Why Businesses Need to Put APM in the Cloud Ahead of Anything Else

Editorial Series

Why Businesses Need to Put APM in the Cloud Ahead of Anything Else

By Erin Harrison, Executive Editor, Cloud Computing  |  August 03, 2012

As more companies look towards implementing a variety of cloud deployments to gain infrastructure efficiencies and operational cost savings, many times planning for application performance management (APM (News - Alert)) gets lost in the process of defining the infrastructure requirements and implementation of the cloud components. 

Cloud Computing magazine recently had the opportunity to catch up with APM expert P.J. Malloy, senior vice president of R&D at OPNET Technologies (News - Alert), about the trend towards cloud computing and the role of APM in the cloud.

In today’s IT environment, many organizations are looking to the cloud, however, some critical areas may be overlooked during the planning stages – including the role of APM.

“Many companies are not thinking about application performance until they are rolling out to the cloud,” explains Malloy. “They don’t necessarily have a plan, but you can’t ignore the significance of application performance management.”

Although cloud promises greater efficiency and productivity, it brings decreased visibility of end-user transactions within the applications. As Malloy points out, you can’t manage what you can’t see – which is why visibility is so crucial in a cloud environment.

Surprisingly, the acceleration of cloud adoption has not necessarily heightened awareness of APM, but Malloy says it needs to be brought into focus in the early stages – whether an IT department is adopting a private, public, or hybrid cloud model.

“We are approaching an inflection point on cloud adoption where more pilot programs will be graduating to full-fledged deployment. With that will come growing pains, as you can see with public cloud providers having outages. But with the right tools and processes in place, I am sure this industry will mature through those growing pains very quickly,” predicts Malloy. “The private cloud has been a very strong force all along; and prior to private cloud, virtualization was a massive transformation for IT. We are definitely seeing an acceleration of cloud. Twelve to 18 months ago, more startups or SMEs were adopting the cloud, and now we’re seeing a much greater acceleration of cloud adoption within the Fortune 500 and Global 2000.”

Is there an ideal or one-size-fits-all approach for planning an application performance management strategy for the cloud?

“APM is offering a new paradigm; rather than managing separate components, the focus is on end-user experience,” Malloy explains. “Managing application performance from the end-user perspective removes a lot of the ambiguity and subjectivity that comes into the conversation.”

Malloy also emphasizes the importance of taking a “transaction-centric” approach when planning an APM strategy.

“Instead of looking at CPU or RAM (News - Alert) utilization, it’s very important to actually monitor the performance of individual transactions. For example, how many times did users click the ‘submit’ button?” explains Malloy. “How long does that transaction take? It’s important to have the proper instrumentation that gives visibility at the transaction level rather than more basic tier-by-tier basis and recognize that APM is focused on collecting data.

So how is the approach for APM different in the cloud? According to Malloy, cloud adds a layer of complexity not present with on-premise technologies.

“Cloud is another step in the complexity curve – it’s more distributed, more monetized – therefore cloud is bringing more performance challenges including an inherent loss of control and visibility, which interferes with application performance,” explains Malloy. “OPNET has tackled to restore visibility – there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but it needs to be a flexible approach that has options.”

OPNET offers federated analytics which distributes analysis processing across the entire cloud environment and can process the data without having to move much around the cloud, according to Malloy. The other unique piece that OPNET brings to the table is dealing with the network service provider.

“It becomes very important to hold them accountable. That is where APM as a discipline can really shine in identifying cross-silo issues and resolving them,” says Malloy.

As more applications are being hosted in the cloud, it makes sense to use the cloud to leverage the management of those applications. For example, OPNET provides a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS (News - Alert)) offering, what Malloy calls a “cloud-friendly” way to monitor end-user experience for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) up to the largest global enterprises.

Regardless of how a company migrates to the cloud, or what size that organization is, IT departments must above all else practice due diligence.

“You need to do your due diligence…most organizations will have a hybrid approach. It’s important to have a unified APM approach regardless of the different models,” says Malloy.

“Especially with public cloud, you can have users from around the world. Whether it’s the general public or employees accessing applications in the cloud, or Java-script based instrumentation – we can monitor application performance from anywhere based on almost any format of that application,” says Malloy.

Certainly IT decision makers are tasked with many responsibilities when they consider moving into the cloud. However, the first step when considering a cloud strategy, contends Malloy, is long-term planning.

“As with any technology migration strategy, planning is critical, especially factoring for any downtime. OPNET has a long history in helping customers accomplish that. By offering APM as a discipline, we enable the restoration of visibility of application behavior and performance which allows companies to take on migration to a cloud infrastructure,” says Malloy. “We help people understand exactly what their true end-user experience is in terms of providing a concrete picture and by assembling that with very detailed performance data, we are able to very quickly identify the root cause of a performance issue if one were to occur.”

Cloud APM Best Practices 

Accountability: The most important piece of any cloud strategy is to have a plan to be able to hold different constituents accountable if the system is not performing well or you are encountering other problems. You need to have a visibility strategy from an APM perspective so that if things do happen, you can see what’s going on.

Network Performance: Organizations must consider the impact of the network. The network is becoming the back plane. As you move to the cloud, you need to be acutely aware of the network impact on application performance. Data servers can be very sensitive to network latency.

Transparency: It’s important to have the right process and tools to be able to plan and triage between silos. APM can be an important way to transfer the knowledge between silos and avoid finger pointing.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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