Application performance management should take design lessons from the smartphone industry

Every experience is now a software experience, which means application performance management (APM) needs to get out of the blame game and stop firefighting.

In an era where even the soda machines are connected to the cloud, said Chris Kline, VP, APM product management for CA Technologies, organizations need better tools to actually help solve problems rather than display what is happening in a slick fashion.

In a recent Webinar, Kline likened the pressures driving changes to APM tools to the upheaval of the industrial revolution rather than another tech boom, as so many experiences, even attending a modern facility for a football game such as the new Levi Stadium, has become a digital experience, where patrons order food and drink using a smartphone app and even replay a moment from the game at their seat. “We call it the application economy,” he said.

The APM space is full of incumbents and upstarts offering tools, said Kline, but research has shown whether it’s a veteran vendor and one of the cool, new kids on the block, users are overwhelmed by the amount of descriptive information. “The density of data just gets overwhelming,” said Kline. “There’s lots of value there but it requires expertise to use.”

And that hasn’t changed even with new vendors entering the APM space. Having reviewed both the incumbents and latest and greatest APM tools, Kline said the answers are very consistent across the board when asking users for their impressions. Newer tools may look better and cleaner and have an improved information architecture with widgets and colour palettes users find appealing, he said, but ultimately these new products have the same constructs, mapping, charts and alerts so they also require a high level of expertise. “It’s not that any of these tools are not valuable,” said Kline. “But to get that value they require a high level of skills and training.”

Beautiful topography of an IT infrastructure always looks good and makes it easy to admire the problem, but it doesn’t necessarily provide a course of action. “It’s not a sustainable path,” said Kline. The APM market has shifted because of the sheer volume of things that have to be monitored, he added, and the challenge is to maintain simplicity in a large, heterogeneous environment.

In the application economy, the way to improve APM is better design, “and design is more than just making it pretty,” said Kline. “You see that in the phone industry. They are winning by paying attention to design in software and hardware. That needs to be applied to APM.”

Better design that provides tools people can actually use is based on interviewing actual users and creating personas, said Kline, something CA has been doing. “How we understand who uses APM has changed.” Right now, organizations are still very reactive, calling all team members together to fight fires. Building personas means understanding who’s who and how they interact with APM, he said. “The better we understand a persona, the better we understand problems.”

Kline said the future of APM is being EPIC – easy, proactive, intelligent and collaborative. EPIC APM is something no one does today, he said, not even CA. “We believe that EPIC APM has to be built over the next couple of years.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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