Application dependency mapping (ADM) is a key tool for navigating your IT environment. Imagine you’re on a road trip for your niece’s birthday and the route you’d planned is blocked by a fallen tree, so you have to find a new route to avoid wasting time. Now imagine doing that without Google Maps or that old book of maps your dad gave you years ago “just in case.” If you don’t have the area memorized it’s going to be challenging to blindly reroute, and it’s going to have consequences: you’ll get in too late to pick up your niece’s birthday cake like you promised, and you don’t have a backup plan, so now she and all of her friends are disappointed and your sister is pretty mad at you, too.
Doing it without a map in your IT ecosystem isn’t dissimilar. Most enterprises these days have vast and complex networks of applications, hardware, servers, and systems that are all interconnected, and an incident within the system can impact the rest, sometimes with dramatic consequences on operations or an organization’s reputation. Imagine the result for an ecommerce platform whose payment processing system goes down, or a major hospital whose patient records system gets blocked, wreaking havoc on the rest of the hospital’s operations. Application dependency mapping gives you more visibility and control over your full IT ecosystem. To highlight the importance of ADM, 68% of IT managers find it challenging to determine the ultimate cause of incidents according to research by Forrester (1). That’s a lot of blind spots.
In this article, we’ll explore what application dependency mapping entails, some typical ADM use cases, and how leveraging graph visualization can improve overall operations and efficiency by giving you better visibility over the full extent of your networks.
What is application dependency mapping?
Businesses depend on complex IT environments that include various hardware, software, and system components - and those ecosystems only have the tendency to grow even larger and more complex. Application dependency mapping is a process that enables businesses to understand exactly which applications are running on a network, where those applications are installed, and how all applications, pieces of hardware, and services are interconnected or dependent on one another. It enables IT managers to understand the complex connections between various components, in turn enabling them to optimize their IT environment.
The ADM process involves gathering information about all the underlying dependencies of your applications, creating a visual representation of the dependencies, and presenting it in a way that is easy to comprehend. By visualizing the relationships between the applications, the IT team can determine how the applications and services interact with each other. The ultimate goal is to give IT teams a better understanding of their network so they can optimize their IT environment, make informed decisions about system upgrades and maintenance, prevent unnecessary outages or downtime, and more.
When done right, it gives teams the information they need to track response times of dependent services, identify bottlenecks, and troubleshoot issues that might cause disruptions to business-critical applications.
Application dependency mapping use cases
Part of why application dependency mapping is so important is the wide range of use cases it has. Having a clear picture of your IT system dependencies comes in handy a lot. Let’s take a look at some of the ways your dependency map can be useful for your IT operations.
Whether it’s launching new applications, making changes to existing ones, or performing software patches and updates, understanding the dependencies between applications is critical. Before implementing any changes, IT teams can identify the dependencies between the applications and services involved to avoid any potential risks that may arise during the change process, effectively minimizing downtime, preventing data loss, and ensuring business continuity.
ADM gives IT teams a bird’s eye view of the resource requirements and capacity needs for each application within their network, making sure those resources can meet the demands of their users. It helps identify potential bottlenecks or conflicts. ADM allows teams to identify the critical applications that must be running at all times, and the systems that support them. This is especially valuable for businesses with high-traffic web applications, where even a small disruption can lead to massive losses in revenue or productivity.
Root cause analysis
When an application or another part of your IT infrastructure isn’t working properly, it can cause other problems within your network, creating a pile-on effect. With a full map of your dependencies, IT teams can isolate the problem and quickly identify its root cause. Having a full map enables you to troubleshoot more effectively and fix issues before they become too costly or disruptive.
As technology continues to evolve, cyber threats are becoming more and more sophisticated, leaving businesses vulnerable to cyber attacks. Application dependency mapping is a crucial asset here. By mapping out the connections between various applications businesses can identify potential security gaps, analyze vulnerabilities proactively, and better defend themselves against cyber threats.
When it comes to cloud migration, application dependency mapping can help you identify potential roadblocks before they become a problem, prioritize which applications to migrate first, and ensure that all dependencies are properly accounted for. With a full picture of your applications and infrastructure, you'll have a better understanding of your IT environment, which will ultimately make your move to the cloud smoother and reduce the risk of downtime.
Graph technology for application dependency mapping
So we know that application dependency mapping is a major asset, if not absolutely essential for optimizing, maintaining and ensuring the security of any complex IT ecosystem. But many organizations still struggle: according to Forrester, 56% report not having a complete view of dependencies between applications and between applications and infrastructure (1).
Graph visualization and analytics
One type of technology that lends itself particularly well to ADM is graph visualization and analytics. In a graph, data is structured as nodes - individual entities such as servers or applications - and edges, which represent the connections between nodes. Graph technology is a natural way to model networks, making it especially powerful in visualizing and analyzing even the most complex IT infrastructure.
Applying graph to ADM
Beyond the basic structure of a graph being particularly well suited to ADM, graph visualization and analytics has other qualities that can make this technology an especially powerful solution for IT managers.
Graphs are flexible. They can be easily accommodated to different types of networks. No matter what type of data or properties you need to be able to see and analyze, you can upload them into your graph database and start easily exploring through a graph visualization tool.
Graphs can be quickly analyzed in real-time, allowing IT managers to obtain critical information on network performance, potential bottlenecks, and other issues as soon as they arise. The context graphs provide around the relationships between different applications and services also enables IT managers to more easily identify patterns and anomalies within the network.
Graphs can be combined with machine learning and other analytical techniques to uncover insights and hidden patterns within the network. By analyzing historical data and identifying trends, companies can predict future network behavior and potential issues before they arise.
Mapping application dependencies with Linkurious Enterprise
Linkurious Enterprise Explorer gives you a complete and interactive view of your data so you can identify insights that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. It shows you the full scope of your IT ecosystem as a graph visualization where you can easily search, display, and explore the full extent of your dependencies to make the right decisions and keep your enterprise and its infrastructure running smoothly.
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At Linkurious, we provide the next generation of data visualization and analytics solutions powered by graph technology. We help teams of analysts and investigators swiftly and accurately find insights otherwise hidden in complex connected data so they can make more informed decisions, faster.