Chris LaPoint SolarWinds

Commentary

An app-centric view can help do away with DOD’s siloes

In warfare, even the slightest adjustment can make a significant difference. Therefore, it’s important for commanders to take a holistic view of everything that could potentially impact their troops’ efforts. Not doing so could undermine the entire battle plan.

The same thought process applies to federal system administrators. They should maintain a complete view of their entire application stack – or “app stack.” They should obtain clear insight and analysis into applications and all of the software, middleware, and hardware components used to run them. They should also keep a close watch on storage, virtualization, server hardware and networks.

They should – but a siloed approach to IT often prevents this. In fact, most Defense Department system administrators continue to rely on approaches that do not afford them cross-domain visibility or app-centric correlation between layers.

That’s simply not a sustainable model for the increasing number of defense organizations that depend on heavily complex and layered app stacks. In these organizations, identifying the root cause of a problem often involves trying to sift through multiple domain layers that are being used by individual applications. Each of these domains might have their own management tools, adding to the complexity. This leads to a lot of time spent trying to identify application-specific problems, causes and potential resolutions. It’s a burden that ends up costing the entire agency.

Defense Department survey results indicate response times are still too slow.

This fact was borne out by a survey that my company, SolarWinds, recently initiated. The vast majority of the more than 150 respondents stated they could determine the source of a problem “within 7 to 24 hours.” About 53 percent of respondents said they could fix the problem within that same timeframe.

That’s still too long, because taking hours – let alone a whole day – to resolve an issue can lead to other significant problems. IT managers can waste a lot of time sorting through the app stack to solve an issue, and DOD workers can be impacted by system downtime caused by a single, unruly app. This can seriously impede workers from doing the jobs they’re meant to be doing.

On the topic of downtime, 93 percent of survey respondents claimed they could minimize downtime to less than an hour. Regardless, it’s also likely that they’re continuing to experience significant delays, particularly since we know it’s taking IT up to a day to fix problems. So, while an application might not be completely down, it’s still probably pretty slow and adversely impacting workflow and processes.

This simply will not cut it in today’s “always-on” environment. Defense workers need constant and immediate access to information. Anything that slows down that access – or, heaven forbid, shuts it off completely – is a major detriment. Therefore, Defense Department IT pros need to act immediately to address issues as soon as they occur.

Tackling the problem means changing the perspective.

To combat this, DOD IT pros need to stop looking at the different components of their ecosystem as separate pieces, and begin seeing them as a whole. After all, they might be different apps using separate domains and built for unique purposes, but, at the end of the day, they’re all working together to achieve common goals for the agency.

This requires changing perspectives, both literally and figuratively. All IT workers must consider the entire app stack as opposed to, for example, a person in charge of storage only worrying about storage-related apps. This can be achieved only by eschewing the old perspective of taking a siloed approach.

We don’t live in a simple IT world anymore. We’re now dealing with applications running on more and more dynamic and abstracted systems architectures with virtualization, storage, databases and more. The only way to manage this type of complexity is to elevate one’s view of the entire operation. Whatever the means, it has to be done – and it starts with an all-inclusive, app-centric approach.

About the Author

Chris LaPoint is vice president of product management at IT management software provider SolarWinds, based in Austin, Texas.

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