Borderless Applications of the Past: Stopping the Disruption

Kristen Allmacher

In a previous blog post,  "Borderless Applications: The Disruption Stops Here," I discussed how application performance management has changed and is changing.  In order to understand where application performance management might be in the future, I will evaluate how performance shaped the business in the past and how it's managed now. This blog will evaluate the past of how IT operations managed application performance in three key areas:

1. Application architectures

2. Zone of responsibility

3. Customer expectations

Application Performance Management of the Past

About a decade ago, critical applications had simple architectures that were typically served out of a single data center and were under the complete control of the IT organization. The business focused solely on generating revenue through great face-to-face customer service. Critical applications that were used to execute customer transactions had to be available to ensure employees could successfully satisfy customer needs.

Past application architecture

The application's infrastructure was static and the physical components were critical for ensuring the application was available for users to access information. Those physical components consisted of a mainframe, database and application server-a typical two- or three-tiered environment. The monitoring or management of these physical components was on a siloed team basis, where one monitoring tool managed that team's portion of the application infrastructure. The goals of the IT operations organization were simple-keep the data available-while application performance was a secondary concern. More often, the way to solve performance issues was to buy more servers and place them on the network. Poof, performance problem solved; however, IT budgets became bloated.

If the application became unavailable, IT operations would call each team into the 'war room' to strategize on where the problem resided. To solve the application problem took much time and effort and cost a lot.

Past zone of responsibility

IT operations had individual groups that managed components of the applications. Each IT group had its own monitoring tool to understand whether its portion of the application infrastructure was available and performing well. No group had a need or desire to communicate how performance might have impacts on the other IT group components, let alone on end-user productivity. This method of managing the business's mission-critical applications was successful due to the lower expectations of the end users. End users (employees or business users) didn't know or expect the application to perform any better than it did. The only expectation the users had was that the application would be available. In some cases, users could still get the job done by manual means, but over a longer period of time. But when the application continued to be unavailable, the effects on the business became greater in cost, loss of productivity and lost revenue.

In many aspects, IT operations focused solely on whether each group-database administration team, application team, network team, etc.-had data available, which was fine for the business at the time. Business reliance on the application was starting to increase, but as long as IT could only report on application availability, there were no other indicators that would help the business take other steps for improvement.

Past customer expectations

Customer expectations in the past were mainly focused on how well they were serviced. The business users who serviced customers focused solely on how well they could interact and provide meaningful service that kept customers satisfied. Most of the customer interactions with business users were direct, with customers going to a physical business location to perform a transaction. The face-to-face customer service interaction was the means of doing business. The more personable and comfortable the interaction was between business users and customers, the more likely the overall goal of making a profit and growing revenue.

Managing application performance in the past seemed simple compared to managing it today. The talk about utilizing new/emerging technologies that can create application performance disruption is a worry for businesses and causes concern in adopting the new technology. Stay tuned for the next posting that will evaluate the present of application performance management.

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