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App sprawl poses a significant IT challenge for businesses looking to harness new tech while also simplifying processes.iStockPhoto / Getty Images

The pandemic made companies adopt a lot of new apps. Now they don’t know what to do with them all.

The average company is running between 254 and 364 applications and digital services, less than half of which are used regularly by employees. This phenomenon has a name: “application sprawl.”

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

“The cloud has the ability to become very elastic and enable you to handle spikes in demand or unexpected events requiring scaling and resiliency” explains Gregg Ostrowski, CTO Advisor at Cisco AppDynamics, a leading provider of Observability and Application Performance Monitoring technology. “That elasticity allows companies to scale operations quickly, testing out new apps and software along the way.”

Cloud native environments are highly dynamic and volatile, and they rely on thousands of containers that produce a massive volume of data every second. Additionally, many companies still run some legacy infrastructure on-premises, and it “creates a very sprawled out, dispersed architecture that’s actually powering these applications,” Mr. Ostrowski says.

Nearly three years since the start of the pandemic, IT departments are being engulfed by complexity and overwhelming data noise. As more apps are introduced into a company’s ecosystem, more layers are created that need to be monitored and optimized to ensure that customers and employees enjoy faultless digital experiences to ensure desired business outcomes are met.

Many IT teams are suffering due to blind spots within cloud native application architectures, without the visibility they need to identify and fix potential performance issues quickly. The result is constant firefighting in the IT department, with technologists scrambling to avoid potentially damaging disruption and outages. This, in turn, means unnecessary spending, increased vulnerability to security threats and IT teams having less time to focus on strategic transformation objectives.

Industry surveys have found that the proliferation of tools and apps often makes the work of IT teams more complicated than it needs to be, especially when attempting to diagnose and resolve customer problems.

Customers and employees have a hard time grasping these behind-the-scenes issues. “The mindset of folks today is that they will not put up with slow-performing applications and they react very strongly when they encounter a problem,” Mr. Ostrowski says. He points to research carried out by AppDynamics during the 2022 holiday season, in which 59 per cent of Canadian consumers admitted that if the applications and digital services they used to find great deals during the holiday season failed to perform, it would leave them feeling anxious and angry.

“If an application doesn’t work, consumers simply move on,” Mr. Ostrowski continues. “They have zero tolerance for applications that don’t meet their expectations, so organizations simply cannot afford any slip-ups. Businesses have to provide flawless applications and digital services at all times, so they need to find ways to manage spiraling IT complexity so that it doesn’t impact customers.”

He adds that his company’s AppDynamics Cloud solution allows organizations to cut through the complexity and data noise to deliver high-quality digital experiences people expect.

“When we built AppDynamics Cloud, we looked at where our customers are focusing and we looked at the challenges they had,” Mr. Ostrowski says. “A fundamental issue for organizations is that the complexity of cloud native application architectures makes it challenging for them to even identify where problems are occurring. Traditional monitoring tools don’t provide an end-to-end view of the entire cloud application ecosystem.”

In order for IT teams to properly understand how their application is performing, they need visibility across the application level, into supporting digital services (such as microservices or Kubernetes) and into underlying infrastructure services.

AppDynamics Cloud gives cloud operations engineers, site reliability engineers and DevOps engineers deep, end-to-end visibility across their entire application ecosystem. Crucially, AppDynamics Cloud enables IT teams to monitor the health of key business transactions distributed across their entire technology landscape. If an issue is detected, they can follow the thread of the business transaction’s telemetry data, so they can quickly identify the root cause of issues and triage them to the correct teams for expedited resolution.

This ability to generate business transaction insights in real-time, and then view them in business-level dashboards, is also vital for leaders to measure and analyze the value their innovation programs are delivering. It means they can make rapid but informed decisions on where to focus investments based on what will have the biggest benefit for customers, employees and the business. This will enable them to validate their technology investments and achieve their transformation objectives.

The shift to cloud-native observability will be critical in 2023. The Journey to Observability report from AppDynamics revealed how growing complexity and the need to simplify high volumes of data are now driving organizations to prioritize observability.

In Canada, 100 per cent of technologists surveyed claimed it’s important to be able to directly correlate technology performance across the full IT stack with business outcomes to prioritize actions based on what will have the biggest impact. Encouragingly, 86 per cent stated that their organizations had made progress over the past year in improving visibility across their IT stacks.

Cloud native observability can also help ensure costs are in line with demand. Businesses may need to increase their computing and storage capacities at certain times and right-size them at others, says Mr. Ostrowski, especially companies that experience seasonal fluctuations. AppDynamics Cloud gives teams the tools to model different scenarios and allocate resources appropriately, ultimately minimizing infrastructure costs.

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

This centralized approach and enhanced visibility also lets people across IT departments understand how the projects they’re working on impact others, including people in the business and its customers. “It gives you an understanding of how the entities are all kind of locked together,” Mr. Ostrowski says.

Today’s digital-first era and the accompanying move to cloud-native brings with it challenges and opportunities. Through solutions such as AppDynamics Cloud, organizations can simplify the complexity inherent in this environment and deliver the exceptional digital experiences people expect.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Cisco. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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