A Look at Systems’ Role in the AppStack

As Joel Dolisy described in A Lap around Appstack, the first installment of the AppStack series, there are many components in the application stack including networking, storage, and computing resources. The computing resources include hypervisors, virtual machines, and physical machines that provide applications, infrastructure support services, and in some cases storage. Collectively, we refer to these resources as systems.

Systems really are the root of the application space. From the earliest days of computing when an application ran on a single machine, the user went to that machine to use the application and the machine had no connectivity to anything (save perhaps a printer). Today systems offer a myriad of contributions to the application space and each of those contributions has its own monitoring needs.

Server Monitoring

Historically, with the one-service/one-machine approach, a typical server ran at only ten to twenty percent of capacity. As long as the LAN connection between the desktop and the server was working, it was highly unlikely that the server was ever going to be part of a performance problem. Today, it is critical that servers behave well and share resource responsibility with others. (Other servers, that is!) As a result, server monitoring is now a critical component of an application-centric monitoring solution. 

User and Device Monitoring

One of the components that is often overlooked in the monitoring process, are the systems used directly by the end-user. The typical user may have two or three different devices all accessing the network simultaneously, and sometimes multiple devices accessing the same application simultaneously. Tracking what devices are being used, who is using those devices, how those devices are impacting other applications, and ensuring that end-users get the optimal application experience on whatever device they’re using is also part of this effort.

Consolidated Monitoring and Coexistence 

The benefit of monitoring the entire application stack as a consolidated effort is a comprehensive awareness of how the end-user is experiencing their interaction with the application and an understanding of how the various shared components of an application are co-existing with one another.

By being aware of where resources are shared, for example LUNs in a storage array sharing disk IOPS or virtual machines on a hypervisor sharing CPU cycles, performance issues affecting one or more applications can be more rapidly diagnosed and remediated. It’s not unusual at all for an application to negatively impact another application, without displaying any performance degradation itself. 

Increased Complexity

The last thing to be aware of is that the complexity of the systems monitoring space is continuing to grow. Virtualization and shared storage was just the first step. For the next blog in this series, Kong Yang will discuss how that impacts the AppStack.