VMware’s Shahar Erez, who leads VMwares application management product management organization, dusts up an old book and old IT operating models today in a post titled Who Moved My App? VMware’s “Cheese-Aware” Application Management. The book Erez refers to is the 1998 book by Dr. Spencer Johnson, “Who Moved My Cheese”.  This book gave millions insight on how to better deal with change in their work and their lives.

Today, Erez starts to map out how the old discipline of IT monitoring and management needs to adapt to today’s needs. Primarily this involves embracing, and encouraging change—something most sysadmins have been accustomed to only doing occasionally, and when done, to do slowly. Erez draws from experience, around the time the Dr. Johnson’s book came out, he was a sysadmin working in a NOC for a telecom carrier. His self-proclaimed motto there was, “If it works, don’t touch it. If you touch it, it will break.”

Today however, the landscape is much different. Business demands rapidly evolving applications to keep competitive edges in today’s digital and very social market. IT operations have been evolving accordingly – agile development is cutting down development times, software languages are more powerful allowing developers to do more with less code and to update hot/running applications. Erez also cites that VMware has been working on the next paradigm of application management tools, that essentially embrace change and make it easier for organizations to keep up with change, and to maintain their apps under management regardless of the type of change. While Erez goes into some detail about VMware’s vFabric Application Performance Manager (APM) and vFabric Application Director products, his points are general for what users should be looking for in modern application management tools. Here are his 5 main requirements for modern application management:

  1. Simplify how changes are applied to applications.  When change is necessary, the application should make every effort to create repeatable processes to apply the change. This includes creating reusable application blueprints for provisioning applications with Application Director, empowering application teams to deploy on their own while satisfying IT’s needs to enforce standards and policies, integrating with continuous build systems, and delivering powerful visualizations that make it easy to execute and communicate changes.
  2. Streamline how IT keeps up with change. Building the intelligence into our management tools so they automatically keep up with change, and minimize human involvement helps to ensure applications stay under management. It also speeds mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR) because all changes are tracked for easy root cause analysis when necessary. For monitoring tools like APM and Hyperic, this takes auto-discovery past just identifying new software that comes online and incorporates tracking if the component moved, powered off, or if additional components of that type came online that your application is using to scale up.
  3. Accelerate how quickly we understand how any change impacts performance.  It is important for today’s monitoring tools to have the intelligence built in to automatically know what is normal. APM creates baselines and knows how the application performs under load and at the various times of day so it can accurately report when performance is not normal. Further, once it registers as not normal, all the information on transaction, code, and middleware infrastructure performance is correlated so users can easily identify the change that started the performance problem.
  4. Make it easy to understand how users are experiencing application performance.  It is an important mindshift to look at performance in an application-centric manner. Many applications are built to be horizontally scalable, so if a single component starts to degrade, it may not severely affect application performance. APM triangulates real-time samples of transaction times, application middleware and infrastructure monitoring metrics and code performance together to give application owners the right perspective on real user experience.   
  5. Ensure it is open and extensible to encourage, not hinder, innovative applications. We do not anticipate innovation and change to slow down. And we definitely do not want to stand in its way. We never want to force application architects to choose certain appstacks or deployment plans because it is the only way to keep it under management. We have built Application Director with the ability to deploy any app on any cloud. Users are not restricted by language or cloud. APM is optimized for java and VMware vFabric components, but it automatically can trace transactions running across your entire virtual infrastructure and with Hyperic embedded it ships automatically detecting and starting best practice monitoring for over 80 different technologies. And while both APM and Application Director come with a prepopulated catalog of supported technologies, they both are extensible so custom and yet-to-be invented technologies can be incorporated into application management easily.