The End-to-End Challenge

In the IT world, it is easy to lose sight of the forest among the trees. Technology becomes more complex every year, and we’re way beyond the point where a single person can understand all of the “pieces” required to run the average Web application.

Humans solve such problems by breaking down the big picture into consumable chunks. Despite investments in best practices focused on breaking down technology “silos”, IT is generally still organized around technology teams specializing in managing infrastructure—networks, servers, and data bases. The problem with this approach is our job isn’t really to manage technology.

Our raison d’être—the industry’s reason for existing—is to add value that supports business goals and objectives. Most often, IT’s primary value-add is the delivery of high-quality business applications. The problem arises when IT is unable to deliver these applications efficiently or effectively.

We are starting to see a trend in which demand for complex applications is outstripping IT’s ability to support them. Online applications, and those built using Flash, web services, Web 2.0, and similar technologies are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Convergence of business applications across networks also supporting voice over IP (VoIP), IP telephony, streaming media and unified communications has, to some extent, caught the enterprise management industry unaware.

Traditional enterprise management products, many of which have domain-focused roots, are still adapting to this converged, distributed, Web-based application focus. And although management products that address databases, networks, and servers are still a part of the big picture, the picture itself is much bigger than it was in the past.

While businesses are becoming increasingly proficient at developing applications, the statistics suggest they are not as successful at deploying and managing them. Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) research bears this out:

? Thirty seven percent (37%) of IT professionals report that they lack the tools they need to support their business applications.

? Unrelated research reports that IT organizations have an average of five, and as many as 25 or more, management products in-house.

? Forty three percent (43%) of application outages are still reported by users.

? Twenty four percent (24%) of IT organizations report that one of the biggest barriers to cross-functional application support is lack of effective diagnostic tools.

? Forty one percent (41%) of IT organizations surveyed report they prefer to use “expert opinion” over off-the-shelf application management products to diagnose problems. Only 21% preferred off-the-shelf products.

? Support costs consume 60% to 80% of the average IT budget. (Although this statistic is so commonplace as to have become a cliché, there is a good reason for these high costs. In lieu of automation, people are required to close the management gap—and people are expensive.)

The End-to-End Challenge

The high cost of support is one indicator that many vendor products and/or IT support practices haven’t yet caught up with application complexity. In terms of products, the industry seems to be aware of these issues and has coined the term “end-to-end” to describe the types of products designed to address them. However, while multiple enterprise management vendors market end-to-end solutions, each vendor has a different take on what the term actually means. As a result, it is difficult to get past branding and advertising to decipher exactly what a given “end-to-end” product actually does, or to figure out where it fits within the arsenal of management solutions already in-house.