Q&A with Zohar Gilad of Precise
VSM: Consumer IT is the topic du jour these days. What impact does this have on IT departments and application managers?
ZG: Zohar Gilad: It's really a double-edged sword. Consumer IT means that employees are bringing in their own devices and favorite apps to work. While creating considerable havoc for IT to support and maintain all of these technologies at once, consumer IT is giving the CIO and the IT department more clout. IT is becoming more influential in the business; the perception is that IT is finally supporting what users truly want, and that’s choice. Yet consumer IT means that IT has to change the way it operates. Perhaps the most striking change is that end users expect "instant-on" performance, as they already experience with their favorite mobile phones and third-party app stores.
VSM: What are some of those big changes that IT will have to undergo? Are we talking processes or technology?
ZG: It's probably a bit of both. Let's take scalability and use patterns. Before we had so many mobile users accessing corporate data and applications from home, coffee shops and airports, IT had a pretty good picture of what network traffic was going to look like every day. Now, it's very unpredictable. Organizations are experiencing more transactions than ever before, from both employees and customers in many locations, resulting in larger volume and erratic spikes in demand. Will IT be able to provision virtual servers and more bandwidth on the fly? Will IT even know if transaction volumes and usage patterns are threatening application reliability and performance? If not, it might be time to look into cloud and data center outsourcing firms that can manage this variability. Companies should also investigate their systems management tools’ capability to proactively manage this dynamic environment. All of these processes I just mentioned need to be highly automated and intelligent, while still enabling manual intervention when required.
VSM: So how will management tools requirements change in the mobile/consumer IT world?
ZG: Management tools need to deliver sophisticated real-time alerts based on trend analysis and performance baselines. What is the threshold for each unique device and operating system, after which performance will likely begin to suffer? Alerts can arrive in e-mail, by text, and within the application management dashboard, so that application and database managers can be proactive. APM systems also need to enable the collection and review of more granular data to resolve issues from the end-user perspective. From the narrow angle of server-side performance, response times may seem fabulous. In reality, due to inefficient website implementation (e.g. multiple roundtrips) or a slow network, users may suffer.
VSM: What about all these devices. Is it even possible to efficiently troubleshoot apps when they are running on iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones and whatever else?
ZG: Indeed, that's a difficult problem and we don't have all the answers yet. A manageable first step is to baseline user experiences by platform. There is no such thing anymore as a single transaction baseline. To compare apples to apples, application monitoring must be segmented by platform (e.g. user by mobile device, LAN user, WiFi user) so when things go wrong you can locate exactly the problem spot. Collecting and managing multiple performance baselines will save a lot of time and frustration during the troubleshooting process.