Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Jnan Dash, Andreas Grabner, Lori MacVittie, Jim Kaskade

Blog Feed Post

Deploying APM in the Enterprise Part 3 – Getting Started With APM

Welcome back to my series on Deploying APM in the Enterprise. In Part 2 we discussed APM maturity from an unusual perspective as maturity models go. In this blog we are going to discuss the process of getting what you want and need in the way of an APM product.

Warning – This is an astronomically long blog post so make sure you have plenty of time to read it through.

Let’s assume for a minute that you actually read Part 2 – APM Maturity As You’ve Probably Never Seen It Before and have an idea where you and your organization currently are on the maturity scale. To advance to a higher level of maturity you can work on process and people until the cows come home but eventually you are going to want a tool that provides insight your people and processes never will. So that is where I am going to focus the rest of this series while touching on the people and process aspect throughout.

If you have decided you need or want to buy a new software tool here is my tried and proven method for making it happen. Just to make things a little more interesting each step in the process is a song title that relates somehow and that I actually like. So feel free to comment on the blog post and my taste in music if you feel like it.

Throughout this blog post I will share some key lessons learned from my own experience dealing with software vendors. This information will be highlighted in bold red text so it is easier to pick out.

It Hurts So Good – John Cougar

Nobody will agree to spend money on a tool unless there is some problem putting the hurt on your business (lost revenue, productivity impact, customer satisfaction, etc…). Find and document a tangible problem. Preferably an issue with a business/mission critical application like your e-commerce platform, online trading, payment gateway, risk calculation, settlement system, etc… Find some application or service that is impacting your business in a meaningful way due to poor performance and/or downtime and document the following:

  • Number of issues and severity level
  • Mean Time To Repair (MTTR – usually the average amount of time from first impact to problem resolution)
  • Quantifiable measure of impact on business (dollars lost per minute, potential customers lost, trades lost per minute, etc…)
  • Average number of employees involved in troubleshooting each issue
  • Root cause of each incident

You will use this data in your evaluation document and your business justification down the road.

The World I Know – Collective Soul

“So I walk up on high / And I step to the edge / To see my world below” If you haven’t already done it, you need to take inventory of what you already own and document your findings. You will use this information for years to come as long as you keep it up to date.

  • What tools exist and what category should they be put in? (Database Monitoring, Network Monitoring, OS Monitoring, Desktop Monitoring, etc…)
  • How many licenses do we have and are the current?
  • What are they good at?
  • What are they not good at?
  • What would be classified as an APM tool?
  • If I already have an APM tool why is it not being used properly?
  • Put labels on your existing tools and understand what they do!

Down in a Hole – Alice In Chains

Now that you have the overall landscape of your monitoring ecosystem laid out you need to see if there are any gaping holes. AppDynamics is an APM company so we suggest you compare your existing tools to the Gartner definition of APM to see what you might be missing. Here it is paraphrased in my own words:

  • End User Experience Monitoring: Measuring the response time of your application all the way to the end user. It’s not good enough to just understand how fast your application runs within the confines of the data center(s).
  • Application Topology Mapping: Automatic detection and display of all components involved in the delivery of your application. You need to know what application components are in use at any given time, but especially when there is an issue impacting your users.
  • Business Transaction Profiling: Detecting and measuring the response time of all application component activity initiated by a single user request. This is not the same as measuring the response time of a web page!!!
  • Deep Application Diagnostics: Detecting and measuring the run time code execution within your application containers. If your current or prospective solution does not load into the application container you will NOT have this important capability.
  • Analytics: Intelligence applied to data which provides you with actionable information. This is not the same as reporting and analytics can (and should) be a key differentiator between competing solutions.

You can do this same type of gap analysis for other types of monitoring but you will need to figure out the main aspects of each type for yourself (sorry).

So What’cha Want – The Beastie Boys

So lets assume that you need an APM solution to fill that large void in your monitoring capabilities and to solve that pesky problem which has been lingering for the past 6 months. You know which problem I’m referring to, it’s the one that crops up for a few hours every other week, it wreaks havoc on your business, then it magically disappears after half of your IT staff is on a massive conference call trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s the problem that your boss has to answer for in the daily update calls and can never explain. It’s the problem that will eventually get someone fired or “re-organized” and if you can fix it you will be a hero or a rockstar (you get to choose which term you prefer since you fixed the problem).

In order to pick the right APM solution (picking the wrong one can turn that rockstar potential completely upside down) you need to develop a method for comparing different solutions. First you need to narrow down the crowded list of vendors to a group of 2 or 3 at most to do a Proof Of Concept (POC). This initial narrowing of the field is usually done through feature comparisons (vendor websites), references from people you know, phone calls with vendors, phone calls with analysts (Gartner, Forrester, etc…), crystal balls, voodoo rituals, and possibly animal sacrifice.

Use your favorite spreadsheet program (I always wonder how many people don’t actually use Excel at work) and create a matrix with all of the products you might be interested in (AppDynamics should be first on the list, wink, wink) and compare each product to the level of support they have for each of your requirements. Your requirements at this point should be pretty generic as the detailed requirements are best suited for the POC phase. Here are some requirements to get you started:

  • Automatic detection, naming, and monitoring of Business Transactions
  • Automatic discovery and deep instrumentation of application code
  • End user experience monitoring
  • Analytics based alerting
  • Automatic discovery and display of my application topology
  • Support for my application technologies
  • Support for my application architecture (cloud, monolithic, distributed, etc…)
  • Open-ness of vendor (did they skirt around my questions?, did they talk in circles?)
  • Many more requirements you should add…

One you have this matrix built it should be easy to narrow your choices (hopefully AppDynamics made the short list, wink, wink).

One piece of advice before moving along to the POC requirements section… Be very explicit and detailed with your questions as they apply to your environment. If you get a partial answer from a vendor or a response that is not quite what you are looking for make sure you dig deeper right away to figure out if they are blowing smoke or not. If they keep talking in circle you can be pretty sure they can’t really do what you are asking.

Little Lies – Fleetwood Mac

No, this is not the point where I tell you to start making stuff up so you can get your software purchased. This is the part where I warn you that vendors can get very “creative” with their marketing. Some vendors are worse about this than others but it can be very difficulty to wade through the enormous amounts of BS that are splattered across many vendors websites.

Remember this key principle when dealing with all vendors … Don’t trust anything a vendor tells you, make them show you in a live demo!!!

I’m not saying that vendors are evil liars, but they will give you their best answer to your questions and it might not align with the intent of your question. This has happened to me many times before and I learned the hard way that although a vendors answer was technically true, the answer was far from reality when compared with the intent of my question.

And now back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

3 is the Magic Number – De La Soul

The POC demands it own set of much more detailed requirements. This is the time to really look under the covers at a product and see what it can do versus what you have already been told. Again, using your favorite spreadsheet tool create a new sheet for each tool in the POC. I prefer to use a weighting and grading scale to help differentiate between tools.

  • Weighting: Some requirements will be more important to you than others. I use a Low, Medium, and High scale with associated values of 1, 2, and 3. This is your multiplier for the grade you give each requirement
  • Grading: Some tools have better support for a requirement than others. I use a grading scale of None, Poor, Adequate, and Excellent with associated values of 0, 1, 2, and 3.

I also like to break up the POC requirements into categories. This helps keep me organized, ensures I don’t miss testing something on my list, and helps me write the analysis document at the end of the POC. Some examples of categories and requirements are shown below.

  • Authentication and Authorization
    • Supports Microsoft AD
    • Granular Role Based Permission System
  • User Interface
    • Web based user interface compatible with Internet Explorer 8+
    • Displays application topology without administrator or user configuration
  • Deep Application Diagnostics
    • Automatically discovers and instruments custom code
    • Automatically traces complete call stack when performance is abnormally poor
    • Automated intelligence to ensure instrumentation does not use excessive overhead

Your list should be much longer and more detailed. This requirements list is the basis of the POC and all follow up documentation so make sure it is thorough and not slanted towards a particular vendor. Think of it as your Christmas list when you were a kid, don’t be afraid to ask for things that might seem impossible but that could be really useful.

Another key lesson learned coming your way… Don’t let the vendor control the POC. You define the environment (Dev, Test, and even Prod if it can be done safely), you do the installation, you do the configuration, you do everything related to the POC. You are the one who has to use the tool after you buy it so be sure to personally do everything during the POC.

Be sure you provide the same playing field for each vendor so that your results are really comparable. Having a successful POC using a team of 5 vendor engineers versus another successful POC using just 1 engineer is comparing apples and oranges.

We Are the Champions – Queen

After you wrap up all of your POCs you should have enough data to pick a winner. Hopefully you built your spreadsheets so that they automatically add up the numbers related to all of the requirements. You will have a statistical winner based purely upon you spreadsheet data and that usually aligns with the overall feeling you have after the POC is complete but sometimes it might not. You may have a vendor/product that is statistically the winner but your gut is telling you to choose a different vendor. In this case you need to figure out exactly why you feel this way. You cannot justify vendor selection based upon a gut instinct with no explanation. Maybe one vendor was just a royal pain to deal with, maybe the solution worked well but was agonizingly painful to deploy. The key here is being able to express why your instinct is pushing you a certain direction and quantify the potential impact. Something similar to the following statement can be used as justification of your position:

“Even though Vendor X Product statistically scored highest in the evaluation there is one overriding factor that prohibits selecting them as the overall winner. Deployment and configuration of Vendor X Product is difficult and time consuming. Based upon the observed deployment and configuration time of 2 weeks for 1 application during the POC it would take approximately 19 years to configure monitoring for the 500 applications which are in scope. Deploying Vendor X Product does not make sense in our environment.”

The information you have been building throughout this entire process should be used to create an overall evaluation document. This document should have the following information at a minimum:

  • Description of problem
  • Description of proposed solution
  • Vendors/Products evaluated
  • Evaluation Criterial (Requirements)
  • Evaluation Results
  • Recommendation
  • Next steps

It can also be helpful to create a short (3–10 pages) presentation to accompany the evaluation document which you can use to brief management on your findings. This presentation should contain only the most important facts since you have all the detail anyone should ever want in the full evaluation document.

Another important document you can create is the business justification. The business justification cuts out all the technical details related to the product you want to purchase and gets right down to the economics of the matter. I am not going to dive deep into how to write a business justification but to help you get started you should make sure you get a ROI (Return On Investment) calculator from each vendor that participates in your POC. Vendors want to help you buy their solution and have a wealth of information available to help you build your business justification so just ask them for help if you need it. Just make sure that everything in the business justification is factually based and relevant to your business.

Lastly it is really helpful to have broad support for your initiative. Seek out people across your organization that will support your recommendation of product or who will validate the problem that you are trying to solve. If you have full support of an Application Owner whose business is being directly impacted this greatly increases your chances of success.

If you read this entire blog post please accept my gratitude! I know it was a long post but it’s a huge topic to cover. Hopefully you picked up some good information and will return for my next post about deploying the product you just worked so hard to get in the door. As always, your comments are welcome. I’d love to hear your tips for getting new solutions approved or any war stories from your vendor evaluations.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Jyoti Bansal

In high-production environments where release cycles are measured in hours or minutes — not days or weeks — there's little room for mistakes and no room for confusion. Everyone has to understand what's happening, in real time, and have the means to do whatever is necessary to keep applications up and running optimally.

DevOps is a high-stakes world, but done well, it delivers the agility and performance to significantly impact business competitiveness.

@ThingsExpo Stories
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, introduced the technologies required for implementing these idea...
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud enviro...
"A lot of times people will come to us and have a very diverse set of requirements or very customized need and we'll help them to implement it in a fashion that you can't just buy off of the shelf," explained Nick Rose, CTO of Enzu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
The security needs of IoT environments require a strong, proven approach to maintain security, trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vic...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now ...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, discussed the impact of technology on identity. Sho...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus o...
Providing secure, mobile access to sensitive data sets is a critical element in realizing the full potential of cloud computing. However, large data caches remain inaccessible to edge devices for reasons of security, size, format or limited viewing capabilities. Medical imaging, computer aided design and seismic interpretation are just a few examples of industries facing this challenge. Rather than fighting for incremental gains by pulling these datasets to edge devices, we need to embrace the i...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).