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Adding an Appliance to the Network for Enhanced Application Performance Management

November 29, 2011 No Comments

By David A. Kelly and Heather Ashton, Upside Research

A while back, we wrote a blog about the application performance management space, covering the recent acquisition of dynaTrace by Compuware (see Compuware Acquires dynaTrace: Application Performance Management ). dynaTrace’s technology, branded PurePath, focuses on providing visibility into the user experience, round trip from the end user’s browser through various levels of enterprise middleware, and back to the end user. The goal is to help improve application performance, across the traditional and cloud infrastructures.

Another approach to application performance aims to monitor and analyze network traffic from the network layer. Given the widely disparate systems that CIOs need to manage today, from small virtualized workgroups to large, distributed enterprise environments, many IT departments are using a cobbled-together toolset that may be missing important data and information to help optimize performance. When application performance is involved, the key is identifying the problem as quickly as possible and fixing it. However, what if the problem is intermittent? It can be like searching for a needle in a haystack to identify the issue and resolve it quickly, and in that time, business is impacted, customers get frustrated, and IT is in the hot seat.

Adding to this challenge is the increasing presence of cloud computing in the enterprise. According to a recent Information Week survey, nearly 50 percent of companies using APM solutions run more than half their applications in virtualized or private cloud environments. This added layer of virtualization between applications and their physical platforms provides a new wrinkle in the ability of companies to monitor applications they can’t see. It’s a hot area for APM vendors, and one that is being addressed in different ways.

Two examples of how APM vendors are approaching this market are ManageIQ and ExtraHop. ManageIQ is taking a software approach, offering its EVM Suite as a comprehensive solution to help enterprises gain real-time visibility into private cloud, virtual infrastructures, and virtual desktop environments. ExtraHop is packaged as a network appliance that provides passive, real-time transaction-level analysis for application delivery assurance.
ExtraHop’s appliance approach provides some interesting differentiators from its software-only competitors. Because the product comes ready to install, ExtraHop can be deployed in a data center in under a day. Its agentless technology provides automatic discovery of devices and applications and is a passive network component. The product is affordable, with a per-appliance cost that includes the necessary software. The largest of the two versions of ExtraHop supports up to 10GB of processing, making it fairly economical to deploy across large data processing environments. Companies like Alaska Airlines, The Seattle Times Company , and Applied Discover/Lexis Nexis are utilizing ExtraHop’s product to pinpoint and troubleshoot the root cause of application performance problems.

Upside Research is impressed with ExtraHop’s solution. It provides a different, non-invasive approach to APM that provides many benefits. But the solution might not be the right one for every company. Since it’s non-invasive, it can make some extra effort to correlate network-level event s with business processes and applications. Thus, some organizations looking for APM solutions may find a better fit with more traditional APM products, while others will benefit fastest and easiest with an approach like ExtraHop’s.

It is clear that APM tools must adjust to the new architecture of applications that include a virtualization layer between applications and their physical platforms. ExtraHop and ManageIQ are two examples of vendors who are making these efforts from different approaches.

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