An application-centric approach to virtualisation

The complexity of managing virtualised servers means that IT departments must take an application-centric approach to ensure that business functions do not suffer.

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To increase the ROI of their virtualisation efforts, organisations are virtualising servers that support business-critical applications.

While many tools help manage virtual servers, they provide little real-time, actionable data on how the virtualised applications are performing and how they interact with one another and the infrastructure on which they reside.

To ensure transactional business applications are functioning properly in a mixed virtual/physical server environment, IT managers must take an application-centric approach to management and optimisation, and they can get what they need in next-generation Application Service Management (ASM) tools.

With applications abstracted from the physical server hosting the virtual machine (VM), support organisations must be able to determine where an application is bogging down. However, many do not have the visibility necessary to monitor what or how their applications are doing on the VMs. They can measure and report symptoms but cannot diagnose the cause.

The typical siloed approach to problem identification focuses on the VM, the server or the network. This fails to show where the application goes and the shape of its infrastructure (virtual, physical or both), and only provides a fraction of the performance details required for effective problem solving. Because virtualisation breaks the one-to-one relationship of server-to-application, organisations can no longer solely rely on machine performance indicators to determine the health of their applications.

Application dependencies must be mapped and monitored across servers and operating systems throughout the enterprise. With an application-centric approach and the proper ASM tools to visualise interdependencies down to the process level, application owners and IT support teams can keep complex applications performing well.

This approach relies on the following application-specific data for effective problem triage and resolution: application structure and dependencies; response times; specific resources used; bytes sent & received; and processes maintained, dropped or stalled.

Only by following the application service level, with insight into health and performance at each hop along the dependency chain, can application support dive into the server stack to determine if there are bad connections, an overloaded VM, server-hosting conflicts or any number of server-related issues.

Consider this example: A company virtualised much of its data center and suddenly a user's application became non-responsive. After two days of work, application support realised a server the application depended on had been converted to a VM, yet the application was still making calls to the original physical machine.

An application-centric ASM approach would have mapped shifting application relationships as they migrated to a virtual infrastructure, allowing support to follow the application, isolate the problem, and save days and thousands of dollars in downtime and diagnostics.

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