Improving software quality
The initial goal of the AppDynamics deployment was, however, to improve the quality of software across its IT estate.
"It has been able to very quickly point us in the right direction of where something is failing, right down all the way through from the front end of the applications all the way to depths of the databases," Cooper said, adding that it also offers visibility into applications that BMJ doesn't manage directly. "It has been able to highlight a particular problem there, and we have been able to go back to the application vendor and say 'we need to go and fix that line of code'."
BMJ's IT estate includes 100-plus servers, seven different software platforms, 80 databases, 200-plus application instances, and 180 site instances, Cooper says. It also uses six hosting providers, which meant that managing problems with externally run applications was often a challenge.
One example is its third-party controlled access control system, which authorises its customers - such as large hospitals, which purchases access on an organisation-wide basis - to view its range of online products. When problems arose, it could take a long time for IT staff to respond.
"We are one of very few people who use that [access control] application, so it doesn't get a huge amount of development work on it. That application has been slow for years...it was taking our customer service people sometimes forty minutes to set up a customer with a new application," Cooper said.
"We pointed AppDynamics at it, and it came back within a couple of days and it had gone through everything and it [revealed what was] running really slowly."
"Once these were all fixed - we put some fixes in, the vendor put some fixes in - and the application has a 400 percent increase in response time, which meant that in our really busy renewal season when we are dealing with hundreds and hundreds of renewals, the customer services team were able to deal with a call every five minutes instead of every half an hour or hour."
AppDynamic: BMJ efficiency gains
Another major benefit has been operational efficiency, Cooper said. "We believe that it saves us - without any other work, just actually being able to do the monitoring - at least a day a week of a full time equivalent salary."
Cooper said that staff "kind of talk about AppDynamics as being another member of the team."
"What it does is make our small team really efficient. It is at least a day a week that we save, which we offset against the cost of the licence, but it is the fact that every other member of that four person team is working far more efficiently because they know where to go and find things."
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