Application Operations and End-to-End Transaction Visibility

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Part 5 of the “Who Owns the End-to-End Transaction?” 6-part blog series.  Throughout the next few weeks, we will be taking a close look at how various IT stakeholders benefit from end-to-end transaction visibility.  Be sure to check out:

Part 1: Why Application Support Managers Need End-to-End Transaction Visibility”

Part 2: “IT Operations and End-to-End Visibility.”

Part 3:  “Application Developers and End-to-End Transaction Visibility.”

Part 4: “Do Database Managers Need End-to-End Visibility?”

Introducing the “New Kid” on the IT Block – Application Operations

Application Operations is an emerging technology management team that was formed to address a whole new set of performance management issues being driven by virtualization and the Cloud, increasing application diversity, and the agile development of custom applications.  This team is responsible for the holistic performance and operation of all applications – purchased, third party provided, and custom built.  Their aim is to manage the response times of the entire application ecology and to closely monitor the performance of end-to-end transactions within the operational environment.

Core responsibilities belonging to the App Ops team include:

  • Tracking and inventory of all implemented applications
  • Monitoring, measuring and assuring the performance of all applications
    • Instrumenting and implementing an effective monitoring solution
    • Ensuring access to the critical performance data by other teams
  • Implementing and managing dynamic discovery and configuration processes for application infrastructure
  • Coordinating triage response to performance faults and degradations
  • Analyzing and reporting application performance to business management
  • Working in direct coordination with other teams
    • Virtualization and/or Cloud management
    • Application development
    • IT infrastructure management
    • Application and customer support
    • Business process management

The growing need for an Application Operations team

New services, architectures, protocols, interfaces and ways of doing business are constantly emerging.  Rapid changes in application performance and operations management are being introduced by virtualization and the Cloud.  More complexity also means more IT stakeholders are involved, making coordination and operational efficiency more challenging.  Applications and third party services themselves are also becoming increasingly diverse and complex.  Agile development has allowed the business to be more responsive to the changing business landscape – but it makes it harder to manage the environment that supports them.  These are all changes that have driven the role of Application Operations and a new set of performance requirements to emerge.  This new team is mostly focused on four key activities:

  • Conducting on-going discovery and monitoring of all application behavior within the operations environment
  • Measuring all application performance with respect to response times and end-user experience
  • Responding faster to degradation issues through coordinated interaction with the IT teams directly responsible for the various aspects of the application production environment

Crossing the APM chasm

The problem is that most application performance management tools are advancing much slower than virtual, Cloud-based and agile application environments.  These dynamic, highly scalable environments require automated discovery and configuration capabilities that are not yet mature. Any performance monitoring software involving agents has become obsolete in virtual and cloud-based environments.  Quick access to the detailed, hop-by-hop response times needed to troubleshoot the failures or slowdowns of any application in the operations environment is simply not possible with the traditional performance management tools available today.

To do their jobs, Application Operations teams need monitoring and performance management solutions that will account for application diversity, constant change, and the lack of visibility within virtual and Cloud-based environments.  This includes the means to constantly discover the changing application topologies and behaviors – and to make configuration changes to any application running on their operational infrastructure on an ongoing basis. These monitoring and performance management solutions also need to constantly adapt to the changing application environment and provide real-time measurements of end-to-end performance as well as hop-by-hop details that will streamline communications and coordination processes across multiple IT team silos.  This requires well-defined data “relationships” between the network infrastructure, the various application service components, 3rd party services, and the customers who use them.  Network-based application performance management has emerged as one of the few transaction-level monitoring solutions with sufficient depth, flexibility, and visibility to enable their mission.

Owning the end-to-end transaction 

Network-based Application Performance Management (APM) – otherwise known as Business Transaction Management (BTM) – provides end-to-end visibility into critical business transactions, monitors the performance of multi-tiered applications, and manages complex network infrastructures that involve a mixture of on-premise, virtual, Cloud-based, and third party software-as-a-service components.  These solutions collect data at the network level without deploying agents, allowing them to be rapidly adapted without impacting infrastructure or the applications.  They naturally extend into 3rd party, virtualized, and Cloud-based environments without requiring special permissions or access.

Using a hierarchical approach to transactions – such as that provided by the Unified Transaction Model (UTM) – events at every level can be related to each other, as transactions are defined for the infrastructure, individual services, the end-to-end applications, as well as the business processes themselves.  Network transactions and all their associated metrics are directly related to business transactions and metrics at the highest level.  And the detail acquired through the deep packet inspection, protocol decoding, and transaction correlation provides an unparalleled context for analysis, debugging, and optimization that is otherwise very difficult to achieve.

The kinds of measurements Application Operations teams can track focus on end-to-end transaction performance, but in direct relationship to critical application components of the environment and also the business outcomes.  For example:

  • End-to-end and per-service response times, including 3rd parties
    • In aggregate, qualified by type and component, as well as detailed instances
  • Service concurrency rates, error rates, and rates of incomplete customer tasks
  • Turns/task, tasks/process, process duration, and process completion rates
  • Customer satisfaction, drop/churn rates, and end-user think times
  • Revenue generation and resource consumption rates

With an effective transaction monitoring and application performance management solution, the App Ops team can focus on the critical jobs of cross-silo coordination, performance optimization, and issue resolution.  So finally, it seems to be the App Ops manager who owns the end-to-end transaction to ensure the performance of the business.

For more information on network-based APM/BTM, check out our other blogs, whitepapers and videos on the Unified Transaction Model.  Also check out our webinar titled, “Who Owns the End-to-End Transaction? Mapping IT Stakeholders to Transaction-derived Metrics (July 2012)” or download the “Who Owns the End-to-End Transaction?” whitepaper.