How Large Organizations Standardize Monitoring

Supporting hundreds of customers over 15+ years has provided me a great opportunity to help advise large organizations design monitoring solutions.  A common challenge is how to standardize monitoring after acquisitions without alienating newly acquired teams and the processes/software they depend on.

Some parallel trends have been occurring which on the surface may seem unrelated, yet have a big impact on your efforts to standardize monitoring...

  1. Server Virtualization.
  2. Growth through acquisitions.
  3. Security for Cloud and On-premise services.
  4. Usage of Dev/Ops methodologies.

So what does this have to do with Monitoring?  While the goal is standardization, the methods employed to get there are varied.  Here's a breakdown using each of these major trends as an example:

Virtualization:

Firstly, with greater use of virtualization, IT operations (often called "shared services" or "corporate IT") has become more efficient and standardized.  They are now able to provide processing power/storage/DB/etc as a standard service regardless of the application team requiring it.  Logically, monitoring requirements then standardize around the operations teams vs. the various development or QA teams which may each have different tools.  

How can Dell help?  Dell's Foglight solution creates a monitoring standard with fast value across virtualization, DB, Storage, and physical OS.  They also integrate directly with application monitoring capability allowing both teams to collaborate.  

Acquisition Growth:

This brings me to the acquisitions; Modern web based applications interact directly with your customers, suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors.  Therefore, an acquisition is often made for the value of these application(s) as well as the intellectual value of its employees.  There's a difficult balance here... After acquisition we don't want to disrupt the processes and software these teams have depended upon.  However, we DO want to provide value with the full org's standard operational services and software.  

How can Dell help?  Initially, costs are cut quickly by deploying the standardized monitoring (and IT services) to the new organization.  In cases where the new team's application level monitoring is lacking, Foglight provides deep application monitoring capabilities integrated directly to the operational level monitoring.  Over time, existing application monitoring solutions can be phased out by standardizing into Foglight wherever capabilities overlap.

Security for Cloud and On-Premise services:

The next trend is the need for increased security; especially when the focus is Application Monitoring (APM).  APM is a wonderful capability which monitors and verifies ACTUAL user response, transactions, and data processing, however this capability requires absolute security.  Raising some concerns is a recent explosion of cloud hosted monitoring solutions offering minimal administration and fast deployments.  These deployments however introduce a valid security concern by monitoring and even storing secure user data outside your control at the cloud provider.  While this may have been appropriate for the applications of the smaller company prior to acquisition, it is often not compliant for the larger organization's security policies.  In addition to this, a myriad of on-site application monitors becomes a major challenge to audit and assure security compliance.

How can Dell help?  Foglight offers both on-premise AND cloud based application performance monitoring capability to give you flexibility of standardizing on a single monitoring platform while still reaping the benefits of both options where appropriate. 

Dev/Ops:

The final trend leading to monitoring standards is the use of Dev/Ops methodologies.  If not familiar with the Dev/Ops concept, think of it as a methodology which helps break down IT barriers between Development, QA, and Operations.  They are given greater collaboration while development maintains much of the flexibility of being autonomous (sounds great for acquisitions right?!)  During Acquisitions, this methodology can be very helpful in that new application teams can operate much as they have in the past along with their own operations support; however they also collaborate and share resources with corporate IT operations.   A rising challenge with this methodology is how each different application group will often have its own IT budget and therefore different monitoring tools to manage and maintain.  These tools are often very targeted and highly valued by each team although they will typically not integrate well into corporate standard monitoring.

How can Dell help?  In order to minimize the impact to critical application development, I typically recommend a slower controlled migration of dev/ops teams into corporate standard monitoring.  This way, each team can initially continue to operate as it always has and the impact of monitoring change can occur when appropriate over time.  Typically I've seen collaboration with other dev/ops teams will often lead to an organic adoption of Foglight as these teams desire greater monitoring capability and integration with the rest of the org.

Conclusion:

The world of IT is in constant flux with non-stop changes and challenges.  Using Foglight, we’ve seen organizations be very successful in cutting costs by standardizing “shared services” monitoring while maintaining flexibility for individual application teams to stay agile.  Over time, these teams will be able to organically migrate into the corporate standard by deploying integrated application monitoring.  These deployments also come with the advantage of a higher level of security compliance by streamlining solutions and minimizing monitoring data stored in externally hosted cloud.

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