4 building blocks for app stack dominance
- By Chris LaPoint
- Dec 04, 2014
In the classic game Jenga, players construct a tower by taking 54 wooden blocks and placing them precariously on top of each other. The object is to build the tower as high as possible without it falling apart. The problem is that the blocks are so interdependent that one slipup can cause the whole thing to fail.
Today’s federal IT structure is built very much like a Jenga tower, as many IT organizations have developed a heavy reliance on application stacks. App stacks are composed of application codes and all of the software and hardware components needed to effectively and reliably run critical applications.
But like the blocks in Jenga, the components within app stacks – including the apps themselves, virtualization tools, operating systems and more – are very tightly integrated. If one has a problem, it could take the entire application tower down.
It’s enough to make even the most hardened federal IT manager want to knock over some blocks. But don’t lose your cool. Instead, take heart, because there are ways to better manage this complexity. Here are areas to focus on, along with suggested methodologies and tools:
1. Knock down silos and embrace a holistic viewpoint.
Thanks to app stacks, the siloed approach to IT is quickly becoming irrelevant. Instead, managing app stacks requires a holistic approach. Stop thinking about specific apps as separate pieces and begin realizing that each application serves to support the entire IT foundation.
That being said, you’ll still need to be able to identify and address specific problems when they come up. But you don’t have to go it alone; there are tools that, together, can help you get a grasp on your app stack.
2. Dig through the code and use performance monitoring tools to identify problems.
There are many reasons an app might fail, including code issues, configuration changes, faulty updates and more. Your job is to identify the cause of the failure. To do that you’ll need to look closely at the application layer and keep a close eye on key performance metrics using performance monitoring tools. These tools can help you identify potential problems, including memory leaks, service failures and other seemingly minor issues that can cause an app to nosedive and take the rest of the stack with it.
3. Stop manually digging through your virtualization layers.
It’s likely that you have virtualization layers buried deep in your app stack. These layers probably consist of virtual machines that are frequently migrated from one physical server to another and storage that needs to be reprovisioned, reallocated and presented to servers.
Handling this manually can be extremely daunting, and identifying a problem in this soup – amid all the other app stack components – can seem impossible. To simplify virtualization management within the app stack, consider integrating an automated VM management approach with the aforementioned performance monitoring tools to gain complete visibility of these key app stack components.
4. Maximize and monitor storage capabilities.
Storage is the number one catalyst behind application failures. Most storage systems simply are not equipped to handle the amount of data housed by federal agencies. The best approach here is to ensure that you have the appropriate number of disks and spindles to handle the load and that the system is optimized for mission-critical applications.
Even then, however, you’ll want to implement a storage management system that helps monitor performance, automates storage capacity and supplies regular reports so you can ensure applications continue to run smoothly.
For simplicity’s sake, it’s important to note that addressing these problems will typically incorporate skills and solutions you already have. In fact, you’re probably already very familiar with these solutions, so the need for additional training will likely be negligible. And while there may be additional costs incurred – particularly if you need to purchase additional storage solutions – those will likely be offset by the return on investment of your efforts.
The ROI will most likely be well worth it. You’ll be able to maintain uptime, leading to consistent and perhaps increased productivity throughout the organization. You’ll also be able to maximize your own resources and spend more time within IT adding value to the organization, rather than blindly trying to chase down problems.
And you’ll be able to keep building your app stack – without the fear of it all tumbling down.
Chris LaPoint is vice president of product management at IT management software provider SolarWinds, based in Austin, Texas.