A map to your infrastructure

Application dependency mapping is the tool you need to align IT with the business.

Despite its history, ADM is only now beginning to generate buzz, in part because industry heavyweights have begun swallowing the start-ups that founded this niche. Mercury Interactive launched such activity in mid-2004 with the acquisition of Appilog, but IBM and Symantec validated it with their November 2005 and February 2006 purchases of Collation and Relicore, respectively. Adoption will now begin to soar, with ADM running on about 500 clients by year's end, nearly 1,500 by 2007 and 4,000 by 2010, according to Forrester Research in its report "Application Mapping for the CMDB, Q1 2006."

As you move into next-generation network management, here's a phrase that will help to unlock the promise of it all: application dependency mapping. Because the network industry is fond of acronyms, I'll refer to this as "ADM."

But before we get into the growing influence of ADM, let's connect the dots. As you know, the New Data Center is all about the application and ultimately the business process. Application users don't care about routing tables and WAN acceleration devices.

They want their critical applications to work beautifully every time they are needed. From a network-management perspective, IT makes this happen by ensuring that applications, and all components that support them, work properly all the time, or that they fail over when they run into trouble. That works fine when things are simple and money is plentiful.

Yet the strategy that "all devices are equal" in the eyes of the network-management tool begins to crumble as complexity rises and budgets get tight. A far more efficient way to manage the infrastructure is to ensure that priority is always given to the devices that shoulder the mission-critical applications. That's a wonderful concept - the problem is that network-management tools are not designed to look for business processes.

Enter ADM, which automatically maps applications to the infrastructure showing what components the applications touch as they use the network. Products that perform this task mine configuration files, port-allocation tables and device-level management data to analyze and determine application dependencies. The technology isn't new. For instance, in 2002 industry leader Relicore began shipping Clarity, which discovers application dependencies in real time.

Despite its history, ADM is only now beginning to generate buzz, in part because industry heavyweights have begun swallowing the start-ups that founded this niche. Mercury Interactive launched such activity in mid-2004 with the acquisition of Appilog, but IBM and Symantec validated it with their November 2005 and February 2006 purchases of Collation and Relicore, respectively. Adoption will now begin to soar, with ADM running on about 500 clients by year's end, nearly 1,500 by 2007 and 4,000 by 2010, according to Forrester Research in its report "Application Mapping for the CMDB, Q1 2006."

While ADM may be gaining notice because of market gyrations, the growing urgency of compliance will push network executives to embrace it. Compliance is forcing network executives to find ways to meet auditors' demands without killing their IT budgets. In a recent Cutter Consortium survey of 132 IT executives worldwide, about one-third of respondents said they didn't think their budgets would increase to cover the costs of compliance. Using generally accepted standards such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) can ease the auditing process and the costs associated with it. ADM capabilities are nestled within the configuration-management database (CMDB), a core requirement for ITIL. Conversely, CMDB capabilities also have been added to products that began life primarily to perform ADM.

In either case, the two product genres have more or less merged. Leading products include CA's Sonar, Cendura's Cohesion, IBM/Collation's Confignia, Mercury's Appilog, nLayers' Insight, Relicore's Clarity (which Symantec promises will remain a stand-alone product), BMC Software's Atrium and Tideway System's Foundation, Forrester says. Despite the market pressure, ADM-specific tools are not universally available from network-management players. Notably, HP has not entered the market on its own. It relies on Relicore, an OpenView partner.

As important as ADM is becoming, understand that the technology is young and vendor implementations vary widely. Some of these products use active discovery, which scans the infrastructure at scheduled times. Some use passive discovery, which monitors and analyzes in real time. Some use agents; some don't. Some vendors, notably the larger ones, focus on integrating their ADM/CMDB tools with other network-management components, while others have created stand-alone tools.

Network executives considering ADM also should look at how these products detect change, how deep into configuration files each product can go and how the information collected is maintained. Such investigation will be worth your while. For network executives in search of the management component for their New Data Center infrastructures, ADM holds critical answers.

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