Dan's Take

SaaS Is Not a License To Be Lazy

Just because it isn't in your datacenter doesn't mean you're not responsible for it. AppNeta tools can monitor Software-as-a-Service applications, something a company still needs to do.

AppNeta has been delivering a "full stack" application performance monitoring tool that makes it possible for IT administrators or DevOps to quickly see what's going on with their applications, and drill down to see details at every level of the stack.

Matt Stevens, CEO, and TR Jordan, director of marketing, dropped by recently to discuss the company's newest announcements; they revolve around bringing enterprise applications such as SalesForce.com, Microsoft Dynamics and Office365, NetSuite, AthenaHealth, Google Apps and ServiceNow under the same type of monitoring and control as the enterprise's own custom applications.

AppNeta offers four core tools:

  • TraceView: Provides code-level, deep-request tracing for 90 days of operational data from all major development platforms, including, Java, the Microsoft .NET Framework, Ruby, Python and PHP. Performance issues at any layer in the software stack can be seen quickly.
  • AppView: Executes applications using synthetic data to monitor the actual end-user experience with those applications. This allows IT staff members to monitor third-party and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications in the same way that in-house, on-premises applications are monitored. Transaction details are collected, making analysis straightforward. This allows IT staff to learn when an off-premises application appears to be working, but has really failed.
  • FlowView: An application-aware network traffic analysis tool. It understands third-party and SaaS application internal protocols and can dissect a flow of communication, understand normal communication flows and make it possible to identify problems at a very granular level.
  • PathView: Provides intelligent network monitoring, making it easy to monitor the complete network -- from end-user client systems all the way back to the datacenter -- without interrupting applications or placing undue load on clients, servers or the network.

The company has now extended the reach of these tools, allowing IT to find both the needed data and intelligent analysis to bring Google and ServiceNow apps under the same type of control. Now performance issues can be clearly documented, making it much easier to get the appropriate level of technical support from the help desk. These tools allow IT staff to pull back the covers and see what's really happening underneath.

The Monitor Challenge
SaaS is now firmly embedded in the IT consciousness. Some business decision makers even believe they can discard the inventory of applications they've developed over the years and simply subscribe to similar, general-purpose online services. The truth, however, is that only in a few cases can the enterprise really get away with this. Most enterprises have a collection of special-purpose applications that serve their needs, which can't easily be replaced by a SaaS offering.

In the case that an enterprise does adopt a SaaS offering, monitoring and management of the application's components can be quite challenging. All of the systems -- OSes, databases, storage and networking components -- reside in the provider's datacenter, and are owned by the services provider. The provider's staff provides development, operations and facilities management for that workload. Subscribers access this service using a compatible Web browser or client application from wherever they are in the world, from a variety of devices.

The issue is that the enterprise is still on the hook to know what's going on, what's happening to its data, who's accessing it, and a number of other things to effectively utilize SaaS workloads as a real business tool. So, regardless of who's providing the solution, the enterprise is ultimately responsible for operation of its own tools.

The challenge enterprises face when relying on SaaS suppliers is that they're not relieved of the responsibility to manage and monitor their applications. Smart SaaS subscribers monitor application performance, application delivery, and storage and network use in their own datacenters, while not neglecting operational metrics for the SaaS supplier's datacenter.

Because customers aren't allowed to see or manage much of the internal infrastructure in the SaaS supplier's datacenter, it can be quite challenging for a subscriber's IT staff to accurately understand or quantify operational data for those applications.

Dan's Take: A Matter of When, Not If
Enterprises must monitor the SaaS applications they subscribe to, so that when (not if) one of these SaaS applications begins to demonstrate erratic or poor performance, the organization's IT staff can quickly recognize what's happening and seek out the root cause.

Sometimes it will be something the enterprise can deal with directly, such as when there's a problem in its own network; other times, the SaaS supplier's help desk will need to be engaged.

Either way, IT is responsible for gathering what data is available, analyzing that data and choosing a course of action.

Choose Wisely
AppNeta is one of a number of application performance monitoring tools that offers the capabilities to gather the needed operational and machine data to keep things running. If anomalies appear, the tools offer predictive analysis to quickly discover the root cause.

I've spoken with a number of AppNeta customers over the years, and they've all spoken positively of the help the company's tools have been.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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