How Brexit helped Credit Suisse prove the value of AppDynamics' monitoring tools

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Gemma Jackson, product manager for IT operations and automation at Credit Suisse EMEA

The Swiss financial services firm was piloting AppDynamics' application monitoring tools during the UK’s referendum vote, and it proved surprisingly beneficial

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AppDynamics' application monitoring tools played an important role in ensuring that Credit Suisse's FX trading platform was able to handle the market price fluctuations brought about by the UK Brexit vote, just two weeks after a major outage took its systems offline.

The Swiss financial services firm conducted its 'proof of value' (PoV) of the AppDynamics tools in the run up to the EU referendum, and the increased financial market volatility helped prove the return on investment immediately.

When it comes to silver linings, this is a pretty thin one, but the Swiss firm isn’t renowned for its risk taking, and the speed with which it adopted the app monitoring system following a trial process is an indication of how the software impressed upper management.

Speaking at the AppD Summit in London this week, Gemma Jackson, product manager for IT operations and automation at Credit Suisse EMEA explained that even though the firm was only using AppDynamics test licenses in development environments during the referendum, “about two weeks pre-Brexit there was an FX platform outage that we had put AppDynamics on for PoV".

“There was a one hour outage, which is huge and expensive, and on the call afterwards the team said that if they had AppDynamics they would have found the issue immediately, or maybe even had a heads up before the incident."

Naturally, this made upper management pay attention and Jackson’s team got approval to go live with the tool on that platform within five working days, just a week before the final Brexit vote on June 23, 2016. Credit Suisse saw volumes of up to eight times the norm on that day and the platform held up accordingly. In Jackson’s words: “We could catch up on the backlog and feel good about how systems were performing.”

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As most financial services firms will be able to sympathise with, Credit Suisse has a variety of legacy monitoring tools, many of which are siloed amongst its eight self-contained business units and variously spread across its 6,000 applications.

The firm initially turned to the open source community, adopting a plethora of tools (Redis, RabbitMQ, StatsD, Datura and Apache Spark, Kafka, Cassandra, to name just a few) to create its own monitoring tools for bare metal and basic application monitoring. However, it found that procuring a specialist vendor would be a more prudent approach when it came to the sort of granular monitoring required for critical apps.

Jackson identified dependencies, business process flow, baselining and dynamic visualisation as the sort of capabilities they wanted out of the box from AppDynamics. Jackson says that Credit Suisse is already seeing the benefit of being able to have “discussions based on fact with single pane of glass, which is powerful for us.” It has also allowed developers to spot “previously undocumented dependencies and re-architect apps and optimise accordingly”.

This forms just a small part of Credit Suisse’s broader push to consolidate its monitoring tools with IT centrally, and take a more proactive approach. This is internally called the IT wide monitoring strategy, and Jackson says they are half way through at the time of writing.

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To date, Credit Suisse has more than 30 applications in pre-production and live production with AppDynamics' application performance management (APM) platform. This includes the private bank and investment bank. The firm has already replaced 45 precent of the incumbent APM tools across the estate and completely decommission some rudimentary systems.

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