Application dependency mapping in any network aims to help you piece together a comprehensive map of your entire ecosystem from end to end. Blind spots are where mistakes or breach occur, and in today’s hyper-connected IT world, it is easy to lose sight of both the big picture and the details.
Knowing your asset inventory is not enough in today’s fast-paced IT world. Traditionally, enterprises had relatively simple networks, but most companies today are working in a heterogeneous environment with on-premises infrastructure as well as multi- or hybrid clouds, hypervisors, container systems, and microservices. Visibility is more challenging than ever before.
To stay on top of your environment, your business needs to have a view of all server hardware, software applications, certificates, patch levels, and virtualized and cloud technologies. You should be able to quickly see how these devices and applications connect and communicate with each other as well as how changes to one affect the other.
This is where application mapping or network discovery tools come in. This technology can identify and map out all the instances, communications channels, and applications that are being used in your IT ecosystem as well as the ports and services that are being used. The best solutions can also quickly and easily define VPCs, subnets, and security groups on cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, and GPS.
When displayed on an intuitive map, you have a visual representation of your application dependencies that can be shared, examined, or used for planning and troubleshooting. This visualization can be used for business strategy, organizing by business context, and prioritizing critical alerts and information in real time.
What Are Application Dependencies?
Application dependencies occur when technology components, applications, networks, storage, and servers rely on one another to deliver functionality and when changes made to one element are likely to impact the other.
How Does Application Dependency Mapping Work?
There are two standard types of application mapping solutions.
Agent-based application mapping tools: These solutions require you to install a third-party solution on your computers and servers to create a map of all applications, and therefore include the risks inherent in giving access to third parties. They can also impact your computer’s performance, slowing it down or causing the battery to burn out faster.
Active/scheduled scans: Another option is to schedule scans at specific time intervals in which the system sends pings to network devices and creates a map from the responses. The scans impact latency and performance, so they cannot be conducted on an ongoing basis. Therefore, they only give you a window into your IT ecosystem, and you discover only the things that happen during the time of the scan.
Read more here.
Why is Application Dependency Mapping Important?
Knowing what you have in your ecosystem is an important first step, but it is essential to recognize the effects that all of your servers and applications have on one another. This is not included in native cloud solutions for network discovery. If you cannot see the dependencies between your applications, it is difficult to estimate the impact of changes or identify a problem’s root cause.
When it comes to use cases like change impact analysis, application dependencies are a true must-have. Getting the most out of network or application discovery means having a clear visual of all dependencies in the network, preferably shown in a user-friendly way.
IT teams need to understand how the different components of their physical and virtual infrastructure interact to allocate resources efficiently and mitigate risk.
Application dependency mapping (ADM) or application discovery tools and dependency mapping (ADDM) identifies all the elements in an IT ecosystem and how they work together in real-time so you can simulate changes and migrations and understand their impact. When something goes wrong, ADM helps IT teams identify the failure point quickly and determine the best course of action.
For example, if one of your applications isn’t performing well, application dependency mapping can help you find the application performance bottleneck and figure out what resources might be overtaxed or compromised.
ADM can help you:
- Prevent unplanned outages
Predict and mitigate problems ahead of time through simulations and an accurate understanding of how different components interact.
Generate a granular application topology map using network traffic to discover anything with an IP address and verify that nothing is overlooked during a migration.
Simulate and plan for change using a change impact analysis.
Create a tight microsegmentation policy by mapping your comprehensive network topology and dependencies, including defining VPCs, Subnets, and Security Groups on AWS. This protects your most important assets in case of a breach using the principle of least privilege.
The visibility gained through ADM helps isolate sensitive customer information so you remain compliant with the strict requirements of regulatory boards such as SWIFT or GDPR.
The Benefits of Using Application Dependency Mapping Software
Application dependency mapping gives you an accurate, end-to-end map of your entire IT ecosystem that lets you:
- Manage changes and understand how they will impact other elements and functionalities in the ecosystem.
- Easily migrate assets from your data center to the cloud. Read more here.
- Isolate critical assets or customer data with microsegmentation, seamlessly reducing risk.
How to Choose the Best Application Dependency Mapping Tool
When choosing an application dependency mapping solution, it’s important to consider the following factors:
- The size of the environment: It may be possible to install agents in an organization with 30 servers but in an enterprise with 10,000+ servers, it isn’t feasible.
- Security risk: Organizations that handle highly classified data may have limitations on the installment of third-party tools.
- Familiarity: If your organization is familiar with a specific solution you may prefer to continue using it if it meets your needs.
- Server supplier: It’s important to choose a solution that integrates with your server supplier (IBM, Oracle, etc.).
- Calculating your cloud optimization costs: Cloud infrastructure can be more cost-effective than physical infrastructure, but it’s easy for companies to overspend. Fortunately, there are tools available to help you optimize your cloud spending, such as native cloud provider tools and network optimization tools and techniques.
Be Platform- and OS-Agnostic
It is important to consider what environments are included in your application mapping solution. After all, you don’t want to limit your future business structure or technology changes. The optimal solution will not be limited to any particular infrastructure and will include legacy solutions and bare-metal as well as containers and multi-cloud. A platform-independent choice means you always have full visibility.
The same logic goes for any solution that is fixed to a certain operating system or uses templates for specific mapping options. A choice that utilizes network or wire data will always remain flexible if your business needs change.
When business do not follow this best practice, complexity can spiral. According to the latest Next Generation ITAM Report, “the average IT organization uses 11 or more different inventory and discovery tools, with more than 40 being common. All but the most efficient elite groups admit to having some lingering degree of Excel spreadsheet reliance to bridge the discrepancies.”
“In a recent survey, 1 EMA found that each respondent spent an average of 15 hours every week resolving discovery discrepancies. It stands to reason those superior capabilities in discovery, rationalization, and reconciliation are essential ingredients in next-generation caliber automation.”
Application Dependency Mapping Use Cases
Don’t underestimate how valuable it can be to have a deep understanding of all of your servers and applications, especially if it comes with insight into dependencies and communications. The best tools will offer the ability to define subnets, VPCs and Security Groups on AWS, too.
Whether you’re looking to see exactly what you have inside your four walls, ensure that no architecture or systems are flying beneath your business radar, or hoping to retire or consolidate assets, a full business map gives you confidence that you understand the consequences of any business decision that you’re making, ahead of time.
Faddom makes it easier to prevent configuration drift and unplanned outages with built-in change management impact analysis. The platform maintains an audit trail of any changes, highlighting the difference between your baseline topology map and what’s happening in real-time. It will even helps you understand the impact of any new deployments in advance.
It also helps mitigate risk—some of the biggest recent cyber-attacks have been exacerbated by business application issues that could have been solved with better visibility. From expired digital certificates to incorrect firewall configuration and dangerous application connections across subnets, Faddom brings problems to light for remediation.
Even change is changing. Read more in our blog post “Organizational Change Management: Essential Change Management Principles You Need to Know in 2021”.
Faddom simplifies the process of migrating assets from your data center to the public, private or hybrid cloud. We start with complete mapping, then discover all dependencies, working without agents or credentials. With ultimate visibility, you can efficiently assess and model specific workloads, right-sizing your instances for a successful cloud migration project.
Are you ready to migrate to the cloud? Find out using our cloud migration checklist or learn more on our blog the Psychology of Cloud Migration.
Faddom offers insightful discovery and mapping that help you isolate critical assets or customer data and seamlessly reduce risk. Faddom automatically discovers and maps your complex business environment, providing a visible and intuitive starting point for microsegmentation strategy.
Read more in our blog “A Beginners Guide to Microsegmentation and Network Microsegmentation”.
Do you have your bases covered? Check out our checklist for microsegmentation.
Proactive Incident Response
The problem with planning for incident response is that you can’t really imagine what the situation would be like in reality, which leads to gaps and blind spots. Think again. With an accurate map, you will be able to monitor your applications and systems to see how they will be impacted should an attacker get access your network, and you can create drills and simulations and then map the results.
When nothing is hidden, it’s easy to create smart security policy ahead of time, such as setting micro-perimeters using microsegmentation, or moving sensitive data to a more secure location. By identifying the at-risk areas of your network, you are best placed to create disaster recovery and backup solutions that are fit for purpose. Even in the worst case scenario of a data breach or attack, you have granular insight into your entire system, and have prepared ahead of time to limit the extent of an incident. You can use this evidence to limit the impact in terms of compliance or internal governance.
Root Cause Analysis
How much time do your IT staff or other stakeholders spend trying to work out what went wrong, and where? Reducing the time to resolution is one of the most important metrics that your business should be working on, as poor performance or system failure quickly turns into customer frustration and churn.
In a comprehensive business map that shows application dependencies, you can see at a glance any problems plaguing your organization, from the reason why you’re experiencing delays and bottlenecks, to any failed connections or service issues. Not only can you identify what’s wrong, but it should also be intuitive how to mitigate the problem and go back to business as usual.