BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Planning for end-user demand in the cloud often has really meant "flying by the seat of your pants."
Capacity planning shouldn't be an ad hoc process, of course, given the pressure on application design from fickle end users, a constant stream of new code headed to the cloud and unpredictable demand. But according to a new report from market research firm Gartner Group, capacity and demand planning is quite underutilized in the enterprise space, leaving development efforts potentially disjointed and vulnerable. And even when an enterprise has a capacity planning solution, it tends to be home-grown and heavily dependent on the employees who developed it. These DIY solutions aren't generally integrated (especially in the cloud space) and the data is hard to share, making its use limited.
Luckily though, a new generation of capacity and demand planning tools are becoming available. These comprise application performance management tools with extra planning features that can give developers an edge -- and a better view -- in the cloud. The timing couldn't be better, said Anand Akela, AppDynamics' director of product marketing for APM, who believes companies need to start looking at capacity and demand as early in the development lifecycle as possible. "I look at APM as a pre-production issue right now," he said. "And because there are so many pieces to an applications performance -- the network, storage, the databases, etc. -- you have to get all the stakeholders to work together ahead of time and be on the same page in order to have successful planning."
And that's even truer in the cloud space, where lack of visibility can make fluctuating demand a huge -- and ultimately expensive -- problem. Either not being prepared to scale quickly or to pay for that scaling can drive companies right out of the cloud space, experts warn. That's a major reason capacity and demand planning is so important.
Here's a look at five popular APM tools:
NetScout Systems: Dealing with a bad case of TMI
The problem isn't that companies have too little data, said Paul Barrett, solutions architect from NetScout. "Companies are awash in data right now," he said. "It's too much." What they're looking for, he added, is actionable information that provides answers.
But that's easier said than done, given how much data must be waded through. NetScout's nGeniusONE solutions don't sit at the edge of the cloud platform but actually let users drill all the way down through the applications, server enablers and transactions, as well as users and the network. That results in a lot of data, of course; but it's broken down to make it more easily digestible and actionable, Barrett said.
A service dashboard gives users a quick glance across the network, while deeper analysis in three areas -- service, session and packet -- is being performed. Service analysis drills down into application transactions (such as email or databases) as well as traffic analysis. Session analysis lets users do "hop-by-hop" transaction diagnostics, while packet analysis takes all previous analytical data and brings it down to the forensic level.
AppDynamics: Building it right from the start
Among the many challenges in monitoring demand and capacity, ensuring that capability is built-in from the beginning is vital, said AppDynamics' Akela. The company makes it easy to quickly ID and then isolate issues so they can be addressed in the pre-production stage. Using the company's DevOps "virtual war room," everyone on the team has access to the same information making it easy to resolve issues quickly.
Abner Germanowsenior director of enterprise marketing, New Relic
Users can plan all they want, but if they don't have a view into what's going on at the hardware level, it's impossible to do any kind of capacity planning, Akela said. AppDynamics offers a single, pre-built dashboard to make it easy to compare loads in the cloud vs. CPU performance, both current and in the past. "This dashboard is what allows customers to do capacity planning," he said. "Now you can look at applications and business transactions in applications and find out what load time is. This is the way to deliver the best end user experience."
BMC: Keeping you from "flying blind"
"You can't fix what you can't see" is the premise behind BMC's TrueSight Capacity Optimization offering. "We like to think of this as capacity management for the masses," said Giuseppe Nardiello, senior manager of product management for capacity optimization at BMC. "We want people, not 'capacity planning experts' to take advantage of the engine behind the scenes and be able to know what's going on," he said. Companies used to struggle to balance capacity, and today that's just not something any company can afford to do, he explained.
TrueSight Capacity Optimization gives users a view to resource, service and business levels across a wide variety of platforms including OpenStack and vCloud. Users can predict resource shortages ahead of time, which is key in the pre-production app development phase. "There is a really strong emotional component around end user confidence," Nardiello said. "They just can't experience failure with an application. You have to know it's going to work."
CA: Ending capacity planning dysfunction
It's far too easy to have capacity and demand planning in the hands of just a few people who either may or may not be good at sharing. That's where CA Technologies' Application Performance Management tool comes in. "Monitoring expertise runs the risk of being siloed in an organization," said Kieran Taylor, senior director of DevOps Solutions marketing with CA. "It can be really hard to find people who know how to trouble shoot with application issues arise."
CA's tool lets companies see what's going on in any device on any cloud platform and then quickly gather the data into actionable information. Easy to understand metrics help make the job of trouble-shooting easier, Taylor said.
New Relic: Taking the emotion out of the equation
"There's a lot of emotion in managing a software team," said Abner Germanow, senior director of enterprise marketing for New Relic. But by using an APM tool like New Relic – where the data is front and center – it's "clear right away," he said. "We have enough capacity, or we don't. The performance of the app is improved, or it's not improved. We create a data-driven environment where everyone can see exactly what's going on."
That ability for everyone to see what's going on is particularly important when it comes to planning for application scaling in the cloud, Germanow warned. Customers can get unlimited capacity in the cloud but it's not free of charge, he explained, and using a tool to plan for the changes is vital for an organization trying to keep track of spending.
New Relic's products allow users to look down into all the levels to see not just the application but the infrastructure and its layers from containers to VMs or bare metal. "There are just so many levels of abstraction today when it comes to planning and monitoring," he said. "You need a tool that can pull it all together."
How mobile APM tools are shaping up
How APM tools keep customers happy
Discover new details about the New Relic APM