Why a Crisis Calls for Bulletproofing Your Applications and Infrastructure

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Click to learn more about author Jim Hansen.

We’re in an unprecedented global reality. Around the world, businesses have shifted to a remote work model, and, as a result, IT teams are under more strain than ever. Teams are remote. They’re dispersed to ad hoc home “offices” with children, pets, and significant others milling about.

Internal and external events and conferences are necessarily virtualized, so tools such as Zoom and SharePoint must be up — and rock-solid. Employees are dealing with new pressures and relying on your expertise as technology professionals to keep their companies interconnected and productive.


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Your customers need you, too. Digital commerce — already increasingly online — is suddenly spiking due to social distancing and the necessity to “flatten the curve.”

Add it up: The commercial apps you probably once took for granted are now mission-critical. Your custom apps can’t falter — in fact, the demand for them to operate at an optimized level has been prioritized because even a small performance degradation or outage could be disastrous for your business. External users are stressing your site, especially if you’re in local government, finance, healthcare, or delivering food to local residences.

Change is everywhere, but tech pros are up to the task. We’re crisis managers, and we know how to plan for contingencies. In fact, our business continuity plans are being used in some instances for the first time or for the first time in a long time for others. To keep ahead of events, however, we need to bulletproof our applications and infrastructure, whether the business is rooted in e-commerce, government, finance, or healthcare, small or large.

Handling Demand Fluctuation

All companies must anticipate their needs. Will they receive an activity spike for online shopping? They need to not only monitor that but also prepare for any shifts to come.

It’s hard to name any company that won’t experience demand fluctuation in the coming months. Whether the changes are inside or outside the firewall — whether your apps are SaaS or on-prem or a hybrid mix — is irrelevant.

If you sell tickets to rock concerts, your business model is obviously under stress now that crowd gatherings are strongly discouraged. Others who specialize in anything from medical supplies to disinfectant or even meditation apps are experiencing soaring demand upticks.

Small to medium-sized businesses or organizations, typically without a remote work policy in place, may need to expand their monitoring to assure quality service to both internal and external users.

Meanwhile, businesses experiencing a downturn — like those that sell concert tickets, for example —may feel tempted to shed their monitoring costs. On the surface, this sounds reasonable, but these companies should instead consider this: When under economic pressure, vulnerable entities can use metrics to optimize infrastructure costs for the business that remains and will return.

Monitoring allows for capacity optimization — companies can check for cost efficiencies. In short, the purpose is to cost-effectively protect the revenue stream. Companies that abandon monitoring increase their risk of losing even more business.

Other companies will shift strategies, if only temporarily. In Australia, for example, 130 companies are switching over to making protective equipment for medical staff, collectively known as PPE. How are these new processes influencing the performance and health of their infrastructure? Such dramatic changes will require full-stack monitoring as their supply chains are transformed.

Businesses dealing with demand spikes will find it similar to when e-tailers prepare for the holiday shopping season. Those businesses with experience in extreme demand cycles will have a playbook to which they can refer to as they create new strategies.

Companies without such backgrounds are creating the playbooks from scratch. The first to feel the brunt: customer service. As always, customer experience matters. A recent (pre-crisis) survey on customer expectations said 63 percent of customers would switch to a competitor if they receive better service. How about a better service at a lower cost?

Among those experiencing spikes are select smartphone grocery apps with record downloads. Instacart, Walmart Grocery, and Shipt have seen 218, 160, and 124 percent increases in average daily downloads compared with the previous month.

Amazon says it will need to hire 100,000 new people to fill the backlog from online purchases. These are all dramatic examples, but it doesn’t matter the size of your company. If you’re at all dependent on digital, you will become even more digital-dependent.

It’s not a time to be taking chances, because any time you have rapid changes in demand, there are a set of ripple effects to other applications — you may get the noisy neighbor effect. In the era of virtualization, you may have had 100 percent of your virtual CPU allocated to your application. If, however, the underlying physical CPU resources were also shared with an unmonitored compute resource hog, your applications would be negatively impacted. The same concepts hold true today, but now it’s writ large in the cloud. Capacity, on-demand cloud architectures are only as performant as the underlying guaranteed, actual resource. Over-size and over-reserve that, and you will waste money. Under-size and you will impact performance — thus, the importance of monitoring everything, all the time.

You’ve got extra demands, and it’s impacting your shared infrastructures. The potential for noisy neighbors goes up as you increase your number of apps. It becomes even more imperative to monitor. You can look for cost savings by price-comparing your APM solutions, not cutting the APM strategy itself. If you don’t expand your monitoring strategy and approaches to include everything related to increased demand, you will almost certainly fail to ensure appropriate performance while you simultaneously are unable to optimize your operating costs. Lose-lose.

To the extent, you don’t expand your monitoring strategy related to increased demand, the likelihood of failing at management and maintaining uptime even if things were once working goes up. You’ll be driving your success into a failure.

Everyone is Your Customer/User Now

External users aren’t going to tell you if your site isn’t measuring up: They’ll just abandon you for someone else. Employees will either figure out jury-rigged workarounds or light up your Slack or email — if they CAN – and your phone lines, if they cannot.

To staunch the tide of dissatisfaction, unproductivity, and cost-inefficiencies, you need hybrid infrastructure and application performance monitoring (APM) tools. APM solutions help you monitor your entire application stack, including your applications, user experience, and the performance of all the infrastructure required to conduct business transactions. Classically, APM has been used only to select “critical” applications and infrastructure. There were stated reasons for that, of course: budgets and perceived complexity. With simple, cost-effective, and quick time-to-value APM solutions now available, it’s time to reassess this strategy. They offer simplicity, power, and affordability in a time when affordability can make the difference between success and failure.

It’s time to double down on monitoring — across the depth and breadth of our applications and infrastructure. Think of it like this: Because everyone is home, everyone is now a customer/user of your application stack.

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