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Charley Rich (Global) - Customers, Not Technology, Should be the Driving Force Behind APM

The enterprise applications landscape is constantly shaping and reshaping itself as demands from the business increase and change. As the pressure on these applications rises (and on the IT groups tasked with managing them), the need for a more effective means of monitoring performance has emerged, and with it, the aptly-named application performance monitoring (APM) market.

Let me start by saying that application performance monitoring is nothing new. Organizations have monitored transaction and messaging environments for quite some time. While new complexities have been met with new capabilities in the APM tools (for instance the ability to monitor multiple middleware stacks from a single centralized workstation – putting it all under a single pane of glass, as I like to say), buyers and users need to make sure they are approaching APM with the proper perspective.

Recently, I’ve observed a trend in the marketplace where the focus and attention are being placed on the actual application performance monitoring. As noted above, these tools are able to pull in more data and go deeper than ever before into application performance. Users are able to monitor and manage issues proactively and generally get a good sense of what’s going on in their application environments. While innovation on the technology side is good—and necessary—it’s alarming to see confusion in the details of the end versus the means.

Let me explain what I mean when I say that. The goal is not to monitor the performance of your applications. That is simply a means. Ultimately, the goal is to provide high-quality service to your customers. To do that you need to keep the performance and availability of your applications high. Too often IT isn’t really looking at the final goal and instead is focused on collection, and not only that, but collecting data without analyzing it, or in this case, not looking at the service that is being provided. To be successful, metrics need to be in place toward having a service view of what’s being offered.

Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a new concept for IT as it falls closely in line with the discipline of IT service management (ITSM). The discipline, which has ties to the process improvement movement (e.g., TQM, Six Sigma, business process management, etc.), is not concerned with the details of how to use a particular product, or even with the technical details of the system under management, but rather upon providing a framework to structure IT-related activities with an overall customer-centric view of the business.

Forrester Research recently published a TechRadar™ report on IT Service Management Processes and stated that the adoption of a best practice model was the cornerstone of having a mature IT service management approach. In defining ITSM, Forrester also notes that its purpose is to align IT services with the needs of the enterprise and customers. The customer-centric approach is the key here. At the end of the day, the customer isn’t going to care what APM tool is being used, what level of visibility it provides, or even how well the applications are performing. All they want to know is that the systems will do the job without interruptions, delays or errors. And can they do this in a time where off-shoring and outsourcing is common, where the need to avoid eyes-on-screen monitoring is great.

That’s not to say that the nuances and capabilities from tool to tool are not important—they are, but only in the context of providing high-quality, high-uptime service to the customer. Again, we’re at risk of allowing the technology innovation to shift our attention away from the customer service metric. There is a time and a place for debate around the means of application performance monitoring, but it should never replace the importance of why we monitor application performance in the first place. Let’s allow the APM market to continue to thrive and grow, but in the context of better enabling enterprises to maximize the services they are providing to their customers.

By Charley Rich, VP Product Management at Nastel Technologies

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