IT leaders should be wary of any vendors who claim it is. It requires new skills, processes and thinking. It requires IT teams to come together to collaborate and share ownership for technology health and performance across the IT estate. And critically, it means getting all technologists to rally around unified data – a single source of truth – and to recognise the value of connecting IT performance data with business outcomes.

EITN: What are the technology KPIs and business KPIs of full-stack observability?

Jim: If you look in terms of technology KPIs, full-stack observability is delivering many expected outcomes usually monitored with APM: reduce mean time to resolution (MTTR), identify root cause of bugs and potential issues before they impact the end-user, fixing applications errors, performance analyses, infrastructure support etc. Full-stack observability is essential for organisations to deal with the sprawling IT estate and increased complexity created by the rapid rates of transformation. But on its own, it’s just not enough.

Full-stack observability comes into full effect when you can contextualise those application performance insights and issues with real-time business data. This allows organisations to see which ones are impacting the business and/or the customers the most in order to prioritise innovation and investment. By doing so, they can maximise their business performance, see how performance impacts application’s key business transactions, visualise key metrics in the customer journey and understand the impact they have in order to offer a seamless experience. It’s no surprise then that the overwhelming majority (92%) of technologists recognise as crucial the ability to link technology performance to business outcomes in order to show ROI as key to delivering innovation goals over the next year.

EITN: Please share about the APM landscape/ innovations, or tech roadmaps AppDynamics may have for the next 3 years

Jim: AppDynamics is committed to helping technologists as they continue to spearhead their organisations’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in an ever-more complex IT environment, providing the technology, technical support and training they need to prosper. Over the last year, we’ve spoken and listened to thousands of the world’s leading technologists to determine what they truly need as they tackle the biggest technology challenge of our lifetimes.

They told us that enterprise organisations need an observability platform that spans the full IT estate, from traditional IT systems to new, hybrid cloud environments; a unified platform which allows them to connect the dots up and down the entire IT stack; and crucially, a platform that provides them with a business lens on full-stack observability. Technologists today need to contextualise IT performance insights with real-time business data, so that they can prioritise actions, innovations and investments based on the direct impact to the business.

The AppDynamics Business Observability platform is the only platform that enables technologists to monitor the full IT stack – from customer and employee-facing applications right through to low level infrastructure – and then link IT performance with business outcomes.

As part of Cisco we are in a unique position to provide a comprehensive full-stack observability solution which meets the needs of technologists. This has been demonstrated by recent product announcements, including  integration with ThousandEyes Internet and Cloud Intelligence solutions, and the launch of Cisco Secure Application.