A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the rising number of ‘computer glitch’ articles during 2013 and discussed that our approach to technology monitoring is not good enough for today’s digital economy. Equally I have also seen an increasing number of inquiries in relation to monitoring and management strategies as businesses start to realize the importance of business technology monitoring. This has been good to see but in order to achieve ROI from any monitoring or management solution investment you have to firstly understand the business importance of the IT or digital services that you provide before making any purchasing decisions. While working on Forrester’s TechRadar on Business Technology Monitoring it became evident that the monitoring solution market is evolving at quite a fast pace with a number of developments in infrastructure, application and end user monitoring resulting in new features and new solution approaches.
So if you are responsible for, or are involved in, your company’s technology monitoring or management strategy then here are the major, high level market developments that you need to be aware of:
1. Commoditization of the technology monitoring market.Commoditization is creeping up the management stack in regard to technology monitoring. Big IT management software companies like BMC Software, CA Technology, IBM, Oracle, and VMware have acquired a variety of companies and their technologies. After acquisition, a number of founders left, creating a pool of rich innovators who have formed new companies that have focused on new, innovative solutions. This has resulted in the availability of low-cost, open source, high-quality alternatives to larger vendors' products in the market. There are a number of examples here such as AppDynamics, Boundary and New Relic to name a few.
2. Simplification of operations by focusing on user interface (UI) design.Monitoring the performance and availability of IT and business services is increasingly complex enough without adding into the mix a complex monitoring technology UI. Customers don't want to jump numerous "screen hurdles" to find the cause of an incident or problem. This has plagued many early monitoring technology solutions. Vendors are becoming more cognizant of this and are focusing on features that allow easy, wizard-driven monitoring configuration and navigation. Again there are a number of solution examples here but one that caught my eye on a recent briefing was uptime software Inc.'s approach to incident priority reporting that helps the operator understand which incidents are having the most potential impact.
3. Software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based monitoring solutions.The advent of cloud computing has prompted monitoring vendors to look at the viability of providing SaaS-based versions of their applications, or for new vendors to enter the market with just a SaaS offering. The benefits of SaaS solutions for monitoring are that it takes away the initial installation and upgrade chores. Customers should still be aware that time, effort, and, potentially, cost, will still be accrued in the configuration of monitoring solutions for their environment. Many vendors now provide SaaS based versions of their monitoring solutions. One recent announcment here was Compuware's APM As A Service (APMaaS).
4. "Freemium" versions of solutions.To truly test and evaluate a monitoring solution, you need to deploy it in a live environment. Many fee-associated solutions offer time-limited licenses for you to do this, but our inquiries with Forrester clients highlight that, more often than not, these trial licenses have to be extended. This is prompting monitoring technology vendors, who can offer a lightweight installation or a SaaS option, to offer an unlimited-time, limited-feature version of the product, making it easier for IT to evaluate the solution. One recent example is the release of CA Nimsoft Monitor Snap which allows you to monitor up to 30 devices for free without any license time constraints.
5. A focus on customer satisfaction, which includes fostering customer communities. Vendors have realized that competitive success depends on developing long-term relationships with existing customers. Successful vendors now look to develop customer communities by using online social networks and holding regular, in-person customer events. As a result, new customers feel part of a community that they can turn to for help or sharing ideas and best practices. One vendor that has created an impressive customer community is Splunk. I have attended a couple of their customer days in the UK and have been very impressed by how well attended these events are and how they are led by very enthusiastic customers.
6. Integration of tools finally showing some promise of improvement.For years, one of the biggest hurdles of monitoring software has been the difficult task of integrating tools. Building a multi-vendor portfolio proved the worst of all scenarios, but even single-vendor suites were a struggle. Vendors are finally trying a new approach that offers some promise. Instead of perpetuating challenging point-to-point API integration, they are trying object-model integration. Most highlight this as a configuration management database (CMDB) capability, but, in reality, the approach is more aligned to the service information system (SIS), which is richer and more flexible than a CMDB.
7. Analytics, analytics, analytics. Every vendor solution briefing that I have attended during 2013 hasmentioned the word “analytics”. This is not just another IT buzzword. Good analytics features in which rapid insight and knowledge can be ascertained from the vast amount of data being monitored is a real game changer in this market and potentially for your organization. I have heard many descriptions of what analytics for monitoring is about. For some vendors it’s ‘easy “business” reporting’ (I don’t agree with this description), for others it’s speeding up Mean Time To Know (MTTK) and Repair (MTTR) but for me it’s ultimately about the ability to use natural language to query and make business insight into the vast amount of data collected. Are any vendors doing this at the moment? Well, Splunk are coming closer to this with release 6 of their solution but I am sure that 2014 will bring more exciting announcements.
I know there are a number more developments that I have not mentioned here but hope that this initial list gives you a sense of what is changing in the monitoring solutions market. As always I am happy to hear your thoughts.