Business Agility

Business Agility covers using the technical agility delivered by virtualization and cloud computing to improve business agility, performance and results. This includes the agility derived from the proper implementation of Agile and DevOps methodologies, the agility derived from proper application and system architectures, (Read More)

the agility derived from the proper implementation of Infrastructure as a Server (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) clouds, the agility derived from proper monitoring of the environment coupled with a process to resolve problems quickly, and the agility derived from have continuous availability through the use of high availability and disaster recovery products and procedures in place.

Public Cloud Reality: Do we Stay or Do We Go?

CloudComputingSoon the backup power will be available for our new datacenter and the redesign to make use of VMware vCloud Suite is nearing completion. Soon, our full private cloud will be ready for our existing workloads. These workloads however now run within a XenServer based public cloud.  So the question is, do we stay in a poorly performing public cloud (mentioned in our Public Cloud Reality series) or move back to our own private cloud? As the Clash put it “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now.” Continue reading Public Cloud Reality: Do we Stay or Do We Go?

Public Cloud Reality: Reinforced at CSA Summit

CloudComputingI have written about the Public Cloud Reality and the need to bring your own security, monitoring, support. This was reinforced by Dave Asprey of Trend Micro at the last Cloud Security Alliance Summit held at this years RSA Conference. The gist of Dave Asprey’s talk was that YOU are responsible for the security of your data, not the cloud service provider. Unfortunately, this sort of discussion often devolves into one of shared vs tenant responsibility, the type of data, etc. It will also devolve into a legal discussion just as quickly. Unfortunately, all this does is point fingers. The long and the short of this discussion is about two items often mixed as one. Continue reading Public Cloud Reality: Reinforced at CSA Summit

Building a Management Stack for Your Software-Defined Data Center

SDDC.Management.Stack.Reference.ArchitectureData Center Virtualization has spawned several entirely new categories and variants of management software. This is largely because data center virtualization alone was a large enough change to create new requirements that legacy management products could not meet. This created a new constituency for management solutions—the virtualization team—which proceeded to purchase management solutions that met their needs. This trend was facilitated by the “easy to try and easy to buy” business model that many of the new vendors of virtualization management solutions adopted. Out of this a new management software industry arose. Continue reading Building a Management Stack for Your Software-Defined Data Center

APM for Agile and DevOps: 7 practical use cases

APM for AgileApplication Performance Management (APM) solutions are historically monolithic systems used by IT operations for monitoring the performance of production applications. But this trend is changing quickly. A combination of agile and DevOps methods combined with cloud computing and a new generation of DevOps focused APM products are adding value throughout the agile development lifecycle – far beyond application support.

Legacy APM tools are generally expensive, complex, require lots of configuration to get working and are fragile when application ecosystems change. They were designed for applications running on physical hardware that rarely change – the antithesis of agile development in the cloud. These new breed of APM products including AppDynamics, New Relic, dynaTrace, Foglight and VMware vFabric APM amongst others still do what their predecessors did, but now they’re increasingly being embraced by developers, testers and DevOps team members. These people are using APM to add value during analysis, design, development and testing phases too.

This article highlights specific ways agile teams are using APM outside IT operations, starting from a project’s kickoff.

#1 – Kickoff

APM Setup Checklist

As a part of starting a new project or product, many agile teams do a Sprint 0. This Sprint is primarily focused on technical tasks and planning so that new feature development can begin in Sprint 1. While the product team is focused on writing the initial user stories, the technical team can focus on hooking up APM to their application while integration is still simple. This, along with other stories for continuous integration, code management can be done.

These steps might be largely manual at first or if they occur rarely. However, if setting up new applications or projects is a common than these can be largely automated. Tools like Puppet can script the installation of the controller and/or agents as a part of environment setup. Agent configuration file(s) can be packaged with application frameworks so new applications are automatically configured to communicate with the controller.

If you’re developing in a PaaS solution such as Heroku or Azure, integrating a new application with APM is even simpler. Just enable in your PaaS management dashboard and you’re set.

#2 – Analysis

Most agile teams capture functional requirements in the user story format: As a <Persona>, I would like to <Do Something>, so that I can <Achieve Some Result>

NFR for Performance

Along with each user story are a set of acceptance criteria that defines specifies when a user story is “done”. Often acceptance criteria may include non-functional requirements related to performance, scalability and resiliency. Teams often struggle with how to test these during development, and area where APM can help.

Defining a non-functional requirement can be as simple as as the example above. The method alone clearly stakes which APM metric from which dashboard, under what amount of load and for what percentage of users. This clarity of requirement not only sets expectations with internal stakeholders including architects and developers, it’s also something that can be easily integrated into a business-facing dashboard built in the APM product during development and available after release.

#3 – Design & Development

During development APM is a supplemental tool to the team, not something necessarily used everyday but a very handy tool for running down issues, such as why a particular test failed or why page load times are slow for single users. They can also identify poor design decisions and raise them to the surface, something that occurred on a recent project I audited.

Two companies were charged with building a new customer service web site for a client. One focused on the CMS and web application. The other on creating web services to expose data in legacy systems to customers. During design the legacy team insisted on creating fine grained web services because it was the least expensive option and easiest to do. The project manager agreed and teams moved forward. The web team’s user story requirements called for a year’s worth of transaction data to be displayed on the web page. The web team  implemented the story, making the right API calls, and the functional tests passed.

Soon thereafter developers and testers started complaining about the slow load times. They hooked up their APM tool and discovered the offending page was making 117 web service calls to get the required data to load the page. Although each call was less than 400 milliseconds, the sheer number made the performance horrible. The web team brought this information to the legacy team’s attention, showed them the APM data. Then they quickly worked out a single API call that took additional parameters but made the integration much simpler and faster. Once each team refactored their code the page load time dropped dramatically.

Solving integration problems like these are a part of a developer’s life. Without the right tooling, some of these problems may take days or weeks to resolve and potentially result in a whole bunch of hand-written diagnostic code.

The new breed of APM tools get this reality and are increasingly focusing their attention on developers and not just operations. In addition to free developer versions of their products, APM vendors are forming partnerships with PaaS vendors (such as New Relic with Heroku and AppDynamics with Azure) to make integrating monitoring into your applications very simple.

#4 – Functional Testing

Agile teams leverage automated testing as a normal part of their sprints. While developers focus on automated unit testing, quality assurance typically focuses on integration and acceptance testing. During each sprint APM is hooked up to the application in the test environment(s). If one of the automated tests fail at a specific time, the corresponding snapshot of the failed transactions at that same time can be captured from APM to enable further analysis. Tools like Splunk can also help here as well, enabling developers and testers to collaboratively solve issues uncovered by testing – especially tough ones such as bugs that are only reproducible under certain conditions.

#5 – Performance Testing

This is one of the most popular uses of APM as it helps architects, developers and testers answer questions such as: what really happens to the application under load and can the application support the customer demand?

Modern APM’s are essentially application profilers that have such a low overhead they can run all the time without negatively impacting an application’s performance. Gone are the days of hooking up an application profiler, running tests and having your results skewed greatly because of their invasive overhead. Today’s APM tools give developers the same drill down capabilities – such as identifying the problem line of code or SQL statement – that profilers traditionally provided but without the overhead and extra setup.

What this means is that during performance tests, a team can in real-time watch the application’s performance under load and diagnose issues on the fly. They can also save off results for post-analysis. APM’s are useful for clearly identifying bottlenecks and limitations on scalability. They bring these issues to the attention of the team who are in the best position to fix them, whether this be tweaking a configuration parameter or refactoring code. They’re also useful for recording previous performance test runs so teams can do comparisons between releases to look for any subtle trends.

It’s no secret that faster applications generate more revenue and better customer experience. Amazon notes that every 100 millisecond drop in response times yields a 1% sales decline (that’s a $200M+ potential revenue impact). Google notes that a 500 millisecond drop in response times results in 20% less search traffic. This means the new APM tools are delivering value not only by reducing resolution times (costs), but also improving performance (revenues) – a great position for any product.

#6 – Production Deployment

APM is particularly helpful during new releases to production, which can be nerve-racking events themselves. Most vendors have a way to indicate a change to production such that post-release metrics (such as response time) can be compared with pre-release metrics. Should something look amiss or there’s a performance problem identified, the decision can be made to quickly rollback and investigate. Data from the APM tool can be used as a part of this analysis to figure out what went wrong before attempting the next release.

This same basic process can be applied to teams practicing continuous deployment. But instead of relying on humans to do the release analysis, this is automated so only exceptions are raised to the attention of humans, otherwise the same post-launch checks are all done via automated tests and validated in part using APM. Should issues arise, workflow scripts can be created to send issues to the organizations incident management system. A table of popular DevOps competent APM tools for use in dynamic and cloud based environments is below.

DevOps Focused APM Tools

Vendor/ProductProduct FocusDeployment MethodData Collection Method Supported App TypesApplication Topology Discovery Cloud Ready “Zero- Config”Deep Code Diagnostics
AppDynamicsMonitor custom developed Java and .NET applications across internal and external (cloud) deploymentsOn Premise/SaaSAgent inside of the Java JVM or the .NET CLRJava/.NET
dynaTrace (Compuware)Monitoring of complex enteprise applicatons that are based on Java or .NET but which may include complex enterprise middleware like IBM MQ and CICSOn PremiseAgent inside of the Java JVM or the .NET CLRJava/.NET, Websphere Message Broker CICS, C/C++

New Relic RPMMonitor custom developed Java, .NET, Ruby, Python, and PHP applications across internal and external (cloud) deploymentsSaaSAgent inside of the Java JVM, NET CLR, or the PHP/Python runtimeRuby/Java/ .NET/PHP/Python

Quest FoglightMonitor custom developed Java and .NET applications and trace transactions across all physical and virtual tiers of the applicationOn-PremiseAgent inside of the Java JVM or the .NET CLRJava/.NET 
VMware vFabric APMMonitor custom developed Java applications in production. Strong integration with the rest of the VMware product line including automated remediation and scaling.On PremiseMirror port on the vSphere vSwitch and an agent inside the Java JVMHTTP/Java/.NET/SQL

#7 – Support

This is the traditional use case for APM and still the most popular: helping operations teams reduce incident resolutions times. This may be in real-time as an incident occurs or during post-incident analysis looking for clues as to what went wrong. Often times this includes looking into slow or failed transactions to identify root causes. I’ve known teams to use APM to discover the 5am database back-up job is causing application performance to degrade.

From SLA management to operational dashboards, these newer APM tools still support their core operations administrator and help-desk engineer. But with increased simplicity and more intuitive user interfaces, these new APM adding value beyond their traditional support role.

Summary

A new breed of DevOps focused APM tools is moving performance management outside the domain of operations. With features to support analysts, architects, developers, testers and DevOps APM is at home in all phases of agile development.

 

Browsium Catalyst Available Now – Time to Quell Corporate Browser Choice Feuds?

Browsium CatalystBrowsium have released Catalyst, a browser management utility designed to make deploying multiple browsers in the enterprise a manageable reality.

The browser is a gateway to the Internet, to applications, to data, to the corporate intranet. Outside of the office, its not uncommon to switch between browser versions between devices: or even have different browsers on the same device. My Google App world is ably accessed from a Chrome experience synchronised between devices, but I have Internet Explorer on-hand, and Firefox still gets a run out all be it increasingly less so.

Indeed, for many corporations such care-free browser relationships are equally common. This might be because different browser versions are required to maintain access to legacy applications; to give users more choice; an effort to reduce the impact of a browser security issue. Alternatively, because control of different browser environments has been complex in the past, it is deemed less cumbersome and risky to mandate a single browser environment.

With the release of Catalyst, can care-free relationships be afforded a level of sensible protection? Can restrictive single-browser choices be relaxed and more business user friendly? Browsium intend Catalyst to reduce helpdesk calls and improve IT security allowing more granular control of all browsers in the enterprise and how does it do that?

Continue reading Browsium Catalyst Available Now – Time to Quell Corporate Browser Choice Feuds?

VMware’s Fourth Quarter and 2012 Financial Results

VMware100x30VMware has announced financial results for the fourth quarter of 2012 and for the entire year of 2012. Fourth quarter revenue came in at $1.29B growing 22% over the fourth quarter of 2011. Full year revenue came in at $4.61B also growing 22% over 2011. The full results are detailed in the table below:

Continue reading VMware’s Fourth Quarter and 2012 Financial Results