How Application Performance Monitoring Improves Service Delivery

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, "Taking Government Cloud Adoption to the Next Level."

As government looks for more effective ways to drive an efficient citizen experience, more agencies are adopting cloud solutions. In particular, public-sector organizations are increasingly leveraging the cloud to host applications, making delivery of services more convenient and cost-effective.

While this allows citizens to more seamlessly engage with government applications, they don’t always understand everything that goes into maintaining the back-end of those applications. If an end user has a negative interaction with an application, studies show they’ll refuse to use the app going forward, which results in higher costs to interact with the agency’s more expensive human customer service resources.

Application performance management (APM) is key to ensuring that citizens consistently get effective and efficient interactions from government applications. To learn more about APM, GovLoop talked to Scot Wilson, Senior Director of Advanced Technology Group at Riverbed, a cloud solutions company, and Mark Zalubas, Chief Technology Officer at Merlin International, a provider of system integration services and solutions.

By moving hosting of applications to 3rd-party clouds, agencies realize greater flexibility, time-to-benefits, and cost economies- of-scale, over hosting apps in their physical data centers. The data center part of the IT stack is no longer their responsibility, and they only need to pay for the resources they consume. However, as the maturity of the cloud develops, the notion of ‘moving to the cloud’ will morph into a more sophisticated understanding and the complexity of managing applications in the cloud will increase exponentially. “What folks struggle with when they move to the cloud is the loss of direct hands-on control of, and insight into, where their applications and data reside,” Zalubas explained. “The cloud itself is a simple concept, but it grows more complex as use of it matures and control and visibility become more difficult.”

Lack of application visibility across disparate clouds is particularly concerning to government agencies because it hampers IT’s ability to deliver high SLAs to their constituents. At a minimum, agencies need a solution that allows them to holistically monitor their apps hosted in a cloud, in a hybrid model, and across multiple clouds to fully understand how their applications are performing.

Application performance management is one way agencies can gain a holistic view across critical parts of the application delivery chain so they can better manage performance. “What APM does for agencies is make the many disparate parts of a distributed-architecture application look like a singular thing,” Zalubas explained.

APM offers agencies a single view to monitor and identify where problems are occurring. “Simply sounding an alarm that something is off does not move things forward,” Wilson said. “You have to be able to point to data that is actionable and pinpoint where the problem is so someone can take action and repair it.” The visibility that APM offers allows agencies to isolate problems in the back-end of cloud-based applications and fix them without interrupting citizen services.

However, APM does not have to come in after cloud deployment. Agencies can start with it as an application development platform. “APM becomes the platform that allows you to select pieces and see how they perform and interoperate with each other and whether the end goal is going to be achieved before it is put into production,” Zalubas said. This ensures that agencies have insights about an application before it is deployed so they don’t waste money and resources on ineffective apps.

For agencies looking to improve APM, Riverbed and Merlin provide, in tandem, an integrated solution. “Riverbed puts the platform together that connects agencies to the cloud and provides visibility from the click of the mouse all the way to the disk,” Wilson said. “Wherever that bit of information is, we can monitor the entire transaction and give agencies a way to programmatically attack back-end problems.”

Merlin’s role in improving APM is to take the technologies that Riverbed offers and apply them knowledgeably to deliver performance and availability for agencies’ applications. “We work with agencies to deliver mission critical service levels for functionality, performance, and availability across a wide variety of applications,” Zalubas explained. “These applications are complicated and we provide the tools and expertise to give agencies the insights necessary to optimize and troubleshoot, which in turn gives them confidence that their apps are performing as anticipated and providing the level of service for which they are intended.”

Ultimately, the nexus of Riverbed and Merlin’s solutions and services enable government agencies to offer application managers and end users a singular experience across complex application architectures. “At the end of the day, we work to seamlessly connect everything together, provide visibility and wrap in acceleration in application development and deployment,” Wilson concluded.

For more information about taking cloud to the next level, you can find the full guide here.

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