Cloud application performance management: Doing the job right
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With 200 applications and an estimated 250 million transactions daily, Vodafone Ireland has to pay attention to a lot of information. But with dozens of siloed tools and little staff dedicated to using them, getting a full picture from an application performance management perspective was impossible.
The struggle to monitor performance wasn't a problem confined to one department. Business confidence in IT was at a low, according to Vodafone Ireland head of IT operations Shane Gaffney.
"Our relationships with the business were largely transactional and reactive. It wasn't a great place to start from," he said.
In addition to putting the right software in place, we were putting the manpower behind that.
Shane Gaffney, Vodafone Ireland
The need to fix the problem was clear, but the faith in IT to get the job done was low. Without a traditional project manager heading the group, Gaffney joined forces with members of the operations team and a local channel partner to implement Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) APM tools.
"This was a relatively light touch transformation that was driven by a real passion and energy in the IT operations unit to do something more meaningful and get to a better place," Gaffney said.
Gaffney knew the department had a mess to clean up. With the goal of moving from a reactive monitoring system to a proactive one in mind, Vodafone Ireland removed the dozens of performance monitoring applications they had in place and replaced them with HP's, finishing the implementation 18 months ago. Gaffney said the old applications were too "technology-focused," without the needed emphasis on real-time management or customer satisfaction.
Vodafone Ireland's IT transformation wasn't limited to a switch in technologies. Gaffney said it was just as important to reevaluate how they were using staff to fix performance management issues.
"Prior to this new solution, we had a lot more people involved in surveillance, but they were doing that on a part-time basis in addition to what they would have seen as their core duties," he said. "In addition to putting the right software in place, we were putting the manpower behind that."
Turning monitoring, or surveillance, into a full-time job and automating routine activity with new tools, Gaffney's department, which consists of about 45 staffers, was able to save and redistribute 50 man-hours a week. Instead of being everyone's responsibility, monitoring is now handled by just three dedicated employees who work in rotation to monitor applications 24 hours a day.
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The turnaround at Vodafone Ireland led to a number of positive stats the company could point to as success stories. With the new system, the company expects to save about $1.2 million annually. But for Gaffney, the largest benefit of having an effective application performance management setup is the increase in customer satisfaction.
"The customer satisfaction for me is always front and center, if all the other statistics look great and the customers don't think we're doing a great job, something's wrong somewhere," he said. "Either we aren't setting the bar high enough or we're window dressing."
By Gaffney's internal measurements, he achieved his mission. Benchmarked against data from two years ago, Vodafone Ireland has reduced the average restoration time for customer issues by 74%, dropped service outages by 78% and increased an internal service quality metric by 126%.
"It was a massive step forward for us in the ability to mature the operation of our service," he said.
Who is looking for APM tools?
Vodafone Ireland worked with a local channel partner to implement HP's software. Clay Roach, president and CEO of J9 Technologies, knows what it's like to be on the partner side of that engagement.
J9 Technologies, an HP software specialist firm, handles implementations similar to Vodafone Ireland's for clients in North America. Roach deals with large enterprises looking to implement similar software and says it's usually the business side of an organization that initially gets interested in APM.
"A lot of times it's coming from the business through the IT organization. [They say] that they're spending too much time and too much money on the tools they purchased in the past, or they don't have the tools today," he said. "Like everyone nowadays they are trying to do more with less."
Roach believes that businesses, especially ones where an application or website are moneymakers, have recently been realizing that outages are a major hit to revenue. He describes the average phone call asking about J9 as being akin to an SOS.
"In a lot of cases, we start out doing these sort of 911-type engagements," he said. "[Customers say] 'You guys are experts. We have outages costing us X; how do we solve this problem?'"
He added that a growing awareness of just how much downtime is costing companies is leading to a rapid uptake of performance management tools and a desire for predictive analytics. Roach said companies are increasingly trying to stop problems before they occur, as opposed to the traditional setup of assigning tickets, bridge calls and enacting slow, reactionary processes.
Adam Riglian is a news writer with SearchCloudApplications.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamRiglian.