What Is Application Dependency Mapping and Why Is It Important?


Application stacks only get more complicated as time goes on, as an enterprise adds more servers, ports, network devices, and data sources. There was a time that this type of information could be tracked with a spreadsheet and validated through regular manual audits. These processes are no longer enough to map your system, and for many companies, they were never enough. Audits get put off until later, spreadsheets don't get updated regularly, and manual checks are susceptible to human error. The modern tool designed to take the place of all this manual work is an application dependency mapping tool.

What is Application Dependency Mapping?

Application dependency mapping is the process to determine the following:

  • All applications running on a network
  • Which devices are these applications installed on
  • How these applications are interconnected and dependent on each other

Fortunately, many automated tools on the market will do this work for you. No more spreadsheets. These automated tools give you a consistent view of all of your applications, the ports they use, and how they connect to other applications on your network. They usually accomplish this by either polling the network for devices, monitoring and capturing packets on the network, or through agents installed in your applications and infrastructure.

Application discovery and dependency mapping give you an overview of what is on your network and how it operates. But why would you need this?

Why is Application Dependency Mapping Important?

Once you have application dependency mapping in place, it is time to put it to use. Here are some places where an application dependency mapping tool can improve your business processes.

Efficient Development

A 2016 Forrester study discovered that companies working on development projects took longer than expected to finish them because they did not have a complete view of dependencies, did not know what resources were required by applications, and lacked a complete view of all the applications used by the company.

Existing developers may only know part of the applications on a network, which is the part they normally work on. New developers will not have a clue how applications in the network interact with each other. Application dependency mapping speeds up development time by providing an overview of the IT ecosystem.

Change Management

Any change to your network or data center needs to be planned and then implemented in a phased approach. There is a lot at stake here. In a complex IT environment, changes are never simple. When you know how an application on your network relates to the rest of your system, you can make smart decisions. The view of your IT ecosystem that application dependency mapping provides will give you the information you need to manage changes efficiently.

Root Cause Analysis

How long does it take to track down the root cause of an incident on your network? System failures and poor performance will result in employees that can't access the tools they need to get work done and frustrated customers that turn to another business for their needs.

The complete map of your business that application dependency mapping provides will speed up tracking the cause of an incident. By reviewing application dependencies, you will be able to discover the source of delays, bottlenecks, and service issues, identify all affected systems, and come up with a plan to fix the problem.

Incident Response Planning

If you plan for an incident in advance, you will have to do less analysis to get to the root of the problem. A map of your business systems will give you an idea of what applications and systems will be affected in the worst-case scenario, in case a hacker was able to access your network. Using this map, you can create simulations and penetration tests to audit your network, application, and device security.

When you have complete visibility of your IT ecosystem, it is easier to create security policies before they are needed. If you know what parts of your network are at risk, you can create backup solutions and disaster recovery plans that fit your business.

Migration

Application dependency mapping tools are crucial for migrations. Moving applications from an internal system to the cloud is no longer just a matter of "lifting and shifting." Modern applications are highly interdependent. An incomplete understanding of the applications and infrastructure, and how they relate to each other will increase the cost and time involved in a migration project. But a map of your IT ecosystem will give you the insight you need to plan an efficient migration.

Conclusion

The complexity of today's business systems requires application dependency mapping to provide a complete view of the applications running on a network and how they relate to each other. The map of a network that dependency mapping tools provide improves development time, change management, root cause analysis, incident response planning, and application migrations.

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