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These 4 Things Can Help You Manage Today's Applications

By Dave Wagner, senior manager, product marketing, SolarWinds

APM is increasingly becoming mainstream and widely adopted. Research says nearly nine in 10 tech pros use application performance management (APM) tools in their environments, whether on-premises, hybrid, or in the cloud. But still other findings from the recent SolarWinds® Cloud Confessions 2020 report also say when it comes to cases beyond troubleshooting, APM-user confidence declines.

Tech pros cite the need for more training and education to more strategically leverage these tools and the insights they offer. They want to develop skills to maximize the value of their APM solutions and strategies, because due to complex, dynamically changing execution environments, proficiency at monitoring, managing, and keeping track of server CPU utilization, or all other infrastructure performance metrics is no longer enough.

The only metric that matters now is how is the entire application stack is performing in terms of the executors of the application transactions. Only full APM proficiency across infrastructure AND applications can address this challenge and be a huge value differentiator.

So how should tech pros develop the confidence and skills to master APM? We think it's twofold: skills and mindset.

1. Use the Skills You Already Have

If you haven't already done so, get a moderate amount of experience with some of the more modern application development languages.

While it's great to be proficient in writing code in Go, Scala, or Ruby, it's not always necessary. Instead, it's more essential to be knowledgeable about the configuration, provisioning, and deployment ecosystems-and the instrumentation available-around those languages and their execution environments. By that, I mean Kubernetes, OpenShift, or other cloud platform application service environments like Azure app service. Think of them as a new class of technology that needs to be instrumented and monitored.

At first, much of this will seem new... until you discover familiar landmarks. My go-to quip to describe this situation: The verbs are the same, but the nouns are different. Take advantage of the situation by building out a glossary. In the earlier phases of my career, I had to migrate apps and data from one computer server system environment to another: hardware and operating system environments changed. The concepts (the verbs) in the newer environment were the same. But the nouns were different. Mainframe LPARs became virtual machines, and now we have containers. Same verbs, different nouns.

What helped immensely: I built-out a series of tables to map where "paging" was now "swapping." Once, it was called "memory management," now it's "garbage collection."

Learn the newer languages, their operating environments, and how they're structured, but don't panic: you already know the underlying concepts for implementing availability and performance monitoring, and that's the hard part. Build out your glossary for these more-modern language environments, their services, their cloud platforms, and their available performance instrumentation approaches (and metrics) to build confidence. Eliminating resource contention is still a good thing, you'll just do it differently. In short: use the skills you already have.

2. Stay Curious

To be a tech pro is to be a lifelong learner. Your driver is constant curiosity. Let's be honest: without curiosity, your career will be a bit of a strain. If you're always curious, APM will be a source of unending fascination and success-the APM market is growing at an exponential rate, because in today's world, it's all about "the app." This presents a symbiotic opportunity: Tech pros get an outlet for their curiosity and their organizations get to grow into these new technologies rather than struggle to catch up.

3. Speak in Terms of the Business

Tech pros might not always be comfortable speaking in the language of business, but understanding APM means knowing its place in larger discussions and how to make an impact in those contexts. APM gives you a technically powerful tool you can use to generate actionable data and metrics your business cares about-at the same time. After all, you can find out how much work is getting done and for how quickly-those are certainly business concerns. By creating dashboards to contextualize APM with elements like performance, throughput, and error rates, you can speak to owners and digital modernization stakeholders in terms they understand and care about to improve the organization's overall efficiency.

4. Right-Size Your Tools

You can also make things easier for yourself in terms of evaluating and implementing APM tools. To start, look at scalable architectures. Think about where your business is going and what capabilities will be necessary in the future-invest in tools that can grow with you.

Moreover, focus on solutions offering modularity and cross-workflow integration. Don't pick a log-management solution from one vendor, code profiling and tracing capability from another, and infrastructure monitoring from someone else. You'll want to be able to seamlessly shift between these capabilities in context; whether responding to a current performance problem, or to put in place proactive policies and automated actions to prevent such problems in the first place.

At the very least, know whether the architectures you're picking can be integrated across different types of technology use cases. To do so, inventory your applications. Review and classify them by their source and by their business criticality. Assess which key business insights and technologies to monitor and why.

Be sure to involve the application support teams early on to make sure the application monitoring project will ultimately meet their performance requirements as well.

Looking Forward

Complex, modern applications will produce disruptions due to infrastructure and operations skills gaps in 75% of enterprises, according to Gartner. But you don't have to be in that number. These four recommendations provide a high-level blueprint for APM skills development. It all begins with rooting yourself in an understanding of APM functionality, speaking in the language of business, and right sizing your strategy and tools. The skills will come and so will the confidence.

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About the Author

David Wagner 

Dave Wagner is a senior manager of product marketing at SolarWinds with over 20 years of experience focused on IT performance and optimization. In his current role, Dave works closely with product management and corporate marketing to ensure alignment in go-to-market strategy and messaging for the SolarWinds application performance monitoring (APM) products. Prior to joining SolarWinds, Dave served as CTO of OpsDataStore, business development principal for TeamQuest, and vice president, marketing and sales at Solution Labs Inc.

Published Friday, April 10, 2020 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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