July 14, 2021

Democratization of APM is not a pipe dream

Democratization of APM is not a pipe dream

Democratization of APM is not a pipe dream

For the past few decades, we’ve seen the democratization of technology come to life. That’s the idea of making technology more accessible to more people and empowering those people to be able to use that technology, even if they aren’t tech savvy.

There are plenty of real-world examples of this taking place every day. Wider access to broadband internet made technology more accessible to everyone. Now without a need to become a technical expert, individuals can leverage technology to stream on their TV with an Amazon Firestick, or become active on social media or YouTube. With access to easily palatable technology, people can build a following, share information, and interact with people across the globe in order to earn a living. This is entirely dependent on complex technology, but the concepts have been made user friendly for everyone.

Democratization of IT

Democratization of IT has taken this concept a step further. It is removing the control and power from the few managers who control an organization’s infrastructure and handing that power to the people who build out software architecture daily.

Why is this taking place? It’s all in the name of innovation and efficiency. The digital transformation is demanding organizations to build and deploy software at increased speeds to stay relevant. Waiting days, or even weeks, for a new server to be spun up is no longer an option. Nowadays, all you need is a credit card and an Amazon Web Services account and you can have a new server to your specifications in minutes.

The bottom line is, as technology becomes more niche and complicated, ease of use is remaining a priority to enable everyone to get access to the IT resources they need to remain efficient. No more bottlenecks.

Further Down the Stack of Tooling: Enter APM

A bit deeper into the stack of IT tooling we find APM. Traditionally, APM solutions have been tools built for a few experts to leverage to monitor the performance of their organization’s applications. But trends catch on, and we’re now seeing the democratization of IT start to extend as far down as these niche, technical APM and Observability platforms.

How can we define the democratization of APM? A variety of boxes must be checked off to help turn this from an idealistic pipe dream into a reality.

Ubiquitous Usage: Instead of only existing in the hands of a few technical experts, the APM platform must be available and accessible to everyone who might benefit from information the solution is monitoring. Moreover, it needs to provide that information in a way that is easy to understand and palatable for different users and be presented in real-time. Making this happen requires:

  • Automation – The ability for a platform to automatically discover and monitor all application dependencies, highlighting incidents and flagging them for users proactively, instead of making users search for issues themselves.
  • Context – Providing context around data and incidents so that it makes sense to users. This means observing all data, not just samples of it.
  • Machine Learning – Whether a simple curated KnowledgeBase or an advanced AI system, applying machine learning to the system of troubleshooting applications makes everybody a “Subject Matter Expert.” That doesn’t mean teaching them about the complex systems that make up the application — rather, it breaks down that complexity and shows users where to start, what to look at, and exactly what steps to take to remediate the situation.

Ease of Use also comes into play:

  • Making complicated processes less complicated. For APM to be democratized, it needs to be easy to set up, run, configure, and maintain. Not only do you no longer need to be a technical expert to use an APM platform, but you also don’t need to be an expert to get started and configure the tool to your fitting. This also means no more deep APM tool training sucking hours and hours of people’s time.
  • Each user needs to get the data and information they need to do their job specifically. Instead of information overload from a complex array of looking at everything in the architecture that needs to be sorted through, a developer responsible for one application needs to be able to hone in on the data from that application. A QA tester needs to be able to look at only monitoring the code they are working on.
Democratization of APM in the wild

Now that we understand how to achieve APM democratization, spreading the value of the APM solution to the “far reaches” of an organization, it’s time to ask the question – is it actually happening? The answer hinges on which generation tool is in place. For newer APM solutions (generation 3) and organizations that have embraced modern application deployment philosophies, it’s not only possible, it’s happening.

In my own personal experience, I’ve seen a retail company go from 10 operations users managing APM with a legacy tool, to 250 developers and other IT members using it during Proof of Concept. This then extended to over 1,000 developers using the APM tool as it was integrated into other software development life cycle processes.

The democratization of APM is an important, and necessary, step to enable all stakeholders, from developers, to architects, to QA, to speed up their cycles. Organizations can become more efficient when stakeholders have the APM accessibility and actionable data they uniquely need to do their job, minus the manual work. Overall, the democratization of APM is a core component of helping organizations shift left.