For quite a while now, mobile designers, software programmers and whole lot of others have understood intuitively that the “app” or application is one of the most important parts of an IT system. But now there is a comprehensive philosophy that serves this idea in modern design. It's called application-centric IT management, and it's becoming a popular part of how we upgrade and modernize systems. But what is it?
“Business staff is not interested in the technical details and explanations of why their application fails to perform adequately,” reads the front line of a page from Enterprise Management Associates that goes on to lay out the concept of application-centric IT management. This is one of the most concise descriptions of what application-centric IT management actually is — it's a way to structure IT processes and systems with the application at the top of the pedestal. It's a way to serve things like constant uptime, availability of data and end-user service using those raw materials of a hardware system: databases, virtual machines, storage arrays and servers.
But at its core, application-centric IT management is a philosophy — the details are in the interpretation. We asked a few IT professionals about how they think application-centric IT management works to advance the principles of an always-connected user and always-available data.
For Sai Gundavelli, CEO and founder of Solix Technologies, application-centric management is data management. According to the company website, Solix pioneered the concept of Enterprise Data Management.
“Fundamentally, behind each application it is the data, we suggest to focus on data management to manage applications,” Gundavelli said, breaking down applications into three categories: active, test and inactive. For the active stage, Gundavelli recommended implementing an archive to reduce the data footprint. In test applications, he said, it’s important to keep a tighter hold on sensitive data to prevent leaks.
For inactive applications, Gundavelli said, the issue is disposal: “You will end up with applications that need to be retired. We recommend to retire those old applications, while you retain that data for compliance, etc.”
Break Down Silos
A lot of experts also talk about silos when they talk about application-centric IT management. Michael Thompson is director of systems management business for Solarwinds, and says breaking down silos is part of a top-level system for making sure systems are available to end users.
“When an application slows or goes down, end users have zero tolerance,” Thompson said, citing a study where over 60% of respondents called apps “critical” to their day-to-day work.
Along with getting information out of silos and into a free-flowing architecture, Thompson also stressed the need to test performance across the platform, and to increase the visibility of what the system is doing.
Optimizing Storage Tools
Erik Ottem is director of product marketing at Violin Memory. Ottem said his company’s products speak to another segment of app-centric IT, which is managing storage.
Detailing how Violin storage products work for clients like Juniper Networks and Tyson Chicken, Ottem pointed to a few central “needs” of the app-centric model: cost and efficiency, and ability to handle floods of big data.
"For existing transaction-based applications that are commonly the lifeblood of the company built around sophisticated database designs, the requirement is to reduce cost, and make sure the data is always safe. One way to reduce cost is through application and data center consolidation,” Ottem said.
Also, there’s the advent of mobile and big data. “Just as mobile creates new ways to do transactions on the front end, it creates a flood of new information to be examined on the back end with analytics. Having storage that can quickly digest and analyze data to make sure operations are running as efficiently as possible pays big dividends,” Ottem said, adding details about how Violin creates a “layered approach” for services.
“Our mirroring capability allows customers to keep data in two nearby locations so if something happens to one location, no data is lost, and there is minimal impact to operations (zero RPO and RTO),” explained Ottem. “For locations a little further apart, we offer synchronous replication on the Flash Storage Platform, which keeps two copies of the data in continual alignment for data protection for distances up to 100 km, so applications continue with only a slight delay. For additional protection we also offer asynchronous replication so that data can be copied anywhere in the world for protection against wide area disasters like storms and earthquakes.”
Connectivity Serving Application Services
John Luludis is president of Superior Technology Solutions in Pearl River, NY. Superior has produced a software called Schedule-Cloud that handles things like interactive employee scheduling, employee attendance, event management and reporting.
Schedule-Cloud is hosted on the cloud using Amazon Web Services and supports over-the-air download of the mobile hybrid app. Security includes public key infrastructure that supports certificate-based authentication.
Luludis talked about how Superior apps are supported. “Superior’s Web and mobile hybrid applications were designed to leverage code reusability and deployment ease on any kind of infrastructure,” he said. “The Superior hybrid app currently uses AngularJS, PhoneGap/Ionic framework to build powerful and responsive apps that provides native look and feel across all mobile devices. The mobile apps have the capability to store information locally and/or real-time sync information to the Superior’s backend services via secured REST Web services.”
The Customer is King
Nearly all focuses on application-centric IT management will include a lot of consideration of the end user. There's the idea that no matter what happens on the back end, it serves that greater purpose of delivering services to the front end. This is a little bit of a change from some legacy systems that made end users jump through hoops to satisfy the requirements of a code base, and it's also part of that drive for modernization that's making websites more responsive, streamlining e-commerce processes and making sure that more of us can get more through the tiny screens of our smartphones.