The moving APM target: through to ADN

Part of the difficulty and excitement of application performance management (APM) is that it never gets easy: as soon as we figure out a best practice or efficient automation, it’s time to build on it and scale the solution up or out. Several recent news items illustrate this dynamic.

The clearest 2012 trend for APM is the move for APM’s own hosting into the cloud. Gartner’s much-publicized “2012 Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Management” certainly highlights this. Closer to the front line, pseudonymous App Man explains “The Top 5 Advantages of SaaS-based Application Performance Management”. This sketch illustrates software-as-a-service’s (SaaS) “multi-front” attack. By that I mean that SaaS simultaneously attracts attention from both the smallest and largest operations. For small-scale or beginning datacenters, SaaS represents a lightweight solution, one that can be spun up and put into default deployment in roughly ten minutes, rather than the weeks typical for an on-the-premises APM installation.

At the other end of the scale, cloud-based APM takes responsibility for ensuring that your chosen solution scales to the highest level, with tens of thousands of servers under control.

What we deliver and where

Another emerging focus for APM is the application programming interface (API). I strongly believe that the API is the area of the marketplace where growth will be greatest over the next five years, and it’ll only be a healthy domain to the extent we measure and manage it expertly. The first two decades of the Web emphasized delivery of documents, then applications, to human consumers; now it’s time for our servers to expose services to other computers. I’m looking forward to closer study of API’s impact on APM tools.

Related themes turn up in Paul Andersen’s explanation of application delivery networking (ADN). ADN long ago advanced beyond simple load balancing, and now all its functional components are being virtualized and floated into the cloud. I like Andersen’s categorization of ADN in terms of the “three key areas …–application delivery, secure access and WAN optimization …”

We need to be ready for change to run our datacenters or operating centers efficiently. At a higher level, though, all the APM developments mentioned above are part of a story that doesn’t change: identifying the value we can deliver to end users, and ruthlessly searching out efficient commodity solutions for everything that goes into that value.