How to prevent app sprawl from damaging customer experience

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The proliferation of apps poses a significant IT challenge for companies that want to use new technologies and simplify processes at the same time.

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The pandemic prompted companies to launch many new apps. Now they don’t know what to do with all of them.

The average company runs between 254 and 364 applications and digital services, less than half of which are regularly used by employees. This phenomenon has a name: “Application wild growth”.

Application or app proliferation is a holdover from the early days of the pandemic, when businesses needed to quickly bring their services and infrastructure online to meet the needs of employees and customers. Some companies were already moving in this direction, but the emergence of COVID-19 accelerated and broadened the transition. This has directly led to a seismic shift towards cloud computing and the adoption of cloud-native technologies.

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“The cloud has the ability to become very elastic, allowing you to handle spikes in demand or unexpected events that require scale and resiliency,” said Gregg Ostrowski, CTO Advisor at Cisco AppDynamics, a leading provider of observability and application performance monitoring technology. “This flexibility allows companies to quickly scale operations while testing new apps and software.”

Cloud-native environments are highly dynamic and volatile, based on thousands of containers that produce massive amounts of data every second. Additionally, many companies are still running some legacy infrastructure on-premises, and this “creates a very sprawling, distributed architecture that actually powers these applications,” says Mr. Ostrowski.

Almost three years into the pandemic, IT departments are gripped by complexity and overwhelming data noise. As more apps are introduced into an organization’s ecosystem, more layers are created that need to be monitored and optimized to ensure customers and employees enjoy a flawless digital experience to ensure desired business outcomes are achieved.

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Many IT teams suffer from blind spots in cloud-native application architectures without the visibility they need to quickly identify and resolve potential performance issues. The result is a constant firefight in the IT department, with technicians struggling to avoid potentially damaging disruptions and outages. This, in turn, means wasted spending, increased vulnerability to security threats, and less time for IT teams to focus on strategic transformation goals.

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Industry surveys have found that the proliferation of tools and apps often makes IT teams’ jobs more complicated than necessary, especially when trying to diagnose and resolve customer issues.

Customers and employees find it difficult to understand these behind-the-scenes issues. “People’s mindset today is that if they encounter a problem, they don’t accept low-power applications and react very violently,” says Mr. Ostrowski. He points to a study conducted by AppDynamics during the 2022 holiday season, in which 59 percent of Canadian consumers admit they would feel uncomfortable if the apps and digital services they used to find great deals during the holiday season weren’t working and angry.

“If an application doesn’t work, consumers just move on,” Mr. Ostrowski continues. “They have zero tolerance for applications that don’t meet their expectations, so companies simply can’t afford to slip up. Organizations need to deliver flawless applications and digital services at all times, so they need to find ways to manage increasing IT complexity in a way that doesn’t impact customers.”

He adds that his company’s AppDynamics cloud solution enables companies to cut through the complexity and noise of data to deliver the high-quality digital experiences people expect.

“When we built AppDynamics Cloud, we looked at what our customers are focused on and we looked at the challenges they faced,” says Mr. Ostrowski. “A fundamental problem for enterprises is that the complexity of cloud-native application architectures makes it difficult for them to even see where problems are occurring. Traditional monitoring tools don’t provide an end-to-end view of the entire cloud application ecosystem.”

For IT teams to properly understand how their application is performing, they need visibility across the application layer, into supporting digital services (like microservices or Kubernetes), and into the underlying infrastructure services.

AppDynamics Cloud provides cloud operations engineers, site reliability engineers, and DevOps engineers with deep, end-to-end visibility across their entire application ecosystem. Crucially, AppDynamics Cloud enables IT teams to monitor the health of key business transactions scattered across their technology landscape. When an issue is identified, they can follow business transaction telemetry, allowing them to quickly identify the root cause of issues and route them to the right teams for expedited resolution.

This ability to generate real-time insights into business transactions and then display them in business-level dashboards is also critical for executives to measure and analyze the value their innovation programs are delivering. This means they can make quick but informed decisions about where to focus their investments based on what will deliver the most value for customers, employees and the business. This allows them to validate their technology investments and achieve their transformation goals.

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The shift to cloud-native observability will be critical in 2023. AppDynamics’ Journey to Observability report showed how growing complexity and the need to simplify big datasets are driving organizations to prioritize observability.

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In Canada, 100 percent of technologists surveyed said it was important to be able to directly correlate technology performance across the IT stack with business outcomes to prioritize actions based on greatest impact. Encouragingly, 86 percent said their organizations have made progress in improving visibility into their IT stacks over the past year.

Cloud-native observability can also help ensure that costs match demand. Businesses may need to increase their computing and storage capacity at certain times and adjust it at other times, Mr. Ostrowski says, particularly for companies that experience seasonal fluctuations. AppDynamics Cloud gives teams the tools to model different scenarios and allocate resources appropriately, ultimately minimizing infrastructure costs.

Another benefit of a cloud-native observability tool, Ostrowski says, is that it breaks down operational silos and aligns IT teams. “You have a network team, you have an infrastructure team, you have a security team, you have a DevOps team,” he says. “It’s about aligning all of these teams so that they have a common set of tools that they can use to see what’s going on.”

This centralized approach and increased visibility also enables employees across IT departments to understand how the projects they work on impact others, including those within the organization and its customers. “It gives you an understanding of how the entities are all connected in some way,” says Mr. Ostrowski.

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Today’s digital-first era and the accompanying shift to cloud-native brings with it challenges and opportunities. With solutions like AppDynamics Cloud, organizations can simplify the inherent complexity of this environment and deliver the exceptional digital experiences people expect.

Promotional feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Cisco. The Globe editors were not involved.

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