IT Operations and End-to-End Transaction Visibility

inetco apm ad 0723Part 2 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 and applications support teams benefit from end-to-end transaction visibility.  Be sure to check out Part 1 on “Why Applications Support Managers Need End-to-End Transaction Visibility”.

The IT Operations role requires a super-human effort at the best of times…

The IT Operations team is the closest to the metal when it comes to supporting end-to-end application performance.  They are the ones everyone depends on to keep up with the rapidly shifting landscape of the latest technologies and solutions, developing capabilities that support automated discovery, configuration, and systems-wide performance management.

IT Operations teams have the challenging job of constantly wrestling the infrastructure into place to support all the other teams.  This is the team with hands directly on the knobs and buttons.  They make the machines hum, the platforms sing, and ensure that applications perform.  The IT Operations team is run off its feet planning, building, deploying, integrating, and maintaining in a constant cycle that never quite finishes, all to meet the demands of the rest of business.  They have to do it within budget, in best time, with limited visibility, and – hardest of all – while complying with a dizzying rate of change and regulation within the IT landscape.

And they do it – quarter after quarter.  These are the people I would like to back me up in a dark alley.  Or on that last push to the big release.  Or that critical delivery to those new Asian partners.  Other key responsibilities of IT Operations include:

  • Operational oversight and management of IT infrastructure including hardware procurement and deployment, maintenance, backup, security, operational scripting and programming
  • Development and execution of policies and procedures for all those responsibilities
  • Contributing to strategic IT planning with regard to capital expenditures, out-sourcing, 3rd party services, cloud, and service providers
  • Managing the full cycle development, implementation, application and architecting of the IT infrastructure
  • Fulfilling the IT requirements of other teams within the business
  • Achieving the overall business efficiencies and productivity objectives of the organization – within budget constraints
  • Tracking and providing input for the operations budget
  • Planning and execution of build-outs and technology transitions

True or False:  IT Operations has all the answers

When today’s complex and distributed applications slow down and end-users start complaining, other internal teams and business managers are looking first to IT Operations for the answers. The team is constantly chasing troubleshooting tickets that may not even belong to them.  With so much else to do, the IT Operations team does not have the time or resource cycles to be caught up in blamestorms, or troubleshooting “potential” infrastructure issues.

Traditionally, IT Operations teams have invested heavily in instrumenting everything they own so that it can be effectively monitored, tracked, and diagnosed.  They usually rely on performance metrics and measures that are specific to the devices and systems they control: CPU, memory, disk and I/O consumption, server availability and SAN capacities, workstation utilization, network interface statistics, details of data flows, and the like.  IT Operations teams also track and manage changes in the system such as configuration, patches, and allocated resources, and analyze them with regard to type, context, and outcome.  These are manually correlated with detected and reported incidents, faults, or performance issues to determine the effectiveness of their processes.

These metrics are essential for running the infrastructure but do not provide information about the applications and business processes that run on it.  They are also not available for 3rd party systems outside of their control.  Working with just these metrics can be rather trial-and-error – with the cost of those experiments borne by the team as well as the business.

Often missing is critical data that enables the team to drive their processes more efficiently with respect to the other internal teams and 3rd parties:

  • Application performance data such as response times, rates of completions and failures, task completion time that are directly related to infrastructure behavior;
  • Application-specific details for each particular reported incident or failure, localized to a particular service;
  • Rates of completion, failures, and delays for each service and in the context of how they were invoked;
  • Detailed SLAs that go beyond availability to show on average and by specific instance how 3rd party and cloud services impact overall performance;

With these kinds of metrics and detail, IT Operations has visibility into the other domains that depend on the IT infrastructure.  Detected events and changes can be assessed by how the performance of the end-to-end application, as well as the component services, are affected, not just by what incidents arise or tickets filed.  These are the views that are made possible by network-based application performance management (APM) solutions that employ transaction monitoring.

Network-based APM solutions and end-to-end transaction visibility

Network-based APM solutions, otherwise known as business transaction management solutions, provide end-to-end visibility into transactions at multiple levels, enabling IT Operations teams to monitor the performance of all the multi-tiered applications they support and manage network infrastructures that involve virtual, Cloud-based, and third party software-as-a-service components.  These solutions enable IT Operations teams to:

  • Assess how the IT infrastructure is performing with respect to business outcomes
  • Triage critical issues arising from within and without their domain
  • Manage 3rd party infrastructures outside their direct control
  • Report to management how all of their expenditures affect the bottom line.

Using a hierarchical and integrated framework like that provided by the Unified Transaction Model (UTM), transactions are defined and monitored at multiple levels including the infrastructure.  Low-level network transactions are composed of individual packet exchanges; service transactions capture the interactions between servers and services in terms of the application protocol; application transactions are end-to-end and reflect the user experience; and business transactions capture the tasks and processes at the business level.  Transactions at each level are composed of sub-transactions from the lower level and carry details about the functional nature of every exchange.

Now the IT Operations team has information about other domains and in sufficient detail to act accordingly.  They can determine the impact infrastructure changes have on end-to-end application performance and they can localize and quickly resolve issues experienced by the customer.  With much richer detail and resolution at every level, from individual transactions to statistical trends, they can track and report the benefits of the infrastructure more accurately.

And, being network-based, business transaction monitoring solutions provide visibility into 3rd party infrastructure and platforms, into the Cloud, and into managed services.  Unlike traditional IT monitoring solutions, the deployments are non-intrusive and instrumentation of every device and server is not required.

The biggest benefit to IT Operations – greater coordination with other teams and the business, resulting in an emergent culture of efficiency, allow the IT Operations team to spend more of its time dancing on solid ground with eyes wide open.

Be sure to check in next week for Part 3 of this 6-part series that will explain what Application Developers gain from end-to-end transaction monitoring.

For more information on network-based BTM, check out our other blogs, whitepapers and videos on the Unified Transaction Model, APM Analytics and How Transaction Monitoring Impacts EUE  And watch for the blogs in the rest of this series.

You can also watch the on-demand webinar or download the whitepaper titled, “Who Owns the End-to-End Transaction: Mapping IT Stakeholders to Transaction-Derived Metrics”.