Apps have become a cornerstone of digital businesses, which rely on them to ensure their systems meet the needs of employees and customers.
This has become increasingly challenging as companies are deploying software at ever-faster rates across complex computing environments, creating a booming application performance monitoring (APM) market that Orbis Research expects to reach US$10.43 billion in value by 2025.
AppDynamics believes it can get an edge over its competitors by expanding its APM product suite to create what it calls the “central nervous system of IT”.
The term describes a monitoring platform that encompasses networks, infrastructure and applications to provide broad visibility into complex environments, AI-based insights and task automation.
“It delivers real-time monitoring of your business and operational performance so that you can anticipate problems, resolve them automatically and make smarter business decisions,” said Thomas Wyatt, chief marketing and strategy officer at AppDynamics.
A key component of the expansion strategy is integrating machine learning and AI into the platform to enhance the depth of analysis and expand the ability to automate.
Parent Cisco has been helping to drive this development since it snapped AppDynamics for $3.7 billion in 2017, just days before a planned IPO of the company.
Later that year, Cisco also acquired data science startup Perspica, and promptly embedded its technology in the AppDynamics cognition engine to add machine learning features such as root cause analysis and predictive anomaly detection to the platform.
Wyatt was the general manager of Cisco's Cloud Analytics Business Unit at the time of the AppDynamics acquisition, which he sponsored as part of his leadership of Cisco’s expansion into application intelligence.
“Cisco was talking a lot about the importance of networks, the importance of the data centre, the cloud and security across your IP estate, but the missing ingredient that Cisco didn't offer at the time was the ability to have a deep understanding of what's happening in your application environment,” he said.
“The idea was, if we could bring AppDynamics and Cisco together, we could provide enterprise customers with a holistic view of comprehensive visibility across the network, the data centre, their security apparatus, and their applications, which can help customers drive digital transformation and improve their users' experience.”
Combining business and IT insights
The sizes of the AppDynamics business and team have both doubled since the acquisition. Wyatt says the key to making the transition a success was giving AppDynamics the resources it needed to grow while allowing it to keep the autonomy and startup culture it needed to innovate.
He believes that the addition of Cisco’s expertise and resources has allowed AppDynamics to offer a unique integration of business and IT insights.
“What we can do is tightly correlate the state of the underlying technology components directly to the business KPIs such as revenue and user engagement of your most critical apps, and that's really unique in the industry," he said. "We're really the only application performance monitoring company that has those business-level insights.
"And what that enables us to do is sit down with enterprise customers and have their line of business owner of the application sitting next to the IT leader for that application and they can look at a common set of data dashboards, and get alerted on business performance in real-time.”
He points to Carhartt as an example of the benefits of this deeper analysis. The clothing brand has reinvented itself numerous times since it was founded in 1889 as a manufacturer of bibs for manual labourers, but recent digital disruption have created new challenges.
Carhartt's response was to build a direct-to-consumer business through its website that would function through the traffic boom of Black Friday.
The company deployed AppDynamics' Business IQ software to gain real-time insights into the business transactions that impact its sales orders and to gain end-to-end visibility across its entire IT ecosystem.
The IT team had previously relied on an alerting system to identify issues in its on-premises environments, but the system couldn’t react in real-time and provided information that didn’t overlap with the needs of the business.
AppDynamics allowed them to extend their monitoring from application performance to all the business data, covering conversion rates, purchase probability and browsing behaviour of customers.
Carhartt CIO John Hill said the system allowed his team to resolve issues without their customers knowing that the problem was starting to occur.
"One of the key advantages that we have seen from Business iQ is that it provides a vehicle for both business colleagues and IT colleagues to collaborate together around a single source of truth," he said.
Wyatt wants to continue expanding the monitoring capabilities into automated performance predictions and resources optimisation while better integrations with third-party systems such as ServiceNow and PagerDuty.
“The faster you can react or prevent a software hiccup, the better your business performance,” he said. “I like to think of ourselves as the MRI for the health of your applications.”