IT Still Struggling with Application Management
If your organization is struggling to monitor and manage the applications being delivered to the business, you're not alone. As business applications become more complex and mission critical, managing them becomes increasingly complex and mission critical as well. The problem is, IT as a whole is much better at deploying technology than it is at monitoring and managing it.
The results of EMA's latest research on the subject, completed by over 200 application management experts in June 2008, are in the process of being tallied. One early finding is that, after all of our investments in enterprise management solutions over the years, the way that IT most often finds out about application problems is still via calls from end users (54%). This figure is actually up over a 2006 survey that found that 48% of problems were reported by users.
So, are all of the investments in enterprise management products really worth it? Or should we just tear out the management solutions and give every end user a direct telephone line to the NOC? To gather additional information about the state of application management in the enterprise, EMA followed up the survey with multiple interviews to answer these questions and to find out about current management challenges and the ways in which IT organizations are solving them.
One executive we spoke to was responsible for Service Level Management for a worldwide financial services organization. His responsibilities included all geographies and both internal and external customers. His stated goal was to provide a "McDonald's experience." That is, the goal was for the IT organization to achieve what McDonalds has achieved for fast foodto provide the same level of experience everywhere.
This goal is difficult to achieve even for companies in a single location. Dealing with multiple providers, different governments, multiple languages and time zones, and other cross-geography differences complicates the enterprise management activity exponentially. Nevertheless, when asked to quantify the level of difficulty in achieving this goal rated on a scale of 1 to 10, his rating was a six.
I was somewhat surprised, as I likely would have rated it higher, if only from a technology perspective. When asked to explain his rating he answered that, from a technology perspective, the difficulty level was a four. From the cultural level it was a nine. Multiple regulations by business unit and geographic area along with differing cultures were the biggest factors to overcome, at least in his opinion.
Technology and Process are Helping
His group was solving it with a combination of technology and process standardization. According to this executive, " automation alone doesn't cut it. With money as tight as it is, it is extremely difficult to work in an environment that has no standards or where people don't adhere to standards. It's important to understand what is in place right now, to build standard processes and related technology that are meaningful."
Needless to say, they are extensively leveraging standards and best practices with a variety of frameworks. They use the IT Service Management books of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) for developing and standardizing IT processes. They also use Six Sigma for quality, COBIT for audit and governance guidance, and various project management methodologies. Use of one framework should not exclude another. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and all are complementary to one another.
These interviews support our initial assumption in focusing on end to end management during 2008: almost every IT organization is struggling to manage applications more effectively. Although getting processes right is certainly one challenge, choosing the right tools is another. One of the key problems is that, although most IT organizations now have infrastructure monitoring and management tools in place, few have tools that provide the broad spectrum of information necessary to effectively monitor and manage applications and business services.
The fundamental problem is that application management requires visibility to hardware and software, infrastructure and transactions, along with the interrelationships among them. EMA believes this is one reason why we are seeing a threefold increase in ITIL adoption by
This opinion was echoed in an interview with the lead manager of the analytics and performance team at a large insurance company. His team is responsible for selecting, implementing, and maintaining the enterprise management tools needed to manage both internal and external applications worldwide. His company has created web services that deliver information processed on the mainframe. Multiple infrastructure management tools are in place. However, IT has little or no visibility into the J2EE-based web services or to their interactions with the mainframe. As a result, one of their key business services runs in a virtual "black box" composed of heterogeneous hardware, software, and application code. Troubleshooting performance problems is a nightmare requiring specialists with skills in multiple technologies.
This is a problem confronting the majority of companies today as they move to massively distributed business services interfacing across diverse technologies. Although few vendors have a complete answer, this manager is in discussion with multiple vendors to evaluate products that address their unique requirements. In testing to date, they have found that, while multiple products can discover the component parts of an application, the "glue that pulls it all together is the hard part." Currently, for many products that do application discovery and dependency mapping, that "glue" involves a great deal of manual modeling, particularly for custom applications.
Building a model of applications and their dependencies is becoming a focus for many IT organizations, with 33% of those responding to an earlier EMA 2008 survey indicating that "mapping of applications to the underlying infrastructure" and "monitoring of end-to-end application and service execution" are "very high priorities." Although infrastructure "monitoring and automated detection" remains the priority for 2008 for the majority of respondents surveyed (63%), EMA expects a shift towards automated application dependency mapping over the next several years.
EMA is extensively covering the application management space in multiple practice areas, and recently published the cross-practice paper Managing Applications in 2008: What Does End-to-End Really Mean? This paper details EMA's new Application Management Semantic Model, which describes the types of automation necessary to build a complete, "big picture" view of application execution.
Julie Craig is a senior analyst with Boulder, Colo.-based