Friday, April 18, 2008

Comparing Application Management and Traditional Systems Management

Collaborate 2008 is over. Presenting at Collaborate was a different experience from presenting at OpenWorld. OpenWorld was an Oracle's show, so I had to worry about a bunch of logistics of putting things together. On the other hand, Collaborate was run by our customers. I just had to show up, present, attend a couple sessions myself, party, and speak with people, which I seemed to have more time to do at this event.

In one of the conversations, a question came up on the difference between application management and traditional systems management. I thought this may be an interesting topic for readers of this blog, so I am going to share that discussion with you.

Gartner Group defines application management as the monitoring, diagnostic, tuning, administration and configuration of packaged and custom applications. This seems to make sense. Application Management is about the management of, well, applications. But what is an application, and how does the management of an application different from managing other IT components?

An application helps end users accomplish a specific task. Siebel CRM, PeopleSoft Enterprise, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Collaboration Suite, and the custom Jave EE-based software that you write, are all examples of applications, since end users can use these tools directly to perform to day to day work. Oracle RDBMS and Oracle Applications Server are not applications since end users typically do not write SQL statements, or Java code on run on these infrastructure software. Therefore, application management must be about managing these end user visible software, right? Yes, but not so simple.

Consider this. The performance and availability of a modern distributed application, whether it is written in Java EE, .NET, or integrated application stacks such as those provided by Siebel, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne are determined not only by the application layer, but also the middleware, database, operating systems, network, and storage layers. Successful management of applications therefore call for a holistic approach of managing the entire environment that supports the application.

In addition, because applications are used by end users in support of business activities, it is very important to manage applications according to business requirements and potential impact to business operations. This means defining performance and availability requirement according to the particular tasks that end users perform. In other words, application management needs to be done from the top-down, from the top where the end users are down to the bottom of the technology stack. This is rather different from the traditional systems management, in which the approach was much more bottom-up, and the focus is much more on the health of the individual components. It also means a whole new set of information to track, such as the activities that users perform on the applications and the experience that they get out of the applications.

1 comment:

Subraya Mallya said...

This is something I have been hearing from a while. I have started putting together a definition of what constitutes "Application Management" in my blog Your thoughts are welcome.