Why Cloud apps need next-gen APM

Why Cloud apps need next-gen APM

Many businesses have a desire to move away from complex, difficult to support legacy applications.  Actually achieving that is far harder than just putting it into a strategy document, though!

In the case of Tipico, the Maltese gaming and betting business, they had 160 servers supporting a three-tier Java application. With so many servers involved, it’s only natural that despite the very best intentions, different parts of the application stack end up on different Java or other library version. This all adds up to more complexity and thus Mean Time To Resolution (MTTR) for any issues.

Tipico transitioned their platform to be orchestrated by Kubernetes (K8s), all run using components of Amazon Web Services. Their infrastructure is now purely infrastructure as code and Cloud based.

Moving your key application(s) to microservices running on a Cloud platform doesn’t just involve deciding on which provider is the most cost effective, has the best geographical presence to suit your customer base or offers the right services for your applications. If Kubernetes has the ability to shrink or grow the number of nodes or pods running your application, how do you monitor it?  Just including your monitoring agent in your base server build image doesn’t work anymore.

A next-generation APM tool which automatically and continuously discovers your infrastructure and application is the key. Tipico’s evaluation of the APM market determined that Instana was the best fit for their infrastructure.

Instana’s ability to create ‘Application Perspectives’ is great for DevOps teams, where different teams are focused on different parts of the application.  Does a team working on the payments microservice really need to know how the login microservice is performing? Application Perspectives let teams filter out the noise, letting them focus on the metrics of the services they are responsible for.

A DevOps mindset (Continuous Improvement/Continuous Development or CI/CD) also means regular code releases to add features or fix bugs. Instana’s API provides an easy method to further integrate the CI/CD pipeline and monitoring. A simple curl call can notify Instana of a release, which is then visible in Instana UI as a ‘release marker’. This means developers and support teams can both immediately correlate any radical changes in performance or stability against the release.

Normally, a blog post needs a conclusion. In this case though, I think two statistics from the Tipico case study stand out to really show the success of the project:

  • 3x increase in the number of deployments per month
  • 10x improvement in MTTR
Chris Booth

Chris Booth

Solutions Architect

Listens to your problems, then identifies the best tools and products to build solutions.

Call us today on 01782 752 369
KedronUK, Kern House, Stone Business Park, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 0TL

Business continuity in the remote age

Business continuity in the remote age

The global COVID-19 pandemic has, in more organisations than will ever admit it, exposed business continuity plans as tick-box formalities with little to no value in a real crisis.

In our tech-enabled world, we’ve begun to take it for granted that the IT systems and devices we rely on ‘will just work’. That’s turned out not to be the case, with many organisations facing issues with licensing, availability and connectivity, for example. Even those contingencies that were in place didn’t account for the speed and scale of change that we’ve had to deal with in the last few months.

Some enterprises have found gaps in their ability to track productivity and engagement among employees working from home. That’s not to mention issues with monitoring network availability, application performance and security at a time when new technologies are being adopted and infrastructures rapidly adapted.

While most organisations will have got to the functioning stage by now, there are inevitably compromises being made due to the nature of working from home. On the surface, operations may seem to be running smoothly, but how is your business being impacted? Will your business’ reputation suffer because you simply can’t see the issues you’re having with, for example, employee productivity or app availability?

To make a proper plan and make sure that plan is working, you have to ensure business continuity is measurable. This will more than likely include metrics that are not typically visualised by your IT monitoring dashboards, but which are central to monitoring business performance, such as productivity and engagement, absentee rates and supply chain deliverables.

Our team has developed Business Continuity Dashboards which link data from multiple sources to provide an overview of your key business metrics, so that you have remote visibility of performance against your SLAs in every aspect of operations. Root cause analysis can be conducted, and problems addressed to ensure good customer experiences are maintained. When a crisis hits you can carry on as close to usual as possible, but you’ll also be able to tell at a glance what ‘usual’ is.

Let’s face it, things aren’t going to go back to normal. A successful and sustainable transition out of lockdown will mean learning the lessons available in your data to make more informed business decisions. But you need visibility to be able to see and analyse what that data is telling you. Whether the gaps that have been exposed are on security, on operations or on networks, now is the time to get better visibility and improve your monitoring capability permanently.

We believe that those organisations which take the time to reflect on what they’ve learned will be proactive in using monitoring technology to future-proof their enterprise. They will put themselves in a position to emerge stronger from this devastating pandemic.

Contact us to discuss the place of critical data monitoring and visualisation in your business continuity strategy.

Chris Booth

Chris Booth

Solutions Architect

Listens to your problems, then identifies the best tools and products to build solutions.

Call us today on 01782 752 369
KedronUK, Kern House, Stone Business Park, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 0TL

ExtraHop Remote Working

ExtraHop Remote Working

Saying this year has been strange is, obviously, something of an understatement. Back in January I don’t expect anyone at Zoom expected their brand to become a genuine household name by now. IT professionals will have been exceptionally busy not just supporting business transformation from office to home working, but helping friends and families keep in touch.  There’s no escape once you are the go-to technical guru in your extended family!  I’ve ended up giving advice on Zoom / Skype meetings for school governors in Liverpool and helping a nephew build his first gaming PC (all socially distanced of course!).

Whilst family quizzes on Zoom and Skype sessions with grandparents have been essential for beating the boredom and retaining a degree of contact, they are also just two of the things which might be impacting on business remote access.  Are those family calls routing across a corporate connection as somebody forgot to disconnect their VPN into the office?  Visibility at protocol level can help identify gremlins such as retransmission timeouts and zero windows.  Likewise, analysis can help identify traffic destinations – if we don’t use Zoom in the business, why is it transiting my network?  A combination of these metrics can also aid help desks who, by default, now troubleshoot home broadband connections.  Is a user’s poor virtual desktop or application experience down to an issue in the datacentre or because they are competing for bandwidth with Netflix, Disney+ and Fortnite on their home WiFi?

Utilisation Metrics can provide critical information on capacity and associated bottlenecks.  If more capacity is needed, then you have hard facts to backup a business case for an upgrade.  On the other hand, if things are running smoothly, you can provide information to management to show previous investment has been money well spent and any considerations of reducing bandwidth to save money would impact on productivity.

Another impact of the current business climate is that budgets are being scrutinised more then ever now, so any new IT project must offer the highest amount of value to the business.  Thus, a platform such as ExtraHop Reveal(x), which builds on ExtraHop’s experience in Performance Analytics but adds industry leading Security Detection and Response becomes much more attractive.

The rush to home working in the UK led to a shortage of laptops and PCs.  To stay productive, some staff have been using their own home computing equipment.  Home networks and PCs are notorious for being a security nightmare, with unpatched routers, unsupported OSes, outdated AV and the like.  It is more important then ever to watch the activities of these devices when they are connected to a corporate Network.

VPN policies may have been relaxed but even so, some events represent actionable findings.  If a member of UK staff connects to the VPN from a North American IP address, are they perhaps using a commercial VPN service to access a US streaming service which has geo-location restrictions?  Or is it an attacker making use of compromised credentials?  Similarly, should a user be connected to the VPN from two different countries at the same time?

Further insight into Network traffic, obtained through Reveal(x)’s ability to decode over 50 Enterprise protocols, can also enhance Network Security.  If there is a sudden spike in Active Directory accounts being locked out, is this a sign of a brute force attack in progress?  By linking Security Detections, Reveal(x) can present alerts using the MITRE ATT&CK framework, enabling a responder to understand if the lockouts are user error or part of a more dangerous attack.

In summary, ExtraHop Reveal(x) can play an important part in assisting businesses to cope with the “new normal”.  Reveal(x) can help Operation and Security teams gain valuable insight into their Domains, with a wide range of off-the-shelf and custom integrations ensuring it is not just another siloed tool.  Take a look at ExtraHop’s Datasheet to find out tips for ensuring the availability and securing of remote access.

Chris Booth

Chris Booth

Solutions Architect

Listens to your problems, then identifies the best tools and products to build solutions.

Call us today on 01782 752 369
KedronUK, Kern House, Stone Business Park, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 0TL

Business visibility in the new business normal

Business visibility in the new business normal

For organisations of all stripes and sizes, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge. Whether you’ve benefited from a huge increase in online sales or been swamped with customer service calls, whether you have a desk-based team all happily working from home or delivery drivers out on the road at all hours, your IT infrastructure will have played a critical role in keeping your business up and running – and so will your IT team. 

Maintaining good end-user experiences throughout this period was – and still is, in most cases – key to the longer term sustainability of your enterprise. Where IT performance, availability and security issues aren’t dealt with quickly and efficiently, it can cause huge reputational damage or loss of business. 

If you don’t have visibility of remote workers when it comes to productivity, engagement, access, network security and a host of other areas, how do you know things are functioning as they should be? There may be problems you’re not aware of, and if you are aware you may be struggling to find the root cause.

Such problems are compounded by the fact that your IT team are working remotely themselves, with a proportion off on sick leave at any given time. And at the same time, this department is being relied on to support other staff with their IT needs and likely firefighting demand and downtime issues. 

For 15 years now, we’ve been vendor-independent consultants specialising in application and network performance monitoring, so we know which software will give you the visibility you need to track your business metrics. Our solution architects are able to identify new ways to use tools you already have to tackle new problems, as well as recommending tools that will integrate with your existing infrastructure. 

There are numerous examples of software that can be deployed quickly and remotely to provide better visibility of your key data. To give just two, you can use:

  • Ixia’s Hawkeye to run tests from end user laptops or mobile devices, quickly understanding how their home environment is impacting access to key business services. 
  • Instana to gain 1 second granularity into application performance and issues, supporting key containerised applications. This SaaS platform provides immediate visibility of key web applications such as e-commerce. 

We offer support to deploy these solutions quickly and easily, with remote configuration and installation or even technical staff on-site where necessary. By exploring what the most helpful solutions might be for your circumstances, you can use data to your advantage to make better business decisions now and improve your monitoring capability permanently.

You can find out more about some of the solutions we provide in our guide to getting visibility fast. To talk about your specific monitoring needs, call us on 01782 752 369.

Chris Booth

Chris Booth

Solutions Architect

Listens to your problems, then identifies the best tools and products to build solutions.

Call us today on 01782 752 369
KedronUK, Kern House, Stone Business Park, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 0TL

IT monitoring for the remote age

IT monitoring for the remote age

We don’t have a magic wand to make everything better. We don’t have medical training or a vaccine in development. We don’t even have a sewing machine to whip up scrubs like some of the heroes out there.

What we do have is a very particular set of skills. 

Over recent weeks, our technical team have been putting their expertise to use to help IT departments across the UK who are battling hard to maintain vital networks and services while working from home themselves. Many have needed to make rapid changes to their infrastructure, a process that we have been able to make quicker and safer. 

With ongoing projects as well as new challenges arising from the global pandemic, we’ve continued to support clients including large NHS trusts, critical national infrastructure, and organisations in the financial services sector. 

One NHS trust was already aware of issues with their patient-facing IT services, which are obviously more important than ever at the moment. Part of our role was gathering and analysing critical data to get to the root cause of an issue involving multiple service providers.

We’ve deployed a security analytics solution for another large NHS trust in a project that was underway before the crisis hit. At a time when rapid changes are being made to infrastructure, it’s essential that those changes can be made safely and our health service protected from opportunistic criminals. The solution we’ve put in place applies AI and machine learning to all data traversing their network to keep security threats at bay.

One organisation we work with was experiencing a problem where, after a massive increase in the number of staff working remotely, many of these staff were unable to connect to the network. Our technical team was able to troubleshoot the issue using software the client already had in place to find and address the root cause. 

Another financial services sector client, to whom we’ve provided security solutions in the past, identified a performance issue. They were lacking critical visibility of the infrastructure being used by their home workers. We arranged a free extended trial of the software they needed, which we were also able to remotely install and configure on their behalf. 

We’re not saying all of this to blow our own trumpets or make a fast buck. Like many companies, we’ve found ourselves in the slightly awkward – but also positive – position where our expertise and the solutions we offer can actually help with real problems you’re facing right now. 

As a vendor-independent consultants, we know which software will give you the visibility you need in various complex environments, including Citrix and SAP. We know how to recommend tools that will integrate best with your existing set-up. We can offer support with remote configuration and installation, and even supply technical staff on-site if necessary. We are more than happy to apply our knowledge to help you get the most from the software you already have. 

Download our guide to getting visibility fast to find out more about some of the solutions we provide.

If you would like to discuss a specific issue with your critical data monitoring, call us on 01782 752 369.

Justin Pounds

Justin Pounds

Business Development Director

Responsible for the development and delivery of the strategic growth plan with particular focus on sales, marketing and key partnerships.

Call us today on 01782 752 369
KedronUK, Kern House, Stone Business Park, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 0TL

Who monitors the monitoring and manages the management?

Who monitors the monitoring and manages the management?

Chris Booth, Solution Architect at KedronUK, considers how organisations and enterprises can get the most out of their Network Monitoring/Management System.

As an enterprise management consultancy, we might be biased, but we believe that for large or enterprise-size organisations, network monitoring is critical. A Network Management/Monitoring System (NMS) needs to provide functions such as pro-active altering, metrics to aid troubleshooting (e.g. root cause analysis), configuration management and reporting. When considering what tool to purchase, important factors such as functionality, cost and scalability will often drive the decision-making process.

However, it is important to also consider who will monitor and manage the NMS. This could be in the form of general administration and day-to-day support to ensure it is available and performing as expected. There is little point in having an NMS which isn’t working properly and thus unable to deliver timely alerts about infrastructure problems – the initial investment in the NMS has effectively been wasted. 

The NMS might also have some form of High Availability (HA), so data replication and integrity need to be monitored so that it can correctly fail-over to an alternative DC when needed. On a more irregular basis, this could be upgraded to the NMS and it’s supporting infrastructure (e.g. an SQL database back-end). To answer the title of this post, the answer is KedronUK’s Technical Team. 

We monitor and manage the NMS for a number of our customers, removing this workload from the IT operations team and making use of our extensive product knowledge. 

We know that to ensure a smooth upgrade, a particular version upgrade needs to be staged via an intermediate point release. In fact, we monitor the products we provide to our customers with the same products! Each service/support package is bespoke to the customer’s requirements, but typically includes system governance and our Technical Team holding regular calls to offer advice on best practice or to discuss any open support tickets. A contracted package from KedronUK helps fix the TCO and maximise the ROI for the NMS.

The quality of the data in the NMS can also become a challenge. When multiple team members can add, edit or remove devices, the adherence to standards can become somewhat variable. For instance, when a new network switch is on-boarded, is it named correctly and tagged with a location to help identify the datacentre, rack or office location? 

In response to this, KedronUK has developed a bespoke web portal which integrates with the NMS tools we offer such as Infosim StableNet and SolarWinds. The portal provides data validation rules and drop-down choices to remove free-form text input and the impact that has on the data. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is also supported, allowing a junior team member to onboard but not delete devices. Thus, administrative tasks can be controlled, ensuring the NMS data is meeting the defined standards.

For more information, contact us here.

 

Chris Booth, Solution Architect at KedronUK, considers how organisations and enterprises can get the most out of their Network Monitoring/Management System.

As an enterprise management consultancy, we might be biased, but we believe that for large or enterprise-size organisations, network monitoring is critical. A Network Management/Monitoring System (NMS) needs to provide functions such as pro-active altering, metrics to aid troubleshooting (e.g. root cause analysis), configuration management and reporting. When considering what tool to purchase, important factors such as functionality, cost and scalability will often drive the decision-making process.

However, it is important to also consider who will monitor and manage the NMS. This could be in the form of general administration and day-to-day support to ensure it is available and performing as expected. There is little point in having an NMS which isn’t working properly and thus unable to deliver timely alerts about infrastructure problems – the initial investment in the NMS has effectively been wasted. 

The NMS might also have some form of High Availability (HA), so data replication and integrity need to be monitored so that it can correctly fail-over to an alternative DC when needed. On a more irregular basis, this could be upgraded to the NMS and it’s supporting infrastructure (e.g. an SQL database back-end). To answer the title of this post, the answer is KedronUK’s Technical Team. 

We monitor and manage the NMS for a number of our customers, removing this workload from the IT operations team and making use of our extensive product knowledge. 

We know that to ensure a smooth upgrade, a particular version upgrade needs to be staged via an intermediate point release. In fact, we monitor the products we provide to our customers with the same products! Each service/support package is bespoke to the customer’s requirements, but typically includes system governance and our Technical Team holding regular calls to offer advice on best practice or to discuss any open support tickets. A contracted package from KedronUK helps fix the TCO and maximise the ROI for the NMS.

The quality of the data in the NMS can also become a challenge. When multiple team members can add, edit or remove devices, the adherence to standards can become somewhat variable. For instance, when a new network switch is on-boarded, is it named correctly and tagged with a location to help identify the datacentre, rack or office location? 

In response to this, KedronUK has developed a bespoke web portal which integrates with the NMS tools we offer such as Infosim StableNet and SolarWinds. The portal provides data validation rules and drop-down choices to remove free-form text input and the impact that has on the data. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is also supported, allowing a junior team member to onboard but not delete devices. Thus, administrative tasks can be controlled, ensuring the NMS data is meeting the defined standards.

For more information, contact us here.

 

Chris Booth

Chris Booth

Solutions Architect

Listens to your problems, then identifies the best tools and products to build solutions.

Call us today on 01782 752 369
KedronUK, Kern House, Stone Business Park, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 0TL