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Seeing past the complexity of a cloud-based future
Mon, 24th Sep 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Here's the understatement of the year; digitalisation is huge. As consumers increasingly turn to online and mobile channels to meet their needs, today's global economy has become progressively reliant on technology. Analysts such as Gartner forecast that 41% of enterprise revenue will come from digital business by 2020. As the capabilities of user devices become ever more advanced, consumers have come to expect a constant flow of new and exciting digital experiences from the brands and services they interact with.

This puts businesses under pressure to drive digital transformation faster and innovate more regularly, but they can't afford to sacrifice quality for speed. Users expect software to work perfectly every time, and in a world of declining brand loyalty, a poor digital experience can quickly erode revenue. This creates a conundrum for IT leaders; how can they achieve the agility the business requires, without risking everything in the process?

The rise of the cloud

As they've sought to meet that challenge, organisations have been moving more infrastructure and services to the cloud to benefit from the agility and stability it provides. The arrival of Salesforce in 1999 introduced the world to the possibilities of Software-as-a-Service, but the advent of AWS in 2006 created even greater potential through the concept of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). More recently, organisations have been restructuring applications using cloud-native architectures, such as dynamic microservices and containers, to allow them to function seamlessly in the cloud and create even greater levels of agility.

Fast-forward to today and the enterprise IT landscape is almost unrecognisable to what it was even just a few short years ago. The explosion of cloud services from a multitude of providers has given organisations the opportunity to create best-of-breed IT ecosystems for their unique requirements, rather than using a one-size-fits-all solution from a single vendor. As a result, web-scale, hybrid multi-cloud environments have become the new normal.

Modern IT environments span a vast array of cloud platforms and services; from AWS, OpenStack and Azure, to Docker, Kubernetes and OpenShift, not to mention the array of SaaS applications that are now widely deployed across most organisations.

The complexity conundrum

However, as well as providing the agility that modern digital businesses need to succeed, these new cloud environments are introducing huge amounts of complexity, making it almost impossible for IT teams to manage user experience and optimise digital performance effectively. Recent research by Dynatrace found that the average number of technology components a single web or mobile app transaction touches has increased from 22 to 35 in the last five years. With applications running as dynamic microservices in containerised environments, spread across web-scale hybrid multi-cloud ecosystems, it is much harder to keep track of where everything is and how it's performing.

There are now literally billions of hugely complex and intricate interdependencies between the components that make up digital services. This creates an almost infinite number of factors that can impact the user experience. As a result, it has become harder than ever to ensure that performance does not stop customer clicks turning into conversions that drive business revenues. It's not just about revenue though, it's also about reputation.

In today's ultra-competitive and connected digital economy, every customer counts, and one negative experience can have an untold impact on a company's image. Organisations, therefore, need to capture performance insights for every user, every click and every tap, across every device, to make sure every customer gets the VIP treatment. Traditional approaches to performance monitoring are simply unable to provide this level of visibility, having been designed for static environments that evolved slowly over time.

Beyond the mists of APM to the cloud-native land

Organisations, therefore, need to adopt new approaches to performance monitoring and user experience management to succeed in the cloud-native world. The first step is to consolidate the multitude of monitoring solutions that have been amassing organically in their IT departments in recent years. Separate dashboards monitoring each cloud environment can be incredibly costly, not to mention they provide a fragmented view of the user experience. Having end-to-end, full-stack visibility is essential to minimise total cost of ownership (TCO) and provide a single, holistic view of user-experience and digital performance across the enterprise.

It is also imperative to avoid just putting more ‘data on glass'. IT teams do not need more dashboards to trawl through, taking time and effort to manually configure and then monitor them. They just need answers and instant insight into where they can optimise user-experiences to maximise conversions.

They need causation capabilities to instantly identify the exact source of any performance problems and suggest solutions, rather than just raising more questions. To this end, AI and automation are becoming critical to performance management, enabling IT teams to auto-discover their dynamic IT ecosystems and analyse the dependencies between application and infrastructure components as they change in real-time.

In a progressively cloud-centric future, those that fail to adapt their approach to performance management will be increasingly bewildered by tranches of monitoring data that provide a fragmented and outdated view of the user experience. Embracing next-generation approaches that are centred on AI and automation will be the key to success for those striving to ride the crest of innovation and deliver seamless digital experiences.