IT’s New Tool: Application Performance Management

The coming year is one of challenge for IT organizations, according to InformationWeek Analytics. Almost half of 605 business technology professionals the organization interviewed said that IT spending at their companies would be flat or lower in 2012 than 2011. In addition, only 25 percent planned to expand their IT staffing. And yet, 76 percent expected demands for IT from business units to increase this year.

As you quickly learn when earning a computer information systems degree, the ability to accomplish more work doesn’t magically appear because someone wants it. Unfortunately, the current load of duties in many companies often prevents an IT department from effectively undertaking additional projects.

Greater demand coupled with constrained resources is at best a recipe for unrealized expectations and, at worst, for bitter disappointment. IT departments must find new ways to gain efficiency in ordinary tasks. An important one is ensuring the smooth operation of applications. It’s a reason why there’s a growing need for application performance management tools and expertise.

APM operates in two ways, though measuring the resources that applications use as well as monitoring application performance from the view of the user. According to Gartner, there are actually five different dimensions of APM:

  • end-user experience monitoring
  • application runtime architecture discovery and modeling
  • user-defined transaction profiling
  • application component deep-dive monitoring
  • application data analytics

The intent is to use APM to accomplish two different goals. One goal is early warning of application problems. If resource utilization goes up or end user response time drops, there may be something going wrong. No performance follows a flat line, of course, but by profiling activity over time, companies can develop a range of normal operation. When things move away from normal, it’s a sign to IT of something amiss.

By receiving real-time alerts and taking quick action, a company can head off problems before they take hold and affect operations. The other general goal is managing business unit customer expectations.

Traditionally, IT services management has focused almost exclusively on the function of individual components: servers, networks, and storage units. Although that focus remains important, by itself it isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter how equipment seems to operate if users are unsatisfied with the responsiveness they see.

Ignoring end user experience and perception can easily exacerbate any crisis of confidence in IT that a business unit might have. In fact, surveys have shown that there are often “serious gaps between the performance attributes IT managers cite as important to measure, and those they actually do measure.”

IT departments that want to navigate, with constrained resources, the increased demands of business units will have to ensure that they meet expectations. And the only way to do that is to keep on top of application performance and perceived service.

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