Enterprises are using a wide array of applications to support different business functions, ranging from marketing and sales, to product development, IT operations, and more. The fast growth in application deployment and usage is putting more pressure on the IT infrastructure, as well as the teams who support it. When issues arise, the spiderweb complexity of these applications and their connections to networks, servers, databases, and other IT devices has made it exponentially more difficult for IT and IT service management (ITSM) teams to identify and solve the problems quickly. This is why it’s so important that these teams create application dependency mapping (ADM) visibility across core data centers and hybrid cloud environments.
IT Infrastructure Complexity Is Growing
364: Average number of SaaS applications enterprises deployed in 2022. Source: Productiv.
95%: Of new workloads deployed by 2025 will be on cloud-native platforms. Source: Gartner.
What Is Application Dependency Mapping — and Why Is It So Important?
Application dependency mapping is the process of first identifying applications across a technology stack and then depicting their interrelationships to key resources and other applications and software. Accomplishing this task can be daunting for IT teams, as they’re managing an environment that’s becoming more complex and continuously changing.
Some configuration management database (CMDB) solutions can accomplish this job automatically by crawling networks to discover assets, their current condition, and dependencies. These innovative solutions accomplish this task agentlessly and in near-real-time, ensuring that the information presented accurately represents the current state of the IT environment.
Processes are becoming more interconnected with digital growth. As a simple example, consider an ecommerce website. Technologies that support the website include servers, operating systems, databases, applications, and load balancers; shopping cart and survey tools; and systems of record technologies such as customer experience, enterprise resource planning, and supply chain management. Performance issues with any of these systems could harm the business function, causing customer frustration and revenue loss.
While application dependency mapping is strategically important, many teams find it challenging to accomplish this task. In this blog, we provide five different ways application dependency mapping can enhance IT operations.
- Improving Application Performance
With automated application dependency mapping, teams obtain visual maps of applications and their dependencies on other technologies. They can use this information to identify performance bottlenecks, identify why they’re occurring, allocate more capacity, and plan cloud migrations effectively.
A UK-based IT consultancy often wins new business when customers have significant IT issues. One company, Business A, a well-established financial services company in the recruitment space, wanted the consultancy to manage their infrastructure, but had no documentation of processes. The customer used spreadsheets to track resources, but couldn’t visualize how they were used. The UK consultancy used Device42’s CMDB to visualize key relationships, including applications to servers, servers to switch ports, and users to devices and applications.
Application dependency maps helped the consultancy discover that some of Business A’s infrastructure was outdated, and that most hosts had insufficient resources. By adding an extra server, the consultancy was able to improve resource utilization, driving application performance and increasing customer satisfaction with a quick win.
- Understanding the Impact of Changes
As the example above indicates, organizations’ IT environments are changing all the time. Teams are configuring and deploying new software, virtualizing assets, retiring legacy systems, and running changes. It’s simply impossible to track these changes manually.
Automated application dependency mapping can help IT teams perform change impact analyses to better understand the impact of planned changes to systems before they make them. By taking this step, teams can reduce the risk of errors and outages. In many cases, this means not just protecting application performance, but also revenues.
Hudson Bay Company’s (HBC) IT team wanted to move resources out of its largest physical data center to the cloud, without harming the business. The IT team for America’s oldest retailer needed full visibility into its current environment, including infrastructure, applications, and dependencies. However, the environment was complex and included outmoded and homegrown applications due to years of mergers and acquisitions.
HBC deployed Device42’s CMDB with application dependency mapping capabilities to perform a system analysis, discovering service communication and application configuration details to identify cross-platform dependencies. HBC then added resource utilization to rightsize cloud workloads. With visibility and a single version of truth, the IT team was able to make the right decisions for its migration to the cloud.
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- Speeding Incident Management Resolution
Another common problem teams face is diagnosing and resolving incidents. When they occur, ITSM teams are on the clock. With a service-level agreement (SLA) target on their back, ITSM staffers need to rapidly gather data and determine root causes of issues. Application dependency information needs to be in-hand and up-to-date.
Fortunately, modern CMDBs continuously update application maps, showing which services have been added or subtracted and which changes and configurations have been made. They also provide extensive information on applications and their condition, including type, technical and business owners, customers, service level, criticality, and more. This information enables IT teams to prioritize problems, assign the right teams, and quickly identify and resolve issues.
Leading ITSM organizations leverage automation, AI, and analytics to improve customer support. A survey found that the top two AI priorities of ITSM teams were deploying shared AIOps capabilities (30%) and incident response analytics (19%). Application dependency mapping supports both of these priorities.
By exploring dependencies, identifying root causes, and resolving them, ITSM teams can resolve more incidents on first contact, decrease mean time to resolution, and strengthen service. All of these improvements enhance operational performance, while reducing costs.
As an example, one of the world’s top five car manufacturers was experiencing an average of two critical incidents per month that lasted at least 60 minutes, costing the manufacturer $720K a year. After deploying Device42’s leading CMDB, the company was able to map its IT landscape, improve the speed at which they were able to identify root causes, and accelerate mean time to resolution by 30%. As a result, the company was able to reap $216K in new cost savings per year.
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- Ensuring More Efficient Capacity Planning
Application dependency mapping can also help organizations plan for the future. They can review current resource usage, allocate more capacity to those applications that need it, and decrease capacity or decommission those that don’t.
Similarly, planning for growth ensures that high-value business applications that drive revenue don’t choke when demand spikes. For example, retail businesses drive outsized sales between Black Friday and Christmas. Ensuring that ecommerce sites can scale with demand is key to maximizing this revenue potential. Additionally, creating application dependency visibility helps IT teams determine whether resources needed to support key business applications should be on-premises technologies or public cloud workloads that can more easily scale up and down. Without this knowledge, IT teams may migrate applications to the cloud blindly, potentially creating negative outcomes and higher costs.
- Enhancing Cost Controls and Power Consumption
As organizations navigate economic uncertainty, they are seeking to control and reduce costs. Being able to determine the cost of operating key applications can enable business units to make sound decisions about whether to maintain, upgrade, or retire them. Ideally, IT teams need to see the total cost to operate each application, as well as the CO2 they emit, to inform planning strategies.
Many organizations have struggled to achieve promised cloud savings, due to an inability to determine who or what is using which resources, identify and mitigate sources of waste, and charge back services to the business. A recent survey finds that the average annual enterprise spending on cloud services will reach $33 million in 2023. However, a significant portion of that spending is wasted, due to overprovisioned, unused, or redundant services. That’s why many enterprises are standing up cloud FinOps capabilities to gain control over costs and reduce waste.
In addition, applications use varying amounts of power. High-density workloads use significant power to process data and cool equipment. As energy costs soar, data center owners and operators are looking for ways to decrease these costs.
Teams that use a data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution gain holistic visibility into their power chain, including the ability to see which power sources are supporting different hardware. They also obtain reports and charts showing historical power data for predictive modeling. This information can be used to support business decision making, such as assigning costs to business functions, throttling non-core workloads during times of peak power demand, virtualizing resources to reduce costs and carbon emissions, and more.
10%-30%: Of cloud spending is being wasted. Source: IDC.
Use These Five Strategies to Transform IT Operations
IT teams are managing a wide array of applications with demanding service-level agreements. Deploying a solution with integrated CMDB and DCIM capabilities and using these five strategies will help teams increase visibility into business-critical applications and their dependencies. By doing so, they can make important strategic and operational decisions to evolve network capabilities, improve performance, and reduce costs.