Application Dependency Mapping Part 1: You Can Get There from Here

This is the first in a three-part series dedicated to understanding and getting more out of application dependency mapping.

If you ever find yourself navigating the back roads of Maine and stop to ask for directions, don’t be surprised if the old farmer in his green cap and Dickies slowly drawls, after giving it considerable thought, “You cahn’t get theyah from heah.”

The idea is that the topology in that corner of the world presents a host of problems for locomoting. Mountains and gullies, rivers and lakes, lack of signage, abundance of signage, dirt roads, landmarks and lexicon known only by locals, seasonal variations, and a lack of connectivity for the GPS-dependent all conspire to make navigation difficult under the best of circumstances.

Russ Elsner
Sr Director
App Management Strategy
ScienceLogic

It sounds a lot like typical network topology, come to think of it. But while a meandering trip over Downeast byways might be an appealing way to spend an afternoon, it’s no way to manage your IT infrastructure.

In fact, a 2016 Forrester report entitled IT Efficiency Begins With Effective Discovery And Dependency Mapping found that enterprises engaged in IT projects like virtualization and server consolidation were hindered because they did not have a complete view of dependencies (56%), did not know what resources were required by the various applications (36%), and lacked a complete view of all the applications in use by the enterprise (31%).

That is a lot of blind spots. And it is why comprehensive enterprise discovery, contextual topology, trusted data, and application dependency mapping are critical to IT operations. They are complementary components of managing today’s IT ecosystem. You can’t manage what you don’t know and, with the complexity and ephemerality inherent in today’s networks, that information can change moment to moment.

In a 2018 white paper, Next-Generation ITAM Building for Tomorrow’s Use Cases Today, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) identified the top ten challenges for efficient IT operations. All ten were either directly or indirectly associated with incomplete or inaccurate data, including:

  • Operational inefficiencies;
  • Incomplete data;
  • Fragmented technologies;
  • Lack of analytics in optimizing data from IT assets;
  • Poor data quality;
  • Sharing data effectively across IT silos;
  • Low or inadequate levels of automation;
  • Fragmented/siloed technologies;
  • Unable to measure operation efficiencies; and,
  • Communication/process issues.

We’ve talked at length about discovery, context, and trusted data, so I want to start a conversation on application depending mapping (ADM) to establish a top line understanding of what it is and why it’s important, then follow-up with some additional detail on the different flavors and approaches.

ADM is pretty much what the name says it is: a process of identifying all the elements in an ecosystem and understanding how they work together. It’s connecting a lot of dots to give IT managers a clear picture of their environmental health. ADM is important for IT operations management because when things go wrong, it is critical that you quickly identify the points of failure and find the fastest path to recovery.

Every application—from a complex ecommerce application to something as common as email—has a lot of moving parts. If performance is slow, ADM lets you know where to look to understand where the bottleneck is, what resources might be overtaxed, and how to resolve the problem. If an application isn’t working, ADM is the key to identifying where there might be a disconnection or if something needs to be replaced.

It stands to reason then that if your map is incomplete or out of date, you may not be able to find the problem and you won’t be able to get there from here. There might be a workload you don’t know about—or that you thought had been retired—sapping compute power from an application you rely on and if you can’t find the source of the problem you will find yourself on a wild goose chase. But with comprehensive discovery of the entire IT infrastructure, contextual network topology, and trusted data behind your ADM, you can get there from here. The EMA report found that enterprises that were the most successful at IT management were “likely to have an application discovery and dependency mapping (ADDM) capability deployed.”

While the concept of ADM is self-evident, the implementation of ADM is a little more complicated. There are different approaches and levels that can produce different results. There are also misconceptions about ADM that can hinder decision making and achieving optimal results from your investment in ADM. We’ll tackle those topics in subsequent posts, so stay tuned. And let us know what you think, what your experience has been.

Next week, we’ll discuss the different approaches for automated discovery and mapping as well as their pros and cons. To learn more about our approach to ADM, visit: https://sciencelogic.com/product/dependency-mapping

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