As Australian customers increasingly pivot towards hybrid-cloud and digitally transformed IT infrastructures, partners are being called on to improve reliability, experience and innovation levels across application architectures.
Application modernisation has increasingly risen to the top of customer priorities as many seek to improve performance management across their infrastructures.
As a result, building a robust application management strategy has in tandem risen high on the channel agenda – and for good reason.
According to EDGE Research – commissioned and produced by ARN – three-quarters of Australian customers plan to outsource cloud and application management to the channel ecosystem.
As Hal Group CEO Dean Hutchinson explains, customers with bespoke business applications or legacy applications are among the ones with the biggest requirements.
“These applications are generally only supported by the business that designed and built them to meet the customer’s requirements, generally, no one else has the knowledge to support the application outside this organisation,” he told an ARN Roundtable, in association with Turbonomic.
“Legacy or bespoke applications are hard to migrate to as you need to make sure the application works again once it’s moved, especially when attached to a database. Often you do a lift and shift, but you are really only just moving the application, support is still required if the application needs development or has an issue. The other challenge comes around securing the application and making sure that this isn’t a weak link in the overall security posture of the organisation.
Like Hutchinson, Nick Beaugeard, chief software architect of TribeTech, also noted that customers’ legacy applications – especially those developed in-house – are often responsible for architectural management issues.
This, he said, is largely because these applications lack the observability of modern applications, making them hard to “optimise, manage and operate”.
Graeme Clark, AdventOne’s northern region director, likewise agreed that problems arise when “monolithic applications” are moved to cloud and container-based applications.
For Blazeclan managing partner Amit Bassi, the arrival of modern architectures across cloud and digital means customers are increasingly requiring significant upgrades to their applications.
“While service management continues to be aligned to ITIL the applications built in microservices, containers and serverless requires team to be capable to support such environments with capabilities to understand DevOps,” he said. “Tools are required that can enable monitoring and management of network to application layer in a seamless manner.”
For IBM Asia Pacific executive, hybrid cloud management platform, Mark Jones customers are looking to create new innovations and to ensure that they create a digital-first business model in an effort to reconnect with suppliers, partners and clients.
“This has put the ‘application’ at the centre of their business,” Jones said. “In essence the application is the business, or the business is the application. The result is creating new and more complex challenges of day two operations that are beyond human scale and the current capabilities of current monitoring tools.”
What’s working, what’s not?
In the advent of multi-cloud, hybrid cloud and digitally transformed environments, it’s only natural that partners will need to expand their toolkits for application management.
Of critical importance for managed service providers, however, is delivering that management in the most efficient manner possible. That means better automation of workflows, argued Hutchinson.
This, he added, presents a major opportunity for the partner community. “Application cloud automation software that allows the resources required by the application the ability to scale when required, often when making provision for an application you have to assume a certain number of users will be using it, therefore you provision enough resources to accommodate all users,” he explained. “However, if only 60 users out of 100 users may access the application at any one time which may lead to unnecessary extra costs.
Clark further elaborated: “The major gap we see is in breaking the problem down to assess what is expected, what is important and to thoughtfully determine what the required action is and then to automate the response. The tools exist to do this.
“The major gap is a shortfall in expectation around what can be achieved by sidestepping the human factor needing to be involved in every step in a climate of skill and resource shortages.”
Beaugeard acknowledged the complexity for both customers and partners in managing applications. However, this presents a key opportunity for the partner community.
Many of these tools are very complex and difficult to understand and operate, I see modern visuals with actionable insights for executives as both a great way to sell these solutions by also to add simple up the line reporting,” he said.
With many organisations pivoting to software-as-as-service models, partners are also required to evolve their own models of delivery, Bassi argued.
“Convergence and evolution of MSP models to support businesses end to end across platform and products including the SaaS products in a seamless way,” he said.
According to Bassi, the most innovation in this space is coming from the start-up scene. For example, he said, the way start-ups are automating processes, including artificial intelligence, presents some key areas to “bridge the gap” between organisation alignment and driving the end customer experience.
Meanwhile, Jones explained that application visibility is about more than just “observability”. “It's about understanding the relationship of multi-cloud resources to application performance metrics like response time, throughput and real business metrics,” he explained.
Generating the most out of the available market opportunities naturally requires a level of differentiation and value add-on from the partner community.
With regards to application management and performance, value creation comes from automation, believes Clark.
“There are so many areas where automation can be used to help clients become more secure, more resilient, execute faster in a more consistent manner, reduce errors and in general deliver on service level obligations to internal stakeholders and their customers,” he said.
For Beaugeard, application and systems management “needs to be addressed holistically with a combination of people, process and technology”.
As for Bassi, true value creation will emerge at Blazeclan from a combination of intelligent automation, modern architectures and integration, as well as business case realisation.