Transforming IT: Application Flow Management

Route analytics , or real-time visibility into the actual routed path of application flows. Route analytics is a powerful enabler not only for automating more traditional types of component analysis, but also for being able to more realistically project actual application traffic issues across the routed network.

Application dependency mapping are flow-based technologies combined with more detailed configuration information that can enable more real-time awareness of application-to-infrastructure interdependencies.

Support for application life cycle planning by providing tools with common data sources to support both the management of applications over the network and the needs of application developers seeking to design for real-world distributed infrastructures. These tools can enable new modes of collaboration, such as in application network reviews (ANRs).

Support for financial planning as application consumption can be monitored more dynamically and accurately in context with its impact on the total networked infrastructure.

Support for security in terms of anomalous behaviors both in terms of IT governance (who’s using what application and where), and intrusion detection.

The list is not complete, but it should give you an idea. The truth is that while these seem to represent a whole host of fragmented or different tools, the reality is that many, and in some cases almost all, of these requirements are coming together in the portfolios of management innovators taking more of a “flow” or “bloodstream” approach versus a more traditional component-by-component approach.

Some of the vendors to watch are, in alphabetical order, Apparent Networks, Cisco, Compuware, Coradiant, EMC, e.g. Innovations, Fluke Networks, Netcordia, NetQoS, NetScout, Network Physics, OPNET, OpTier, Packet Design, Shunra, Solar Winds and Wild Packets.

In the end there are several reasons why you, as executives, in particular should care:

  • The management of distributed Web-based service-oriented architectures (SOA) will not be possible without AFM. Both because of its real-time nature and because of its potential ability to deal directly with application components as they interact with each other.
  • In a Q3 2007 study of how IT managers and executives prioritize what they need to manage applications end-to-end over a distributed infrastructure, traffic performance, traffic volume and anomaly detection came out on top. All three are pillars of AFM.
  • AFM has political and process implications more than many traditional approaches because it can provide a unifying system for analyzing application performance problems in context with a whole host of factors. In other words, AFM should speak directly to executive buyers seeking to promote better collaboration across their teams.
  • Also in our Q3 research we learned that if IT is to make a cohesive investment in true end-to-end AFM, you, the C-level executives, are the ultimate buyers. This is not the heritage of this market, which is grounded in more technical decision makers such as network engineers. But if AFM is to come into its own, you will have to play a role especially as AFM emerges beyond being a resource to empower professionals to being a resource to enable better cross-IT effectiveness.
  • EMA has already seen striking examples of value brought to IT organizations via AFM capabilities; including some with explicit organizational and process-directed changes. Among the more dramatic is 50% reductions in MTTR for critical application services, as well as teaming between application developers and network managers to ensure that new applications can perform correctly across the infrastructure.

    Probably the key words in grasping the impact of AFM as a continuum are “visibility” and “context”. This is why EMA believes in the coming two-to-five years, AFM will redefine performance management and ultimately force platform vendors, as well as the industry more broadly, into new approaches for assimilating and integrating application flow information as a unifying resource for managing business services.

    Dennis Drogseth is vice president of Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Dennis can reached at