Why managing SaaS apps is a bit like flying to Mars

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Why managing SaaS apps is a bit like flying to Mars
No one person is in total control of the craft.
Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

When NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars earlier this year, the complex manoeuvre involved a large team of people.

Some were charged with guiding the craft, while others controlled the firing of rockets to slow it down. Other team members monitored vital signs while their colleagues made adjustments to the angle of descent.

It’s a complex way of working as no one person is in total control of the craft. All team members have to work closely together to achieve the successful outcome of landing on the Martian surface.

This situation is similar to that facing organisations when it comes to managing their critical SaaS applications. The growing complexity and distributed nature of these applications, together with the fact that the businesses don’t own the hosting environment on which it runs, means no one person has complete oversight of its operations.

Yet, despite this lack of total control, the performance of SaaS apps is business critical. They underpin everything from group collaboration to customer service. Any disruptions to their functioning can have a very detrimental impact on a business’s reputation and future profits.

The biggest challenge is knowing where to look or who to contact when something goes wrong. Because there is no single point of management or individual responsible for the apps in operation, this can be rather difficult to achieve.

Achieving effective management

It’s clear that businesses need an effective way to manage the SaaS apps they rely on, however, traditional tools are simply not up to the task.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that SaaS apps are highly distributed by design. They can run across multiple clouds, regions, and data centres, and the public internet also plays a critical role in their delivery infrastructure. Also, external dependencies, including DNS, secure edge or Secure Web Gateway (SGW) services and third-party APIs, all need to function.

The management challenge is made even more complex because troubleshooting the root cause of an outage or performance issue can be very difficult to achieve.

Traditional NPM tools are built for networks owned and controlled by a business, while APM monitoring techniques typically rely on injecting code into an application to measure user behaviour. However, these techniques don’t work when a third party operates the application in question, and they also fail to provide a detailed understanding of connectivity throughout the application.

Despite these failings, an effective SaaS monitoring solution has become an essential component for any business that relies on the platforms to support its operations and zero visibility is increasingly unacceptable.

Meanwhile, tolerance for performance issues with SaaS applications is decreasing. Both staff and customers expect them to work the first time, all the time. Delays and disruptions are not an option.

A new approach

To meet these demands for reliable and efficient SaaS app functioning, an organisation’s IT department needs a solution that does two things well. It needs to provide a deep level of visibility into these dynamic environments to proactively baseline network performance.

Also, the solution should be able to trigger sophisticated scripts that navigate the user journey and compare performance, so the IT team can see and measure the infrastructure journey that the user is taking through the app.

Suppose an organisation doesn’t have a tool that is active and providing deep visibility into the Internet, cloud, edge and the app itself. In that case, the task of identifying and resolving problems becomes much like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Thankfully, as SaaS adoption increases, the options for monitoring them effectively are becoming more widely available. It’s now becoming possible for IT teams to manage SaaS apps in the same way they manage on-premise applications. This means they are able to take a more proactive approach to ensuring top performance and delivering users a consistent, reliable digital experience.

The result is that issues can be identified and resolved quickly, even though the app is complex and relies on a large number of separate components, dependencies and processes.

Just like the Mars mission, the end result is successful functioning that delivers required results. That has to be a big bonus for any business.

Mike Hicks, Principal Solutions Analyst ANZ at ThousandEyes.

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