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How To: APM In SaaS, Cloud

Fast application deployment is a main driver for outsourcing. App performance management needs to move at the same speed.

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How To: APM In SaaS, Cloud

Just because you're using software as a service or hosting systems with a public cloud provider doesn't mean you're off the hook for performance problems. On the contrary: A critical application is a critical application, whether it lives on your own servers or in a mega data center in Singapore. It's a conundrum your security group is likely also coming to grips with: How do you guarantee highly functional, regulatory compliant computing when the infrastructure is entirely out of your control?

The security guys are on their own. For application performance management (APM) suite jockeys, what will change as applications that impact the bottom line move into the cloud is the set of metrics to be monitored. You'll need to transition from twisting dials to working closely with your cloud provider to aggregate data and give the business a real-time view of what matters. You'll also need the grit to abandon APM systems that just aren't working. Throwing good money after bad will only reinforce business leaders' tendency to see internal IT as hidebound, behind the times, and replaceable.

We've tracked APM usage levels for years. In our full InformationWeek Analytics APM report, we compare results from our August survey of 379 business technology professionals with what 320 respondents told us in April 2009. The top overall trend: consistency. The number of survey respondents who say their companies have no plans to use APM tools or systems held steady at 21%. Also fairly consistent from survey to survey were the frequency of performance problems, perceived criticality of application services, and user/customer tolerance (or lack thereof) to application service outages. The biggest change: the top reason companies don't plan to use APM. In 2009, 36% of survey respondents cited the cost, and the same percentage noted their lack of expertise. But in 2010, the percentage saying they don't have the needed expertise jumped a full 14 points, to 50%. Cost is up five points.

We think the complexity involved in monitoring applications hosted offsite and in private clouds is contributing to the shortage of expertise. The huge field of vendors pitching APM products of varied architectures is also a source of anxiety.

Given the confusing and shifting product landscape, architectural complexities, and manpower issues, is APM worth the effort for companies moving aggressively toward the cloud? For both cloud and in-house environments, an end-to-end APM initiative will likely make sense only for enterprises that have more than $50 million in revenue or that run 10 or more mission-critical applications that directly affect the bottom line. In a cloud environment, APM is trickier--simpler with SaaS providers, but harder for infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service private and public clouds. Still, you need to ensure that the cloud vendor isn't costing you business and that APM is part of a larger service management strategy.

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