Why IT Mapping Needs an Application Dependency Mapping Tool

it mapping
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Today’s organizations operate in a hybrid multi-cloud and virtualized world that is far different from five years ago when application mapping was already crucial.

Every digital organization now needs a comprehensive (all environments), real-time, fast, and repeatable application dependency mapping tool that doesn’t affect performance. (For more information, see The Complete Guide to Application Mapping.)

The ability to do IT mapping of infrastructure and application dependencies on-premises and in the cloud is the foundation of many processes. These include incident management, documenting and managing IT assets, cloud migration, data center transformation, business continuity and disaster recovery, and cybersecurity and microsegmentation.

These processes play out in countless interconnected ways in the modern digital organization. This is because applications are the foundation of these interconnections since workflows, processes, and business outcomes determine organizational growth, health, competitiveness, security, and resiliency.

Application dependency mapping tools are vital to organizations due to their role in starting the process of fulfilling vital needs, something many current enterprise tools may not fully support.

IT Mapping Challenges for Digital Organizations

IT infrastructure and application mapping is a process for discovering and understanding every application and device, along with their dependencies and services across an organization’s entire digital footprint. Application mapping is the foundation for identifying vulnerabilities and process inefficiencies while enabling environment improvements that save time and money as well as improve security.

The mapping process presents some challenges that are unique to environments while also presenting challenges across those environments due to organizational silos. With a basic understanding of the broad nature of application dependency mapping, organizations can look at these challenges within and across all environments.

Cloud Migration

Nearly every organization has some applications and workloads in the cloud or has upcoming plans in place to do so. The 4th Annual Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index report shows that 91% of surveyed enterprises migrated at least one application in the last year. This is a major step towards digital transformation in terms of an organization’s agility, resiliency, scalability, and ability to compete. But it also brings challenges around ensuring that migrations don’t cause more problems than they fix in terms of application dependencies. Organizations have similar needs for data center transformation, where migration is often part of the plan.

On-premises and cloud applications will need to maintain their dependencies to databases, workloads, and other applications after a migration to avoid scenarios where they stop working. The lack of proper application dependency mapping can lead to the disruption or breaking of these dependencies, which can exist across bare metal, virtual servers, and cloud providers, in any migration process. These needs make it vital to have a clear view of every dependency when planning and executing a migration.

Disaster Recovery and Microsegmentation

Digital transformation is all about improving organizational processes, as it speeds innovation and delivery of services and products. Data movement via applications and their dependencies in the hybrid multi-cloud age grows more complex every day. Tackling this requires a comprehensive plan for application and data security via approaches such as business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) and microsegmentation.

BCDR strategies keep an organization operational in the wake of cybersecurity attacks that get inside the network (such as ransomware) or natural disasters—both can stop a business cold. This approach is often a major reason for cloud migration and data center transformation (via a hybrid-cloud model mix of on-premises and cloud).

An organization must identify all dependencies and migrate them together to ensure proper disaster recovery. If not, the whole point of backups is moot since they lose ongoing application updates and dependencies without ongoing application mapping.

Microsegmentation is an important way to protect the network from attacks by separating environments, applications, workloads, VMs, and users to apply least privilege access policies to data/workflows based on compliance needs. Without a clear understanding of application and IT infrastructure using comprehensive mapping, it becomes impossible to protect these different areas, applications, and workflows.

Data Center Transformation

Organizations can easily lose track of dependencies between applications, devices, and IT infrastructure that grows in complexity inside their data center, the cloud, and beyond the network’s edge. These environments and connections are changing daily in the modern organization where IT documentation and assessment are critical to keeping data, devices, applications, and workflows moving and secure.

While there are several methods that organizations have historically used to map applications and IT infrastructure, they all have their pros and cons. To understand why they each may have blind spots that make comprehensive and real-time mapping challenging, it’s best to start by looking at the different approaches in use today.

Application Mapping Approaches and Limitations

Since the emergence of ITSM and ITAM, organizations have understood how imperative it is to keep track of IT infrastructure, devices, applications, services, and their dependencies. These methods have served them well in the past, but as digital transformation, the cloud, and virtualization have come to the fore, their limitations are exposed.

Cloud Provider and IT Mapping Tools

Even in the current cloud era, which is always changing, the three largest providers—AWS, GCP, and Azure—all have service discovery tools for mapping application resources. These can play a vital role in understanding the state of all cloud resources to help limit cloud spend, improve developer productivity, and increase application availability among others.

In a hybrid multi-cloud world, underlying dependencies can stretch across on-premises data centers and multiple clouds and providers. These mapping tools can often be relegated to silos (by design) that prevent a holistic view and create unmanageable complexity in the mapping process.

CMDB Mapping Overview and Its Application Mapping Pros

There are many types and configurations of the configuration management database (CMDB) in use across countless organizations. It ideally acts as a repository for storing all information and dependencies related to all IT assets, which are known as configuration items (CI). CIs include hardware, devices, software, and networks, along with their performance, configuration, location, financial, licensing, and maintenance data.

When a CMDB provides a complete picture of an organization’s assets, it helps the business make better IT decisions through problem resolution, incident response, and updates for networks and infrastructure. Other benefits include planning for business strategy, budgets, and regulatory compliance. The primary challenge with a CMDB is keeping it updated. This plays out in many ways that limit the CMDB as a single source of truth for IT assets across every environment.

CMDB Mapping Cons

Most IT teams struggle to maintain an accurate CMDB for a variety of reasons, but mostly because IT environments on-premises and in the cloud are constantly changing. Many CMDBs cannot respond to the pace of DevOps or virtual assets like VMs, containers, and other cloud application resources. Others still require manual data entry validation and manual audits to stay up to date with new CI configurations and dependency changes.

Although modern CMBDs include application mapping, they often only collect data based on a specific request. They also can have limited ability to see all changes in dependencies and services and provide root cause analysis within that request. This leads to a limited snapshot-in-time view of an application and some of its dependencies without providing the ability to see if it’s operating correctly and delivering the required service level.

APM Overview and Its Application Mapping Pros

As the name says, Application Performance Monitoring (APM) provides real-time application performance monitoring across an organization’s application portfolio. APM enables a view into service level agreement compliance, performance level, and user challenge identification.

An APM solution’s diagnostics should give administrators insights into problems within the application stack to plan proactive remediation. These real-time performance alerts and reports generated by the APM are vital to maximizing business revenue, continuity, efficient operation, cost reductions, and end-user experience.

APM Cons

APM tools require the installation of an agent for targeted infrastructure or applications. The result is that organizations cannot effectively use these tools with new applications and VMs that are spun up and down, or third-party enterprise applications like SAP, as just one example.

The agent-based nature of APM tools creates silos, with gaps in data on application efficiencies across environments, including on-premises and the cloud or multi-cloud. This makes it impossible to see real-time application performance with detailed knowledge across dependencies, in turn making root cause analysis nearly impossible.

ADM Overview and Application Mapping Pros

The Application Dependency Mapping (ADM) process identifies all IT and application elements and services across an organization’s IT environment. ADM provides a means of seeing how these elements work together and individually in real time to assess health and proactively make improvements. Most ADM tools work without agents and use various methods for finding application dependencies in real time. This supports the dynamic nature of application development where applications and infrastructure can change daily.

The right ADM tool can provide the most combined benefits of the solutions covered in this blog. CMDBs currently exist and serve ongoing and unique purposes in many organizations, and some organizations already have an existing APM. In these cases, the ideal ADM can work with these solutions and a world of third-party tools in the enterprise.

ADM Cons

As a mapping tool category, ADM has few downsides, but many of these tools fall short in their ability to provide real-time, repeatable, and comprehensive mapping across environments. The different approaches used by ADM solution providers can deliver different results based on a narrower basis for environment mapping.

This can lead to an incomplete picture of the entire IT infrastructure, its applications, and their dependencies where environmental changes are continuous. The ideal scenario is an ADM tool that captures the state and relationships of all assets across every environment in real time without slowing performance via easily repeatable passive scanning.

How ADM, CMDB, and APM Stack Up

It’s not uncommon for organizations to use APM and ADM solutions together for a more granular, broader, and real-time view across environments. This also applies to CMDB mapping tools and ADM. Although this blog has shown the benefits and limitations of each tool for IT and application mapping, using two or more does not eliminate the complexity and lack of automation that can still be prevalent. The ideal scenario would be to identify an ADM tool that can provide a comprehensive view for tackling all potential challenges and needs discussed in this blog.

Defining the Ideal ADM Tool

The critical nature of IT mapping is a foundational process that enables any organization to operate, change, and grow while being secure, resilient, and profitable. If there are four words that define the needs of any tool for an organization in the digital age, they would likely be comprehensive, fast, agile, and simple. These apply to IT mapping as well.

Comprehensive

When seeking the ideal ADM tool, it must first be comprehensive so that it maps all IT infrastructure, applications, dependencies, and services across all environments in real time. It must be capable of predicting change via integrated analytics to differentiate between various topologies as it audits changes.

Comprehensive alerts should bolster this analysis to pinpoint performance and functionality challenges. The same level of reporting will enable proactive corrective action and business planning for everything from cloud migration and data center transformation to BCDR, security, access, and change management.

Speed and Agility

An ideal mapping tool must have a very fast and easily repeatable process, which requires a great deal of automation and visibility via a single dashboard. The resulting transparency and agility enable both pre- and post-migration mapping and automatic discovery of anything with an IP address to plan long-term hybrid multi-cloud strategies. It can also track the constant changes in the app development lifecycle (including containers, microservices, and API endpoints) and virtualized environments.

Simplicity

The simplicity, repeatability, and speed of the ideal ADM tool enable a consistent real-time view of the global environment. It also makes the resulting data easily available to IT and the business to maximize operational efficiency and innovation. It’s imperative that the tool provide visibility across all networks on the application layer in real time.

This delivers critical data for microsegmentation that fosters maximum security and a zero-trust model for user and app access to thwart cyberattacks. Finally, the ideal ADM tool will do all this while integrating with existing third-party tools and never affecting performance so that the organization always operates with the highest efficiency.

How Faddom Helps With IT Mapping

Faddom is an ADM tool that delivers comprehensive, agile, fast, and simple application mapping of your organization’s entire hybrid IT infrastructure in just 60 minutes.

Map Your Entire
Hybrid IT Environment in as Little as One Hour

Document all your servers, applications and their dependencies.
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