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AppDynamics: Unified Monitoring for End-to-End Visibility

Sometimes software vendors bog themselves down in the never-ending game of buzzword bingo, as marketers try for just the right combination of terminology to encourage customers to buy.

In other situations, however, a vendor will carefully select terminology to make important distinctions – even though the point they are making is a subtle one.

Application Intelligence vendor AppDynamics falls into the second camp. This week’s announcement features a number of varied enhancements for their platform, emphasizing its “Unified Monitoring” enhancements, including “increased server, database, application, and infrastructure visibility.”

AppDynamics’ choice of words like ‘unified’ and ‘visibility’ is no mere game of buzzword bingo – and in fact, both of these terms indicate subtle but important capabilities, especially in the context of the digital transformation AppDynamics’ enterprise customers are currently undergoing.

‘Unified,’ Not ‘Integrated’

Let’s focus first on AppDynamics’ choice of the word ‘unified,’ by contrasting it to the word ‘integrated.’ On first glance these two terms are synonymous, but in fact, they represent diametrically opposite approaches to building enterprise-class software.

The traditional way vendors build enterprise software is to acquire a number of separate companies, each of which offers some important component. Next, the vendor assembles this motley collection of parts into a ‘suite’ or ‘platform’ – these terms now nothing but marketing buzzwords.

Yet, while the marketing team has no problems connecting the various bits together (what I like to call ‘integration at the PowerPoint layer’), the real technical work of integrating the technologies takes time and effort – and in the end, the resulting product still suffers from uneven quality, excessive complexity, inconsistent user interfaces, and a multitude of other issues.

By referring to its platform as ‘unified,’ in contrast, AppDynamics is emphasizing that it is most assuredly not ‘integrated’ in that it is not assembled piecemeal. Instead, AppDynamics made important architectural decisions early in its evolution to build a single platform with end-to-end application intelligence capabilities built in from day one.

In the few years since, AppDynamics has been fleshing out the capabilities of various modules on the platform. Superficially, this evolution might look like an assembly of various parts, but in reality, the overall change in the platform constitutes an end-to-end maturation of unified capabilities.

The difference is no mere buzzword distinction – as any AppDynamics customer can attest to, as the platform’s various modules interoperate seamlessly, as they are in fact all part of a single application by design.

Visibility for the ‘Software-Defined Everything’ Era

Traditional monitoring tools – like the ones earlier generation vendors assembled into suites – had a physical infrastructure context. Admins would monitor servers or network hardware or other tangible pieces of equipment, and this focus on actual gear drove the design of the tools that monitored it.

In the intervening decade or so, virtualization has changed the playing field. Today, notions like ‘server’ or ‘network’ or ‘runtime’ have shifted dramatically in context. Furthermore, even virtualization itself has split into different levels of abstraction, with hypervisors and containers providing different perspectives on an increasingly software-driven world.

Vendors of first generation tooling have done their best to keep up with the times – but their technology still has a physical infrastructure monitoring context. The more dynamic the software-defined environment becomes, the less their monitoring tools provide adequate visibility into the performance metrics that matter most to the business.

Here again, AppDynamics has taken a next-generation approach. Instead of starting with the physical infrastructure, AppDynamics starts with the business transaction, because the business transaction is what’s important to the customer, like the one in the following illustration.

AppD visibilityhttp://intellyx.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AppD-visibility-768x348.png 768w, http://intellyx.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AppD-visibility-260x118.png 260w, http://intellyx.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AppD-visibility-600x272.png 600w, http://intellyx.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AppD-visibility.png 905w" sizes="(max-width: 791px) 100vw, 791px" />

End-to-End Business Transaction (Source: AppDynamics)

Physical infrastructure is still important in the software-defined world, of course, as bare metal underlies everything in the end. But monitoring physical infrastructure separate from the various layers of abstraction above simply won’t provide the visibility necessary to support the business transaction, and hence the customer.

After all, the customer doesn’t care if an application runs on a virtual machine or in containers, or in the cloud vs. on premise. The customer simply wants it to run properly, at top speed, every time. And where the customer goes, so too go the key performance indicators (KPIs) that the business cares about, whether they be shopping cart conversions, revenue per customer, or any other KPI.

This digital context explains why AppDynamics favors the word ‘visibility’ over ‘monitoring’ in the context of the components of the business transaction: server, database, application, and infrastructure.

Monitoring each of these components separately cannot provide the visibility necessary to connect the performance of each component to the overall performance of the business transactions that connect the components together.

The Intellyx Take: Digital Transformation Means Constant Change

AppDynamics still provides monitoring, of course – but only in the context of unified monitoring, because only by leveraging its unified platform can monitoring deliver the level of visibility the business requires.

In the end, the distinctions between ‘unified’ vs. ‘integrated’ or ‘monitoring’ vs. ‘visibility’ are only important because the digital transformation business context is one of ongoing, constant change.

First generation tooling didn’t have to provide much flexibility, because physical infrastructure was relatively static and slow to change.

Today, however, the world is a different place, which is why it’s so important that AppDynamics Unified Monitoring provides end-to-end visibility – from the end user through all the application layers and supporting infrastructure to facilitate comprehensive management of user experience and application health.

Without a unified platform like AppDynamics, therefore, enterprises would struggle to achieve the user experience and operational success necessary for effective digital transformation. Monitoring separate components alone is woefully inadequate. Instead, organizations need the end-to-end visibility into business transactions that AppDynamics can provide.

AppDynamics is an Intellyx client. At the time of writing, No other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx clients. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this article.

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More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists.

As founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx, he advises, writes, and speaks on a diverse set of topics, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, devops, big data/analytics, cybersecurity, blockchain/bitcoin/cryptocurrency, no-code/low-code platforms and tools, organizational transformation, internet of things, enterprise architecture, SD-WAN/SDX, mainframes, hybrid IT, and legacy transformation, among other topics.

Mr. Bloomberg’s articles in Forbes are often viewed by more than 100,000 readers. During his career, he has published over 1,200 articles (over 200 for Forbes alone), spoken at over 400 conferences and webinars, and he has been quoted in the press and blogosphere over 2,000 times.

Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books: The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013), Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (Wiley, 2006), XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

At SOA-focused industry analyst firm ZapThink from 2001 to 2013, Mr. Bloomberg created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011.

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting), and several software and web development positions.

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