Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Cloud - How to Do SaaS Right

Monitoring SaaS applications: The customer's responsbility

Software as a Service offerings -- such as SalesForce.com, Office356, Microsoft Dynamics and AthenaHealth -- hold out the promise of replacing enterprise applications and serving as platforms for future development. While the promise can be fulfilled, organizations have to take some responsibility too.

AppNeta's Matt Stevens and TR Jordan dropped by to introduce the company's newest product, a tool to monitor SaaS applications. I've spoken with them several times in the past and have found their point of view to be interesting. AppNeta is a Kusnetzky Group client so I speak with them regularly.

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Although some would believe that moving to a Software as a Service application would relieve them of all responsibility for performance and application monitoring, that move, in AppNeta's view, makes monitoring even more important.

Why is monitoring important?

AppNeta believes that companies need tools that will monitor the health and performance of both the applications they build and those they subscribe to. The company believes that it is important to be able to "see through the veil" and know what's happening behind the curtain in the cloud service providers' data centers.

The tools AppNeta is offering are designed to discover what's happening -- in their words -- "from the wire." That is, all aspects of application performance are monitored and reported back to an organization's IT department in an easy-to-use dashboard.

This is critical because an organization's staff and customers are going to call the organization's IT staff when something fails or just slows down. The IT staff needs to have the ability to quickly gather data, analyze it, and then get the supplier's help desk staff to take action. They need tools that show who is using something, its health, and the overall performance and reliability of every component that is visible from the network.

Extensions for major SaaS products

AppNeta has developed extensions designed to monitor many major SaaS platforms and applications including the following:

  • SalesForce.com
  • Microsoft Dynamics
  • NetSuite
  • AthenaHealth
  • Office365

As companies subscribing to these SaaS services begin to build their own applications on these foundations, it is important to have monitoring and management tools designed to see what's happening inside of those platforms and help them be a real tool for business. That means making it possible for an organization's IT staff to be the first line of support.

Snapshot analysis

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a hot topic in the IT industry today. The concept is simple. Companies subscribe to an online service that provides a complete workload or series of applications and pay for that service as they use it. This is very much like purchasing and using utilities, such as electricity or telephone.

All of the systems, operating systems, databases, storage, and networking components reside in the provider's data center and are owned by the service provider. The provider's staff provides development, operations and facilities management for that workload.

Subscribers access this service with a compatible web browser or client application from wherever they are in the world using their favorite smartphone, tablet, laptop computer or PC.

AppNeta is right to point out that moving in this direction doesn't mean that organizations are relieved of all responsibilities. It really is important to be able to monitor what's happening with the SaaS application and all of its components. If nothing else, this data is needed to convince the help desk staff of the SaaS supplier that the problem is real and not something created by customer error.

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