Surescripts Taps AppDynamics To Scrutinize Apps

Surescripts expects AppDynamics application performance management to improve app performance and reliability, free engineers to pursue innovation.
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Electronic prescriptions and health information network Surescripts has tapped AppDynamics' application performance management (APM) tool to monitor and improve its applications' performance.

By empowering engineers and system administrators to peer deep within its applications, Surescripts expects to further enhance performance and reliability, liberate employees to spend more time on innovative projects, and more easily test new technologies for possible use across the clinical network business.

The company already uses several such tools, such as ServiceNow, which tracks operational issues and provides alerts to staff, said Tom Wills, senior systems engineer at Surescripts, in an interview. Adding AppDynamics' APM is a proactive step that provides a "deep dive" into applications, he said.

Surescripts has not yet rolled out AppDynamics APM into production, but it expects a wealth of benefits as it goes live, Al Jackson, VP of information management and system performance, told InformationWeek.

[Surescripts is king of the e-prescribing food chain. See Most Prescriptions Sent Electronically.]

Jackson said patients, physicians, and insurers will see benefits from improved performance speed, uptime, and availability. "Timeliness is one thing but reliability is another. If their confidence in our service is rocked by a single event that causes them to ask a question, that's not good. Applications like this will give us visibility into our systems that we really spent a lot of human resource on previously."

Surescripts' partners also will benefit, Jackson said. A three- or four-second delay in prescription delivery is well within the company's service terms but could make a big difference to vendors that are extremely time-sensitive, he noted.

"These software applications and network infrastructures are massively, massively complex. We are providing them with the ability to see inside everything," said Jyoti Bansal, AppDynamics' founder and CEO, in an interview. "If they can see what is going on, in most cases they can fix problems before they can affect anyone."

Insight into new products' performance also will allow Surescripts' IT department to determine if or how they impact the network, including whether they meet manufacturers' specifications, were installed correctly, or are causing any network problems post-implementation, said Jackson. This new visibility encourages Surescripts to try applicable leading-edge devices and technologies, he said.

"When you don't have visibility into the core of your system, to swap out core devices you know are reliable is really a risk. We would prefer to stay with a 10-year-old firewall because we know it's worked for 10 years rather than swap it with a brand new state-of-the-art firewall," said Jackson.

Today, Surescripts uses AppDynamics APM for load testing and in development environments, as well as on a per-server basis for diagnostics, Wills said. As engineers, systems administrators, and other IT professionals receive training and become more comfortable with the tool, Surescripts plans to roll it into production in August, he added.

Surescripts had plenty of APM options: Frost and Sullivan projects that it will be a $4.5 billion market by 2017. AppDynamics' competitors include IBM, HP, CA, and BMC. Surescripts investigated the options, seeking an APM that integrated with ServiceNow, among other capabilities. AppDynamics' ability to discern response-time trends also gave it an edge, Wills said. The tool recognized which times were typically busier -- Monday afternoons, for example -- so Surescripts was able to set its baseline higher during those times to handle the capacity, he said.

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