Application dependency mapping (ADM) visualizes critical relationships across the IT stack. ADM tools automatically discover, generate, and update a centralized repository of application, service, and device relationships and dependencies, whether they are running on-premises on physical machines, on virtual machines, or in the cloud.
ADM tools for IT environments can be stand-alone solutions, or they can be integrated into configuration management database tools (CMDBs), enabling teams to evaluate the impacts of making changes and configurations. Either way, ADM helps IT teams bring clarity and control to network management processes.
This article explores:
- Key ADM use cases: This section discusses how ADM enables use cases such as cloud migration and optimization, disaster recovery and business continuity, performance monitoring and troubleshooting, security and compliance, and application rationalization and modernization.
- ADM best practices: This section covers best practices for migrating to the cloud with ADM and improving ADM processes at organizations.
- Key considerations and challenges with ADM: Teams will want to consider issues such as infrastructure complexity, documentation, data privacy and security, resource allocations, and skillset requirements to ensure successful ongoing use of ADM tools.
This information will enable teams to evaluate the business opportunity for using ADM, demonstrate how ADM capabilities improve critical processes, and set up processes to make ADM successful at their company.
Use Case 1: Cloud Migration and Optimization
Many companies are accelerating their path to the cloud. Currently, organizations have about half (52%) of their environment in the cloud and half (48%) on-premises. However, two-thirds (65%) default to cloud services when they upgrade or purchase new capabilities.
Teams use an ADM tool to reveal upstream and downstream dependencies that should considered before modernizing or replacing applications. Teams can use data to plan cloud migrations, forecast future growth, and identify little-used end-of-life solutions for decommissioning. Doing so enables teams to gain cloud flexibility and scalability while reducing costs.
Best practices for ensuring a successful cloud migration with ADM include:
- Assessing and prioritizing: Teams should discover applications and workloads to determine whether they should move them to the cloud. They can then prioritize applications for migration by their complexity, dependencies, and projected business value. Teams will often begin these programs with applications that have fewer dependencies but high business value to gain experience they can leverage when performing more complex migrations in the future.
- Mapping dependencies: By automating dependency mapping, teams reveal the relationships among applications, servers, and other components in their companies’ IT infrastructure.
- Planning and designing initiatives: Teams will develop a comprehensive migration plan with desired technical and business outcomes as they design target cloud architectures. The plan should provide a vision state, roadmap, and stakeholder collaboration and communications plan. It should also outline how IT teams will ensure the scalability, security, performance, and compliance of new applications.
A leading CMDB with ADM capabilities enables teams to use dependency information to build move groups around core infrastructure services automatically. Then, the cloud recommendation engine combines this information with resource utilization data gathered from workloads, offering custom-tailored migration target instance sizing suggestions with pricing. Next, the CMDB documents the migration, while Webhooks power automation, empowering IT teams to complete tasks such as automating server builds.
- Selecting the right provider and services: IT teams should select the cloud provider that best aligns with their technical and business requirements. They’ll want to consider cloud providers’ service offerings, compatibility, security, compliance, pricing, support — and customer case studies and reviews.
- Implementing robust security measures: Teams should use ADM data to make sure they are encrypting data in transit and at rest and implementing strong access controls, authentication, and network security measures.
Use Case 2: Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
ADM processes and data provide disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) teams with the clarity they need to develop and test programs. BC teams strive to keep a company running during a severe incident, while DR teams recover data and infrastructure in its aftermath. With comprehensive application and service mapping, teams can zero in on those essential to maintaining enterprise resiliency.
They can use ADM tools to create DR and BC plans, including:
- Analyzing and planning: BC/DR teams leverage ADM insights to create a master plan that describes in-scope applications, the services they support, and dependencies. The plan will also provide roles and responsibilities, service-level agreements, escalation procedures, failover strategies, and testing schedules.
- Proactively making changes: IT teams use ADM findings to prioritize changes and configurations for mission-critical applications to improve performance and stability.
- Testing BC/DR strategies: Teams run IT discovery jobs to update BC/DR plans and inform periodic testing of all failover strategies and procedures.
- Ensuring effective communications: ADM data provides the insights that BC/DR teams need to communicate affected applications and services, scope of incidents, and resolution plans and timeframes to key stakeholders. Visualizations and reporting, in turn, enable these leaders to make better decisions and communicate plans to their customers.
Use Case 3: Performance Monitoring and Troubleshooting
Leading ADM tools reveal all applications in an IT environment, their manufacturers and business owners, version numbers, and functions. They also help teams visualize related services, including users, protocols, and ports. Granular insights include install location, date, registry information, permissions, and configuration files for all software components.
IT teams can use dependency analysis tools to monitor applications, looking for anomalies that can harm performance, such as excessive calls from upstream resources or database queries. Teams review real-time insights, scrutinizing application and service availability, traffic flow, and transaction times. With fast, automated discovery of all affected resources, IT service management (ITSM) teams can focus their troubleshooting efforts on the right resources and speed time to resolution.
IT operations teams can optimize application performance by using ADM data to identify bottlenecks, prioritize fixes by business impact, and implement changes and configurations to restore throughput.
Use Case 4: Security and Compliance
Advanced ADM tools use a variety of methods, such as WMI, SSH, SNMP, NetFlow, Support, Big Name, Cisco, BMC, DNS, and inventory data pulls to auto-discover all hardware, software, and virtualized devices, wherever they are located.
Teams can use this information to:
- Discover and prevent shadow IT: Security teams leverage real-time ADM insights to rapidly detect unapproved, unknown resources, working with business owners to decommission them and resolve compliance violations.
- Identify and remediate security vulnerabilities: ADM tools integrated with CMDBs detail all changes and configurations. With this information, teams can identify solutions that need proper patching and prioritize work.
- Proactively manage out aging technology: With ADM data, security teams can identify systems that are nearing end-of-life or support, decommissioning them or replacing them with cloud systems that offer better capabilities, scalability, and security.
- Improve DevSecOps processes: ADM processes and data empower DevSecOps teams. They can visualize and consider dependencies to ensure security is integrated into CI/CD pipelines.
- Maintain regulatory compliance: Enterprises are governed by regional, country, and industry regulations covering data security and privacy. In addition, customers may require automated IT discovery and dependency mapping capabilities. An ADM tool can help teams identify applications and data stores, evaluate their security, and make any improvements needed to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.
Use Case 5: Application Rationalization and Modernization
More than half (54%) of all IT teams surveyed in 2022 planned to modernize custom applications over the coming year. The primary strategies used were rehosting (20%), re-platforming (18%), and refactoring (17%).
IT teams want to select the best modernization plan for each application in their portfolio, proactively consider and address dependencies, and evaluate provider fit based on a range of considerations. Often, the full range of dependencies is unknown.
With ADM capabilities, IT teams can quickly map all upstream and downstream dependencies to determine the complexity of migrating applications, consider their importance to the business, and quantify the impacts of the migration. They can use this data to create a strategy for every application in the portfolio, prioritize high-value applications for modernization, and mitigate risk. Likely, applications with lagging processes will simply be replaced or retired.
An ADM tool provides helpful granular insights. It demonstrates which service on a machine or instance is connected to other services on other machines, automatically adds application components based on service groupings on a server, and grabs configuration data for major applications. As a result, IT teams can see all services on a machine grouped as individual applications, as well as how they have been configured.
Teams can use ADM insights to identify the best targets for modernization and develop solid business cases outlining the scope of work, cost, and timeframes to modernize and expected business benefits. By doing so, they can achieve ROI by driving cost savings, new revenues, improved workforce productivity, and enhanced operational efficiency.
Best Practices for Effective ADM
So, how can teams ensure ADM efforts are successful? Best practices include:
- Choosing the right ADM tools and solutions: ADM tools will be used by multiple teams for strategic initiatives, such as cloud migrations, application modernization, IT operations, ITSM, M&A integrations, and more. It makes sense to do due diligence when selecting and implementing ADM tools. Teams should look for solutions using agentless and agent-based processes to discover all devices across hybrid cloud infrastructures.
- Ensuring data accuracy and consistency in ADM: ADM tools will automatically discover all devices and dependencies. However, teams should still review data to ensure accuracy and investigate anomalies. For example, if applications are incorrectly tagged, this data will be pulled into dependency insights.
- Improving collaboration and communication for ADM projects: IT teams can enable role-based access and other permissions for admins and super-users, determining who can view what data and who can change it. That may mean segmenting access privileges by location, such as a particular region or data center; device types, such as servers or routers; or capability, such as IP address management.
IT teams can also automate reporting to improve stakeholder communication and empower members to make better decisions. They can use pre-defined reports or build their own and then schedule them for ongoing distribution.
- Continuously monitoring and updating dependencies: Teams will want to auto-schedule jobs and provide data to all groups that need it so that enterprises can improve governance, security, and long-term planning, among other processes.
- Scaling and future-proofing your ADM strategy: Only automated processes can scale with hybrid cloud infrastructure and business growth. If teams are still tracking dependencies with spreadsheets and other tools, they should consider adopting an ADM tool that automates IT discovery and dependency mapping. In addition, they may consider deploying a solution that offers other capabilities, such as IT asset management and CMDB, to future-proof their ADM strategy.
ADM Challenges and Considerations to Overcome
Common challenges and considerations with ADM include:
- Managing complex infrastructures: With hybrid cloud infrastructures, enterprise networks are becoming more complicated. ADM tools can help teams manage complexity by visualizing all resources and dependencies.
- Ensuring accurate, effective documentation: ADM tools capture existing information. Teams can improve ADM information by using standard naming conventions for all resources, tagging them correctly, and reviewing ADM reports to ensure accuracy.
- Maintaining data privacy and security: ADM tools provide vital information about how corporate networks run and operate, offering deep insight into how services are deployed, their dependencies, the users they serve, and how data is used. As a result, IT and security teams will want to regularly review ADM roles and privileges, applying the concept of least-privilege granted and deactivating users who no longer need access.
In addition, IT and security teams will want to act on data ADM jobs provide by mitigating security gaps and weaknesses or evolving data practices that are not compliant with governing regulations. By doing so, they can improve data privacy and security.
- Addressing resource allocations and skillset requirements: Key owners for ADM information and related processes will want to ensure they allocate sufficient personnel to run ADM processes. In addition, they’ll want to vet vendors by their training and support resources, which will be used to onboard new users. Users typically leverage demos, how-to videos, and wikis to learn and master new processes.
Improve Enterprise Processes with Automated ADM Processes and Best Practices
To modernize and scale IT operations, teams need an ADM tool. Automated IT discovery, dependency mapping, and reporting can be used to optimize myriad industry use cases: supporting business growth, enhancing infrastructure security and performance, and enabling fast resolution of severe and routine issues.
If you haven’t deployed an ADM tool and adopted best practices, now is the time to start.
Using a tool that discovers assets and maps dependencies is a core capability to enabling modern IT operations.