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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Uila Talks Application Dependency Mapping (ADM)

 

This week, VMblog spoke with Dilip Advani, VP of Marketing at Uila, to dig in and learn more about data center and cloud initiatives of Application Dependency Mapping.

VMblog:  What is Application Dependency Mapping and why is it important?

Dilip Advani:  Application Dependency Mapping (ADM) is the process of tracking relationships and dependencies between IT components such as servers, networks, storage, and applications that comprise any given IT service. It enables IT teams to assess the risk or impact of a change to a component or service prior to making it, understand downstream impacts of problems as well as use it for planning strategic projects.  

A question we get frequently from users who are not familiar with the power of an Application Dependency Map is "why can't I just use the charts and graphs in my monitoring tool?". In a multi-tier application, for an outage or slow access symptoms, the application bottleneck can exist anywhere in the dependency chain between the VM or physical server assets that are running the applications. With ADM, you can quickly point the exact place where you have issues, whether at the server level or the dependency between them. If you try to do that using charts and graphs, you are wasting valuable troubleshooting time, trying to put all the pieces together and figuring out the problematic zone. With ADM, you have that easy and quick visibility into where the issue lies, so you can fix it as soon as possible.  

Then comes the challenge around CMDB systems. We have that system, so why do we care about ADM? CMDB systems maintain an asset list of everything under the sun but are missing much-needed dependency knowledge between those assets.

VMblog:  What are the different use cases or Data Center/Cloud initiatives of Application Dependency Mapping?

Advani:  There are many use cases for Application Dependency Mapping, but there are 3 of them that lead the pack. They are used for: 

  • Cloud or Data Center Pre-migration assessments: This is where the migration team needs to know all the infrastructure (physical and virtual) assets that exist in the datacenter, the applications running on them and the dependencies. With this insight, the team is able to help the organization not only make sure that all the dependencies that need to exist after migration are still good, but also helps in budget estimations in terms of the resources needed by every asset and the amount of traffic that goes back and forth between them.  

  • Troubleshooting: The IT team can isolate the application performance problem spot down to an infrastructure asset or dependency for a multi-tier and even a multi-cloud application and reduce that MTTR to acceptable levels. 

  • Continuous validation during the cloud migration process: With ADM, the migration team can monitor and validate the required dependency connections along every step of the migration process to ensure business continuity.  

VMblog:  What about mapping across cloud boundaries?  

Advani:  With the latest cloud migration and Hybrid/Multi-cloud trends that we are seeing all over, you now need that unified visibility for the multi-tier applications that now span cloud boundaries and the application performance impacting problem could be anywhere in that dependency chain. Being able to recognize whether it is the Data Center or the Cloud provider or a cloud resource that needs a tune-up or in reality "more money" is key. 

VMblog:  What are the challenges of building an Application Dependency Mapping tool? 

Advani:  There are many tools out in the market that provide some Dependency Mapping capability for Data Centers, but what we have learnt over the years and feedback from hundreds of Uila users, is the required ability for IT teams to generate this map without the installation of application agents and the application-centric correlated data for the connection dependency map.  

Most IT Ops teams do not have the authority to install agents, as well as not every application can be instrumented (think about 3rd party apps or SaaS apps), and that is why the simple and fast "agentless" way of instrumenting a server or VM asset is key. Next is the ability of the ADM tool to map applications to the assets and the dependencies. It is easy for a tool to generate a sort of a connection or topology map based on some flow data, but the "force-multiplier" in that equation is if that asset and connection information has an application-centric view to it.  

These were the 2 mandatory requirements our development team at Uila kept in mind while they were building the ADM capabilities in the solution. Totally agentless in the Data Center deployment model, installed as a guest VM that gets updated automatically as dependencies change and the Application-centric leading view for the all the dependencies.   

VMblog:  Data Center and cloud environments are so dynamic with dependencies changing constantly. How can a tool keep track of it? 

Advani:  Dependencies between assets may not change daily, but they change frequently enough to cause problems and need to be tracked. We have worked with so many of our customers, who during their troubleshooting incidents are unpleasantly surprised by changes in their deployment, some without their knowledge, and some they could do nothing about. Users need visibility into any change in their deployment as they roll out new services or products to build or retain their competitive business advantage.   They may also want to make sure that there are no security issues, such as VMs disappearing or orphaned/dormant VMs springing back into action and talking to unknown VMs or external IP addresses. 

Earlier in the year, we introduced the capability in our solution to allow users to create baselines on their Application Dependency Map for a given time period and compare it to any other given time period. With this change monitoring capability, they are on top of all changes in the applications, servers delivering those services and the interdependencies in the environment, including new entrants and exits. Simple visual indicators mark the missing inter-connections in comparison to the baseline and also the new entries.  
We are now starting to see this change monitoring capability being used to track dependencies during the cloud or data center migration phase as well, to ensure business continuity and the ability for early-detection of any breakage in the dependency chain for applications running across cloud boundaries. 

VMblog:  Can this mapping be built manually? 

Advani:  Of course. If you have a small mom-and-pop shop type of an IT environment, do not have too many servers and little traffic and no mission critical services on it, you can list down your assets and how they are connected on the back of a napkin. But for organizations that are more serious about their business, and have business-critical applications that impact the organizations' day to day operations and revenue, are thinking about transforming their business even further by migrating to the cloud, then you need a solution that will help you create this asset and dependency map automatically and updated in real-time. Even though I make this strong statement, we still see larger organizations relying still on manual methods of creating this map, which is time-consuming to create and totally error-prone. Even the VMware vExperts in a recently conducted survey on Hybrid Cloud Migrations with Uila, said that 2 out of 3 organizations are still relying on those manual methods. These experts truly understand the challenges and see these things happen all around them, and hence strongly recommended that no organization should do this manually. So in my mind the bigger question is not whether you "can build it manually", but the question to ask is "should it be built manually?". Avoiding costly mistakes, saving IT resources & preventing IT employee frustration with mundane work must be avoided by every organization.  

You can test Uila's Application Dependency Mapping by requesting a free 30-day no-obligation trial from: https://www.uila.com/uila-free-trial 

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Published Wednesday, September 26, 2018 7:16 AM by David Marshall
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