How APM Can Support Service Assurance

I’m a New Zealand-based Senior Sales Engineer for AppDynamics with more than 12 years of experience in the IT sector. I’ve had a lot of interesting work-related experiences over the years—living in Thai hospitals, traveling by armed convoy to remote gold mining sites, and even getting down and dirty with calculating the yield of offal and tallow within the primary industries. And while the organizations I’ve worked with spanned a variety of industries, each shared a common objective: the need for service assurance.

The idea of assurance came to me from an AppDynamics customer, whose company was trying to move all of its IT expenditures from CapEx to OpEx, which meant a major shift to managed services. The company had a few key partnerships it relied upon heavily, partners that provided Level 1 support, infrastructure and, in some cases, both application-level support and applications-as-a-service (SaaS).

Rather than buy an application performance monitoring solution directly from an APM provider like AppDynamics, the company wanted to consume APM as a service from another vendor such as a service provider. Why take this approach? The customer—as is often the case with many organizations—was looking for service assurance that an MSP could provide. A laudable goal, certainly, but one with considerable risk as well.

Retaining Visibility

When an organization outsources numerous managed services, it starts to lose visibility into its operation. It grows unsure of what’s going on behind the scenes. And while this organization may be very happy with the managed services it’s receiving, it has no visibility into what’s coming down the line. If, for instance, it’s 10 minutes away from a critical failure, it may not be able to see the event coming. In short, it lacks visibility into its own operations.

In this scenario, the company becomes uncomfortably reliant on its partners, who may not be willing to readily accept blame for a problem, largely because the admission of fault may reflect badly upon them and trigger contractual obligations. And if the company uses multiple MSPs, the situation will be worse, with each MSP pointing the finger away from themselves and saying, “It’s that guy’s fault.”

How APM Can Help

By providing advanced visibility into an application, APM enables the end customer to quickly find the fault, work with the appropriate MSP, and not waste support hours diagnosing a problem with the wrong vendors.

APM offers comfort—or assurity—that the end customer can very quickly identify the area at fault, thereby reducing its mean time to identify (MTTI). And because the customer is working with a single APM provider, it can reduce its mean time to recovery (MTTR) as well.

MSPs benefit, too. Providing service providers with access and visibility into faults can help with reductions in MTTR. And when multiple vendors are involved, the single-pane-of-glass view provided by an APM dashboard can be utilised by all parties for diagnosis and repair.

Keeping Them ‘Honest’

As an end customer, what level of assurance do you have that your MSP is operating as expected? And how do you know if an application, which you invested heavily in, is behaving properly? If your MSP is only telling you that the app is “available,” that’s not good enough.

It’s not always easy to determine whether an application is performing well, though, and which metrics best gauge its overall business impact. In addition to technical metrics, you’ll also need to identify the business transactions (BTs) that are most valuable to you, and whether they’re delivering their expected value.

You should encourage your MSP to have a service-level agreement (SLA) that covers not only technical metrics and BTs, but also valuable business metrics such as sales conversion, digital service adoption, and so on.

APM delivers these insights by providing real-time visibility into the performance of your business. Instead of relying on daily or monthly business intelligence reports to see if you’re meeting your SLAs from a technical and business standpoint, you get this information in real time.

In addition to helping you get the best return from your MSP, these insights enable you to make informed, moment-by-moment decisions, such as driving users to a particular channel as part of a digital transformation, i.e. steering customers away from an overloaded call center and toward online support.

The MSP also benefits from APM, which becomes a value-added service they can offer customers, one providing complete transparency and forging a true strategic partnership with customers.

A True Strategic Partnership

Outsourcing has its advantages but can also lead a loss of control, creating risk for organizations and individuals alike. Service assurance provides a level of comfort, giving an organization control and insight into the performance of its application, as well as confidence that its MSP is providing value.

From the perspective of the MSP, this also demonstrates a willingness and openness for a true strategic partnership with its customer. This strong and trusted partnership is critical to ensure success for the customer, the MSP and, most importantly, service for the end user.

CGI, a leading IT and business process services firm, had a major infrastructure contract that required end-to-end service delivery, but the nature of the environment made this difficult to achieve. To comply with its SLA, CGI needed an efficient way to measure business transactions end-to-end. CGI integrated AppDynamics into its existing platform and immediately began getting insights into system performance, enabling it to demonstrate SLA compliance, get complete end-to-end visibility of business transactions, and build a more robust process between its development, testing and production environments.

Schedule a demo to learn how AppDynamics can help assure your own service success!

Why solving customer problems is more important than chasing buzz words

AppDynamics Kick OffIt’s been a while since I last blogged, almost entirely because AppDynamics is growing faster than I ever expected. For example, last week we had our sales kickoff for 2013 and we literally filled the Clift hotel in San Francisco. To say the least, that’s a very different experience than filling a conference room with 35 people back in 2011!

Possibly my favorite part of the day was the first part–the CIO from one of our major retail customers addressed the sales team and spoke about how AppDynamics has become integral to his business and has truly become a strategic partner. He looked at our team straight in the eyes and said, “You guys belong in the CIO’s office.” Talk about an epic, special moment. When a CIO says that, you sit up, listen, and realize you’re well beyond byte code instrumentation, asynchronous transactions, and garbage collection.

You see, this CIO didn’t have a technical background–and he was perfectly upfront about that–yet he did “get” how AppDynamics has helped him solve some of the most complex problems across his business and partners. He was also a super competitive guy who wanted to crush his competitors, and he saw AppDynamics as a clear competitive advantage that helped him do just that.

This brings me to the philosophy behind everything we do at AppDynamics: simply put, we’re laser-focused on solving real-life problems for customers. We deliver solutions to problems rather than deliver technology, abbreviations, or buzz words like Big Data, Cloud, BTM, BDA, ALM, BPM, BCI, Packet Inspective, Predictive Analytics or Log Analytics. Technology is just a means to solve problems; what customers really care about is whether you can take away their pain.

We’re in the Application Performance Monitoring market. That’s what we do, that’s what we know, that’s what we breathe, and that’s what we’re great at – we help customers manage the performance and availability of their applications in production. Simple.

The problems we solve are pretty straightforward:

– Tell me if there is a performance or availability issue with my application as quickly as possible

– Help me troubleshoot where the problem is as quickly as possible

– Help me fix the problem as quickly as possible

– Help me avoid the problem in future

– AND help me do all this as easily as possible, with minimal configuration, maintenance, and effort (and without breaking the bank)

We do all the above better than anyone else right now, and we do it in some of the largest, complex, distributed application environments in the world. And the reason we do just that is because our stuff works. We don’t sell slideware, we don’t oversell, and we don’t promise the world. Rather, we just let our solution do the talking, because that’s what customers want.

The biggest problem we face is no one believes us after the pain they’ve gone through owning/evaluating the first generation of APM vendors. Customers these days don’t want an army of sales people and consultants turning up to sell and configure their solution; they just want the product to what it’s advertised to do. Can you imagine if you bought an Apple laptop and a consultant turned up at your door and configured it in front of you while you waited?

Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 9.47.46 PMYep, our solution has a lot of technology and not-so-secret sauce like deep diagnostics, distributed transaction tracing, application discovery & mapping, behavioural learning, and dynamic baselining – but we don’t sell those things because individually they solve nothing for customers. Yet, when you put them all together, you start to deliver something that can help customers solve real pain in their business. For example, an end user complained that they couldn’t login to the application – we monitor that transaction, learn its normal performance, flag its abnormal deviation, and provide diagnostics of how that transaction executed across and inside every tier within the application infrastructure. We do all of that in production, yet we’re so lightweight that you don’t even know we’re there. Customers typically find the root cause of business impact in 5 to 15 minutes with AppDynamics–compared to hours using traditional approaches.

This is one of the key reasons why we’re winning the trust and attention of CIOs around the world. We help customers solve problems–that’s all we do–but we do it well and without the hype.

Make no mistake: we’re laser-focused on solving customer problems and that is why AppDynamics is growing and I have no time to write blogs.