The Fundamentals of Identifying Interdependent Applications

As technology evolves, business processes increasingly rely on service applications and devices, both for employee operation and customer service. But, with the rise of virtual data centers, it is becoming more difficult to track the relationships of these service applications and devices and also to see how their dependencies correlate with the output of the company.

Web, application, and database servers might all interact in a single application – and those applications create a web of applications to form core business processes for internal and external use.

For example, internal users may rely on certain systems to perform their work duties and externally, customers may use dependent applications for the product/services provided to them. The interdependencies between these systems are at the heart of application mapping.

Application mapping, just as it sounds, is how you visualize the complex relationships between your applications. It helps in finding out how many applications there are, how many systems make up the infrastructure, and how these applications communicate with each other.

This is an important task for any company to conduct, especially before a migration project. For example, there is always a risk for sudden service interruptions during a migration project. If an outage does occur without prior mapping, the organization will have a hard time tracing the outage to the root cause and resolving the issue in a timely manner.

To help you get started with identifying these interdependencies, here are some fundamental tasks to keep in mind:

1. Keep up-to-date documentation

Like the scenario above, taking the time to document interdependencies will only save headaches in the long run. It is important to understand the relationship between your assets – like the interdependencies among applications and any underlying infrastructure that supports them – when making project decisions.

You may want to begin by reviewing your existing configuration management database (CMDB), service level agreements (SLAs), and any other information that might be helpful in understanding application processes/origins.

Even if the documentation is not up-to-date, you can use the information to begin mapping. In addition to learning about the supporting infrastructure, you might also learn which applications feed data into or out of the application being mapped. You should take a look at your operation team’s incident documentation. Often, these minor events and outages that happen daily can tell you a lot about your networks and applications.

For example, an incident might be reported for an application service experiencing an outage after a smaller database server was rebooted. This should be an immediate red flag of an interdependency and should be noted when mapping.

2. Monitor with tools

Once interdependency is predicted, you should utilize monitoring tools to help explore the issue further. Especially when paired with non-automated information, monitoring tools can provide thorough validation checks of the data and build maps of system flows that can be used as a reference to help you fill any knowledge gaps you have.

Some resources you might utilize are network traffic monitoring tools (capture communications between various applications), databases, the web, server to server links, user access logs, active directory calls, and other calls.

These tools can help you understand which applications are “talking” and what types of conversations they are having. Call and user logs, specifically, can help you weed out flows related to network and system management applications that are common to all system communication.

3. Interview users and administrators

Speaking with people who support and manage the systems can be valuable in pulling out dependencies that may not be obvious. It may also uncover hidden dependencies put in place as a temporary fix due to a constraint, which could jeopardize your migration if not addressed.

Professionals like systems administrators, architects, managers and users have great understandings of how the systems work, how they are maintained, and how they are supported. Interviewing these specialists will help you see the big picture importance of the application to the business.

You can also reach out to support engineers to tell you when the most critical peak or freeze periods occur and incorporate that information into the analysis of your application mapping.

This information will give you the ability to identify timings, schedules, business affecting events and much more. As companies depend more and more on their business applications for their mission critical business processes, unplanned or extended outages have a greater impact on productivity.

By harnessing your up-to-date documentation, your team’s experience supporting the environment, and careful monitoring of system tools, you can have a smooth migration experience while mitigating any obstacles.

Whether it’s migrating a single application or system or migrating an entire environment, application mapping will give you a better understanding of, and more control over, your environment. It will prepare you for anything the future may bring to your IT infrastructure.

Identifying Interdependent Applications, while sometimes difficult, is an important step when preparing for any migration project. Download our latest eBook – Identifying Cloud, Data Center, and Security Vulnerabilities through Cloud Discovery – to gain even more insight on how to prepare for a migration project.