Jan 25, 2008 (07:01 PM EST)
Blueprint For Application Performance Management

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Changes in the methods for building and deploying applications have rendered impotent many of the techniques historically used to manage application delivery infrastructures. Gone are the days when managing a database server's transaction performance equated to performance management. With the advent of Web services and now Web 2.0 technologies like mashups, today's applications are too complex to manage with last-generation tools and methodologies. New IT governance standards gaining acceptance among technology leaders also require that IT resources be managed more cohesively and proactively.

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What's needed is a holistic approach to application performance management, one that employs systems that work across application layers as well as across distributed enterprises. Key to getting application performance right is understanding the bigger-picture needs of the organization as defined through practices such as ITIL and COBIT (see "Standards For IT Governance," Dec. 10, p. 35). These governance processes help IT understand what's important. In this Blueprint, we'll explore how to keep those important services up and running.

THE NEW MANAGEMENT FRONTIER
The need for APM aligns closely with macro trends confronting IT. Application decomposition may well enable organizations to leverage information stored in previously inaccessible silos, but the real-time Web services required to make that data available demand their own management techniques to function properly. What's more, some data and systems may be located outside IT's immediate purview.

So-called Webification of existing enterprise applications often brings to light the need for new management systems and mind-sets. NetForecast, an APM consulting firm, has found that on average, resources from six servers are required to compose a mashup on a user's desktop, says NetForecast president Peter Sevcik. Depending on how important that mashup is, each service, as well as the collection of services, requires monitoring and management.

Yet, managing those Web services by piecing together data from conventional point management products won't cut it. Polling individual devices for SNMP alerts can't provide sufficient information to control real-time process flows that by their nature are ephemeral. In short, guaranteeing the performance of tomorrow's distributed Web services applications won't be possible without monitoring and managing the entire application flow.

APM has other drivers, too. To extract additional value out of IT investments and improve customer experience, executives are looking at managing IT end to end through governance and process specifications, such as COBIT and ITIL. While these specifications are excellent for pulling together IT business process, they require tools to implement the ideas set out in them. APM closely aligns with ITIL because it postulates a unified system for analyzing application performance problems, notes Dennis Drogseth, VP at IT consulting and analyst firm Enterprise Management Associates.

In fact, APM aligns neatly with at least four of the 14 ITIL service operation activities, Sevcik says, ticking off Incident Management, Availability Management, Capacity Management, and Service Level Management. In short, APM can be viewed as the tool by which ITIL gets implemented in the network (see diagram below).

diagram: The APM Architecture

(click image for larger view)