IT teams and C-suites face a significant challenge when it comes to their compute resources: Visibility. Complex, cloud-based networks with thousands of endpoints and users make it a Herculean task to monitor all activity and uncover the small warning signs which are precursors to significant downtime or malicious attack.
Two technologies have emerged to help address this issue: Application performance management (APM) and IT operations analytics (ITOA). They’re often confused and conflated by tech media and enterprises alike since they perform a similar function, but the underlying processes — and ultimate results — are actually quite different.
The biggest divide?
So what exactly is APM? Webopedia defines it as “tools and processes responsible for monitoring and managing the performance and availability of software applications.” In effect, these tools are designed to seek out degradations in performance of specific apps or services and report the results to IT staff, who can then take appropriate action. Best bet? Think of APM like the dashboard alerts in automobiles. When the onboard computer detects a problem with one of the car’s systems, it reports this data to the driver. Need an oil change? The light illuminates. Tires getting low? There’s a visual and often audio warning. Engine overheating? The car may automatically shut down.
This is the goal of APM: Scan existing processes for behavior which is outside the norm and report on specific incidents in near real-time. This is done using a combination of end-user behavior and key performance metrics to deliver a case-by-case problem solving approach. The issue? For many companies, even the ability to quickly address performance drops isn’t enough — they’re looking to sidestep IT outages altogether.
ITOA, meanwhile, is a way to actively query each system in a vehicle at the same time and derive predictions about behavior in the near future, long term and everything in between. Network World notes that the “big deal” with ITOA is the ability to see the entire IT at a glance, prevent incidents and crises before they happen and shorten response times for incidents that do occur using automated responses.
In effect, ITOA leverages big data, applies it to the IT stack and discovers complex patterns in high volumes of often “noisy” IT traffic. To use the car example again, it’s like an onboard computer that monitors your driving pattern, fuel consumption, the road surface and everything that’s under the hood to provide a moment-to-moment view of what’s going on and what’s likely to happen with any given system. Instead of getting a warning when the tires are low, you’re notified that they’ll likely be low in the near future based on your driving history and a slow leak that’s been recorded over the last few days. Instead of having to call a repairman, ITOA gives you the ability to self-serve and correct problems before they can impact local systems. At Nexthink, our Gartner-nominated ITOA solution leverages the entire spectrum of end-user data to deliver unlimited visibility into every aspect of your IT stack, letting you make better decisions about the direction, speed and maintenance of your IT vehicle.
The takeaway? APM and ITOA both play a role in empowering IT departments. According to Gartner, ITOA solutions are best used to supplement existing APM tools rather than replace them — regardless of form and origin, visibility of any kind benefits your bottom line.
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