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AppDynamics: Running a More Profitable and Intelligent Business
Sagaya Christuraj
Monday, December 1, 2014
Today, end users expect a highly personal experience every time they interact with a web or mobile application. These applications have undergone a major shift - the rise of cloud computing, distributed and service-oriented architectures, mobile technology, and other significant trends in software architecture has further complicated how applications work. The CIO's office has responded by shifting its focus away from infrastructure and towards end-user engagement. A very good move, but this has created an application environment whose complexities do not coincide with traditional management approaches.

Jyoti Bansal, a Silicon Valley product visionary, technologist, leader, and innovator, recognized the opportunity presented by business's increasing dependency on applications - the rise of the "software-defined business" - and the need to monitor, manage, and harvest data from those applications. And so he founded AppDynamics and created the Application Intelligence platform, which promises to tackle the modern application environment with end-to-end, insight-driven management and analytics.

"As more and more businesses are software-driven, applications are at the heart of business execution," says Bansal. "Application Intelligence monitors these applications in real time to extract intelligence and solve the business and operational glitches, to run a more effective and profitable business. Visibility into every corner of the application infrastructure, and dynamic, automatic baselining of performance to instantly recognize what's normal and what's not, enables IT to anticipate and avoid these glitches altogether."

For instance, it is imperative for a bank's online banking website or mobile application to work flawlessly and not cause trouble for customers who depend on it. AppDynamics Application Intelligence platform provides the tools to prevent app performance issues and maintain a satisfactory user experience. The platform allows the businesses to pinpoint, troubleshoot, and very quickly resolve any issues, which, without such sophisticated intelligence, could take days or weeks to process.

"We provide proactive data for application developers, and business and IT operations professionals, to build and run better applications for better business and IT performance," Bansal said. "It also helps developers to use the data to fuel and fix things aggressively." This approach has helped AppDynamics become one of the fastest-growing enterprise software companies in the world.

The Journey to a Digital Transformation
Bansal founded AppDynamics in 2008 with his vision of "Application Intelligence" to help modern businesses embark on their journey of digital transformation, with a disruptive approach to managing their software-defined business. In order to achieve this mission, Bansal had to build a product that is powerful enough to solve the most complex problems facing modern applications today and in the future. He also needed to make sure that the product created a user experience to rival the best consumer software applications, and needed to power it with a disruptive sales model.

For Bansal, accomplishing this would mean that AppDynamics needed to build and deliver a solution that revolutionizes the way modern organizations go about their business. In the following years, he built a platform that provides the ability to instrument every line of code of an in-production application, no matter where that code is running on the client side in a browsers, in native iOS or Android apps, or other platforms, and on databases like Oracle, Apache Cassandra, and MySQL.

"Every time a user clicks from either the smartphone or the browser, tens of millions of lines of code are executed either on the client or in the servers, running in the cloud or in databases," Bansal says. "We are watching each one of those lines, extracting the business and execution data, and bringing that to a central platform all in real-time." The data can be visually analyzed and impediments to optimal application performance are zeroed in on quickly, and fixed promptly.

The AppDynamics Application Intelligence platform consists of three main solution areas. The first, Application Performance Management, provides very deep visibility into the performance of applications. It enables IT operations teams to trace transactions in complex and distributed applications, monitor the stack, and understand the interaction between mobile apps and the server-side.
The second, Real-User Monitoring, complements the first module by keeping an eye on the user experience on the browser and on mobile, tracking where the user is coming from geographically, and keeping a record of their behaviors. This helps AppDynamics provide visibility about the user base and their experience to the client.

The third solution area is Application Analytics, which the company introduced to the market this month. Primarily designed for business and IT users to get rich analytics out of their application data, AppDynamics Application Analytics provides both businesses and IT with powerful real-time data and analysis to run better business operations and a more profitable business.

Securing Cisco
One of the many large enterprises that have put their trust in AppDynamics is Cisco, the networking giant. Cisco Security Cloud Operations blocks over 250 million threats per day. The team's main challenge was handling the ridiculous number of alerts (88,000) generated annually by their existing monitoring tools. Valuable time and resources were being wasted, as 96 percent of these alerts were false positives. The sheer volume of data processed across Cisco's 23 global data centers raised obvious management challenges for the team. With 2,000 physical servers and 5,000 VMs serving more than 200 applications in total, Cisco required a scalable APM solution able to support its complex environment.

At the same time, the organization has witnessed a 12-fold increase in users over the past year, with average daily transactions growing from 5.5 billion to 6.37 billion. Constantly upscaling compute power in order to meet this demand was not sustainable. Cisco needed a way to scale effectively and manage traffic, while ensuring flawless execution. Hence, Cisco Security Cloud Operations required a robust, next-generation application performance management solution able to cope with the scale of its infrastructure and high volumes of daily traffic.

The organization first engaged AppDynamics in 2013, deciding to run a proof-of-concept across its main security scanners, using AppDynamics in a performance environment to spot issues. After a successful proof-of-concept, AppDynamics was rolled out globally across the organization's 23 data centers, deploying a total of 15,000 agents in just one week, and all reporting into a single AppDynamics-hosted SaaS controller. Previously, Cisco received 88,000 alerts a year from standard monitoring tools, of which only 3,000 were genuine alerts requiring remedial action. After implementing AppDynamics, Cisco dramatically reduced the false positives over a period of twelve months.

In addition to Cisco, many other of the world's largest companies have partnered with AppDynamics, including Citrix, Edmunds, Expedia, Fox News, HBO, John Deere, JPMorgan Chase, OpenTable, Salesforce.com, Sephora, StubHub, and Union Pacific Railroad.

All the Right Reasons for Success
One of the many reasons AppDynamics is so successful is because the firm's solution is designed for modern distributed application architectures. The applications over the past few years have gone through a big transition with people moving to cloud, virtualized infrastructures and the adoption of DevOps. Application architectures are increasingly broken into a number of smaller distributed services, and this has culminated in the applications being massively distributed. AppDynamics offers a product architected from the ground up to work in highly complex and massively distributed environments.

In addition, AppDynamics' ability to do instrumentation automatically plays a big role in its capability to attract new customers and retain current ones. "With our competitors, people must manually instrument their code, involving much advanced planning and manual, intrusive efforts," says Bansal. "With AppDynamics, customers can put our instrumentation agents into their apps in a matter of minutes, as no code changes are necessary. Then, our platform tells them which parts of their software code is most important." Hence, the technology helps AppDynamics customers to monitor the code and their business operations dynamically, in real time.
Being able to see into the application at the line-of-code level is key to rapid issue resolution, which in turn is the key to maintaining a great user experience. "Our platform interprets the application data and delivers automatic analytics to explain the root cause of the problem in real time," says Bansal. In the past, it required people spending hours, days or weeks figuring out the data to get to the root cause of an issue.
The last piece of the puzzle is analytics. Because AppDynamics sees every transaction and every line of code, it is able to harvest a treasure-trove of data that can be used to improve operations and the user experience, and ultimately, the bottom line. "Very few businesses realize how much valuable information is locked in their application code," says Bansal. "By instrumenting every line of code in your business, you have a window into what's going on in your business in real-time. The possibilities for how you can use that data are endless."

An Uncompromising Work Culture
"Long-term, sustainable growth doesn't come from a single product - it comes from culture," says Bansal. In order to build the next great software company, he reasons, he needed to first build a culture to support that growth- a culture that is open and engaging for its employees. He has instilled this culture in AppDynamics from day one.

From company-sponsored weekly chair massages to meals, employees at AppDynamics are not short on benefits. These perks are not limited to the company's headquarters in San Francisco. Employees at local offices in London, Paris, Munich and Singapore receive the same attention and benefits as the headquarters.

More importantly, Bansal ensures that AppDynamics is a place where his employees feel that their opinions and ideas are valued and considered. The company also recognizes the value of diversity in an organization's success. In order to promote cultural diversity and the exchange of ideas at AppDynamics, Bansal encourages employees to travel between offices and even take a position in another country. Additionally, AppDynamics has recruited employees from dozens of countries including India, Germany, Morocco, Spain and more, helping them apply for visas and obtain green cards to work in the United States. To empower women in the company, AppDynamics sponsors the Women In Technology (WiT) initiative to help bridge the gap and address the male-female imbalance in the high-tech industry.

Sneak Peek into the Future
"As an entrepreneur, if you are convinced of something, then you have to make it happen. So I started pitching to VCs and left my job," says Bansal. He had to convince the VCs to invest in his vision and prove to them that this complex technology could work. He did both and launched AppDynamics. He wants AppDynamics to be the next great software company in the world. Today, AppDynamics has raised over $200 million in VC funding and is growing at a rapid pace, with over 500 employees and 1,500 customers.


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