Application Performance Monitoring – Breadth vs Depth

I recently spent some time talking with John Newsom, the VP of Dell Software’s Performance Monitoring Business about their solutions and the broader industry trend around performance management. Not many people know that Dell has an extensive APM offering but they do – Foglight was acquired back in 2000, relaunched in 2007 and has been iterating over the years since. It’s currently an enterprise focused product – delivered on-premise and with a number of different “flavors” for specific use cases – network monitoring, DBA etc. I was talking to the company for a couple of reasons – firstly because they’re doing some research into what the Foglight solution(s) would look like delivered in a SaaS model and secondly to get my take on broader trends in the monitoring space and seeing where that fits with the broader Dell portfolio.

First a precis of what Foglight does now:

  • Foglight delivers application monitoring across multiple technologies (e.g. Java, .NET, AJAX, virtual or physical servers, databases, networks, etc). It captures the experience of users interacting with those applications, and helps find the root cause of every business-impacting incident
  • Foglight for Virtualization offers a solution for performance monitoring and capacity management of VMware ESX and Hyper-V environments. It helps IT optimize resources, monitor performance, plan for growth, and allocate costs across virtual, physical, and cloud environments
  • The first “cloud” foray, Foglight for Windows Azure Applications enables IT administrators to monitor performance and understand end user experience with Windows Azure-based applications

So here’s some specific thoughts on Foglight as it relates to a more modern enterprise IT structure and, by extension, my take on the future of IT management and monitoring tools generally.

The World Doesn’t Want Flavors

Traditional vendors often follow a strategy that sees them rebadge an existing product with different names for specific applications – in Foglight’s case this take the form of “Foglight for DBA”, “Foglight for Network Monitoring” etc. While it’s undeniable that these specifically tailored solutions have customizations that make them ideal for the particular specialist use case at hand, the modern enterprise IT buyer wants one product label alongside an understanding that specific customizations are obtainable for specific uses. While it might be attractive to a vendor to resell the same product multiple times, it doesn’t do much for customer trust.

The World Does Want Breadth

As alluded to above, enterprise IT buyers are looking for broad solutions that span a number of their different requirements. Thus an infrastructure management solution should be heterogeneous, a SaaS solution should, even if it delivers on a very specific functional area, allow for broad integrations with other solutions (more on this later). As an enterprise customer I want a monitoring solution (to bring it back to Foglight) to deliver on all the different flavors of monitoring use case I might have

The World Wants Deep

Every day I’m struck by how many companies try and fool themselves and the market that what they do is a platform when it really is simply a feature. While there may be some corporate development reasons for building a feature company (quick trade sale for example) customers want deep solutions that cover the entire range of needs they may have. When we’re talking about performance monitoring, this takes the form of solutions that span the entire vertical stack relating to an individual application – from bare metal through to content delivery – all the data, all in one place.

The World Wants the Ability to Integrate

The API is the new lingua franca of IT functionality. But the API is simply the proxy for a vibrant and flexible ecosystem. While enterprise IT buyers have specific desires that one product will meet the vast majority of their functional needs, they’re also pragmatic that they’ll often have to rely on third party solutions for specific areas. To facilitate this use customers demand platforms with broad flexibility around integration – broad APIs, some pre-integrations and a marketplace or at least catalog of aligned solutions.

Summary – Complexity vs Simplicity

As it relates to APM, I see the market bifurcating across two distinct lines. On the one hand will be organizations that are looking for a single platform to fulfill the vast majority of their functional needs. At times there will be the need for third party integration but primarily they’ll get everything from one platform. On the other end of the spectrum will be the companies that are happy to strong together a number of discrete solutions to build their perfect best of breed solution. I suspect however that, over time, the APM space will tend towards the former model and consolidation will occur to create these uber platforms – of course consolidation is sub optimal as it leaves different code bases across the platform that need to be reconciled. For this reason I’m actually pretty bullish on the ability for Foglight to deliver a SaaS-delivered solution and build out the more “cloudy” functionality that will resonate for the new breed of IT organization.

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