The concept of cloud computing is changing the role and responsibilities of IT in many ways. They include how the cloud requires network operations and application development teams within organizations to work more closely together to meet the needs of their mutual customers -- executives and end users.
This may have been a common objective for IT teams in the past, but network operations and application development staffs often had differing views about how to satisfy the needs of corporate clients. As a result, when application performance problems occurred, conflicts often arose between these groups about where the fault lay, leaving executives and end users caught in the middle of the finger pointing.
Part of the problem was the differing sets of performance expectations. This issue was compounded by the fact that each group used its own set of tools to monitor and measure performance. This created a network-versus-application point of view. Each team was able to obtain only partial information, and neither could gain a true end-to-end view of network and application performance to meet the needs of corporate clients.
I was first exposed to this issue in the mid-1990s, when I worked for International Network Services (INS). The company rolled out a network performance management service in 1996. Then it acquired a company that offered an application performance management (APM) solution called VitalSigns. We thought the acquisition was a no-brainer way to expand our portfolio, and we thought it would be easy to convince our customers to add the new APM capability to their service contracts.
Instead, we discovered that our traditional network operations customer wasn't directly responsible for the performance of the applications in its organizations. Therefore, it was not interested in the new APM solution. We also found that the application teams weren't interested in talking to a "networking vendor" about their performance issues.
Fast forward to today's world. Many organizations are still grappling with the same feuds between network and application teams. However, there is a growing number of cloud solution providers working to provide integrated network management and APM tools to address these age-old issues and bring these groups together.
What sets these new initiatives apart from past efforts are two new realities. First, the nature of the application performance problem is being redefined -- nearly every mission-critical application becomes more network-dependent, and the user experience is pivotal to success. Whether it is simple email and video distribution or more complex enterprise applications and big-data sharing, today's business requirements rely on network connectivity. And the quality of the connectivity can be measured only from the point of view of application availability and response time.
Second, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) orientation of this new generation of network/application performance management tools makes them more economical and easier to deploy.
Not only are cloud solution providers developing exciting functionality individually, but a growing number are also merging with one another to bridge the network/application gap, in the same way INS tried to do about 15 years ago with the VitalSigns purchase. Appneta's recent acquisition of Tracelytics is one of the latest attempts to bring the two sides together and offer an integrated, cloud-based network and application performance management platform to organizations of all sizes.
The success of these and other ventures and services will help network and application management professionals better serve the requirements and business objectives of their enterprise clients.
— Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies and founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace. He can be reached at email@example.com.