Dynatrace Perform 2018 – from APM to the bleeding edge of Biz/Ops Management

Martin Banks Profile picture for user mbanks February 1, 2018
Finding code errors in applications has become the underpinning of frontline business operations management which can seriously impact issues like customer experience for good or ill. This is enterprise-important.

A problem emerged at the Dynatrace Perform 2018 conference held in Las Vegas this week. The company has long been known as an Application Performance Management vendor, indeed some would say it created the market sector when it was founded in Austria, back in 2005.

But now it has quietly undergone a significant transformation, to the point where it can no longer call itself an APM contender. Indeed, David Anderson, the company’s VP of marketing, is now struggling to find the right definition.

The US analyst company, Gartner, has started calling the sector Automated IT Management, but that only partially covers the scope and potential. Bernd Greifeneder, the Dynatrace co-founder and CTO, used phrases such as autonomous IT, Business Outcomes and Digital Experience Management to try and describe where the company has moved to. Something like Autonomous Business Outcome Management might start to get close.

But one way to demonstrate just how far the company has move from traditional APM, is to consider the fact that the company is now in conversation with most of the world’s major car manufacturers, because cars are being loaded with more and more software code every day, and that code has to work – end of.

Throwing system error wobblies at 70mph on a freeway is a definite no. Manufacturers are talking to Dynatrace because they now need systems management environments that can not only monitor what is happening, but can set in train pre-planned remedial actions, predict system faults before they occur and generally keep the wheels rolling. And the car makers are joining a growing group of enterprises looking for similar solutions.

Since it first introduced the upgraded service the company is claiming that its growth has been running at 100%, quarter on quarter, which for a business already ranked by Gartner as leader in a marketplace estimated to be worth $2.6 billion, is not to be sniffed at.

According to Anderson,  the demand is being driven by a complementary pair of factors that are effectively feeding each other.

One is the need is to have software work perfectly – increasingly, it just has to work. But this is being set against a backdrop of operational and infrastructural complexity that is growing exponentially. The combination of cloud-based service, microservices and containers, when taken all together, contribute to this in the majority of enterprise use cases.

But at least 15% of users are reporting they have a serious, and growing, lack of visibility on what is happening in these environments. And we understand the problems from our own operations. We have gone from producing four new releases of a software a year to producing 26, while at the same time increasing the use of AI and analytics to enrich what we can provide for users.”

APM is so passe

Looked at simply, what Dynatrace is pitching at is everything that is downstream of the current strong point of APM – application monitoring – and either bringing that functionality, or close collaboration with and management that functionality, under the Dynatrace banner.

It is the close cooperation and collaboration now possible in the cloud that both makes the move urgent for many businesses and possible for Dynatrace to engineer. For a start, though the company has a strong track record of APM in the legacy on-premise sector, it has also adopted the cloud wholeheartedly. It is, for example, using the cloud as a primary vehicle for letting enterprise users taste its capabilities. This, according to Anderson, has led one unnamed enterprise go from starting a trial on a cloud service to signing up for a $1 million-plus subscription for services across the board in less than a week.

Everything downstream of monitoring is a pretty wide catchment area, and the company is finding that it is getting bigger as users expand their own thoughts on how it can be used. Not only can it identify problems with applications – and especially recent updates – but using the company’s extensive and logged experience of remediation and its increasing use of AI and analytics, it can make recommendations as to what steps should be taken. It can now go one step further and, if the application vendor is open to the idea, initiate the recommended remediation and manage that action automatically.

But customers such as Starbucks have started to take this capability further and take it across complete cloud services rather than just specific applications, as the company’s Manager of Application Development, Naveen Dronavalli, told the conference:

The chain from one of our end users can now have many steps when a problem occurs. First of all there is our own IT support team. From the it is to the vendor’s help desk, then to the vendor’s IT team and finally on to the War Room, where the inevitable question is asked, 'Can you reproduce the problem?’ Only then might you get to a solution, but with multiple vendors the difficulty of finding a solution can get multiplied many times.

Here of course is the basic script for many internecine vendors scraps over responsibility buck-passing. Starbucks has therefore opted to go with Dynatrace, not least because it is then able to operate across the entire application mix of a cloud service. This allows the company to not only identify an error and come up with an appropriate solution, regardless of which application is at fault, but it also allows it to work with those vendors on how to overcome the causes into the future, because it can provide real proof of what, and where, the error lies:

This helps us not only solve the problems quickly but also keep both the brand’s reputation and the users’ experiences of us up high.

If you are not experienced, you will need to be soon

This shines an important light on what is now happening across much of the relationship between IT and business: the two are becoming irretrievably mixed together. And it is in this mix that the ability to create and maintain good user experiences can now be found. Fixing an application problem is no longer just an IT issue, and War Rooms increasingly find themselves full of marketing staff, brand management staff, product managers and the rest, all of whom have a vested interest in the problem and valid inputs to any solution.

Maintaining a company’s ability to deliver at least the same level of customer experience is now of paramount importance, with the usual goal being the ability to improve it if at all possible. Yet it is the ability for a small error in one application making it difficult for registered users to access the service at all that can kill not just the service, but the business as well. So solving it is no longer an IT issue, it is a Biz/Ops issue

This just one area where users are looking at the potential for extending the capabilities Dynatrace is designing into it services. For example, in Dev/Ops, the ability to monitor applications for errors means that any errors in a Dev/Ops update of an application can be checked as soon as it appears, so why not monitor it during the development process and test it before it is published. In addition, why not check its interactions and dependencies with the other application forming the service.

And finally why not use AI tools and predictive analysis to make it a core part of the service design and orchestration process, so that the reliability of new services is improved from their inception?

Dynatrace used the conference to demonstrate that it has a good grasp on how its technology now applies and underpins much of the Biz/Ops environment. The undoubted star demonstration a the conference, out of many new developments, was a tool that is expected to be available in Beta form in the next few months. This a Session Replay function designed specifically to respond to the classic 'I can’t complete my order and payment’ customer cry.

This locates and copies the log of the user’s actual failed interaction and rebuilds it. In this way it can be analysed step-by-step, just as the customer saw it and participated in the process. IT staff get to see it from the user’s perspective and identify what problem was behind the poor customer experience and potential damage to a company’s brand and reputation. And to be fair, this does also mean identifying customer 'finger trouble' during the process – itself a potential boost to customer experience if handled correctly by helpdesk staff.

My take

Dynatrace is interesting right now because it is one of the few companies that really does seem to have understood the change in the place of IT. Making the 'T' of IT is still important, particularly when it comes to making it work properly. But that is just a part of a much more important issue: exploiting the 'I' of information to ensure that whatever it is that a business is `about’ carries on unhindered and, preferably, continually gets better so that the customers keep coming back for more.

And given that Dynatrace is happy to acknowledge that it came from a very `boringly tech’ start point, its surprise at finding itself on the bleeding edge of an emerging Universal autonomous Biz/Ops Management market sector is palpable. But it is fair to so it is in no way fazed by the potential.

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