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Application performance management’s role in the ‘next normal’

The ‘next/new normal’ is a term we might well be tired of hearing by now, but there’s no shying away from the fact our personal and work lives are very different to what they might’ve been just a few months ago. Sascha Giese, head geek at SolarWinds homes in on the role of the application performance manager, and highlights what has changed.

Businesses (and in some cases, entire industries) have been forced to restructure operations, whether through remote practices or migrating the core business online. And as many enterprises continue navigating this period of uncertainty, cloud migration is the smart option for organisations. In fact, when we look to the ‘next normal,’ it’s clear it will be played out in the cloud.

During a heightened period of remote working, it was inevitable enterprises would become more reliant on public cloud services due to a greater requirement for cloud-based and software as a service (SaaS) applications.

Though official data is limited on the number of enterprises who made the switch, most expect cloud adoption to skyrocket in the face of the pandemic. Looking at the growth of the industry, the total number of large data centres operated at hyperscale jumped to 541 at the end of the second quarter.

Spending on cloud technology has also soared in the past five years, according to data from Morgan Stanley, with its overall share of IT budgets increasing from 7% in 2015 to 15% in 2019.

The new reality we find ourselves in is one where reliance on applications to deliver services has become paramount. Applications have gone from supporting businesses to keeping them alive.

Internal and external events and conferences are now virtualised, so tools such as Zoom and Microsoft SharePoint have become essential. Digital commerce has spiked due to social distancing and the necessity of ‘flattening the curve.’

Essentially, the commercial apps we previously took for granted have now become mission-critical.

Though there has been a significant shift, the way we interact with applications has been consistently evolving in recent years. Some businesses now entirely define themselves through applications – Uber and Airbnb are strong examples of this.

Society is now accelerating in the direction it was previously moving. Everything needs to be available 24/7, from anywhere, at any time, and from any device. And though enterprises must remember the cloud is not a panacea, there’s no debating the only way to achieve this level of complete access to applications is to adopt it.

While the cloud will certainly help in providing scale, availability, and flexibility in the delivery of applications, all enterprises must be prepared to anticipate their needs. Will they experience an activity spike for online shopping? Will more employees use an application at certain points of the day?

They need to not only monitor this but prepare for any shifts to come. These apps can’t falter – in fact, the demand for them to operate at an optimised level has been prioritised because even a small performance degradation or outage could be disastrous.

Enterprises need to assure the performance and uptime of applications through solid application performance management (APM). Adoption of APM tools was a trend the industry was experiencing prior to the pandemic.

The tools themselves have been available since the 1990s, but they’re still among the most underappreciated tools in the technology industry. The truth is, real APM is nice to have for some organisations, but it’s crucial for any business offering services through applications.

With individuals now accessing business applications from outside the confines of the office and away from local intranets, enterprises need to guarantee the uptime and availability of applications hosted in the cloud if they’re to maintain productivity and ease employee frustrations.

Enterprises need a holistic view of the application stack, and this relies heavily on monitoring tools fed by real-time actionable insight. This is something APM provides.

APM should form the backbone of a larger initiative to improve the customer and end-user experience while ultimately keeping the boat afloat in this period of uncertainty. It could be catastrophic to reputations and bottom lines if applications go down for extended periods of time.

The ‘next normal’ is certainly a puzzle, but APM can help enterprises with the first steps on their cloud journey. It can help them ensure everything sits correctly from the beginning and will remain beneficial as an ongoing element to measure and optimise.

Additionally, APM will remain relevant to organisations experienced in using cloud who might now be running services distributed across a multi-cloud environment.

No one can say for certain what the ‘next normal’ entails – some businesses are steadily returning to normal, but for how long is unknown. Other businesses have transformed in a matter of months and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future.

But one thing is certain: a significant number of enterprises have experienced years’ worth of digital transformation in a short span of time.

At the heart of this evolution and development into digital businesses is a reliance on business applications and the cloud to adopt and adapt to new methods of working.

APM will be imperative in ensuring businesses’ critical applications are stalwart and reliable to help navigate recovery in the ‘next normal.’

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