Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Application analytics: a new game brings new rules

Web analytics, application performance monitoring, runtime debuggers, security logging, and customer experience improvement programs each have, at their core, some flavor of application monitoring and analytics. Yet, this common thread has been a purely abstract one as the underlying technologies and their respective suppliers have been (up until recently) wholly separate.

These analytic solutions have been able to succeed as silos with a narrow focus on specific stakeholder (owner) objectives because the stakeholders themselves have also been mostly separate. The combination of role, objectives, and scope allow each analytics “silo category” to effectively satisfy the parochial requirements of each “stakeholder category” in happy isolation

Mobile and cloud computing force application analytics convergence

The early crop of application monitoring solutions for mobile and cloud applications have been equally myopic with mobile analytics services providing marketing performance analysis akin to traditional web analytics (sort of a web clone for the phone) and cloud analytics providing metering akin to application performance monitoring solutions – but the silo walls are cracking.

Smartphone applications are often native or managed binaries (Java or .NET framework) rather than simply HTML and JavaScript. And, multi-tenant cloud platforms have multiple stakeholders from ISVs, corporate IT organizations, and the platform suppliers themselves.

Smart mobile and cloud applications promise to end the segregation of application analytic solutions and force a convergence of analytics technologies into a broader application analytics category.

The following table illustrates the multiple mobile and cloud application analytics stakeholders and their diverse sets of requirements.

When, as described above, marketing, development, and App store stakeholders each have “selfish interests” in concurrently monitoring the production application usage of smartphone applications, practical performance and operational considerations dictate an analytics platform whose runtime monitoring capabilities have the breadth to support these diverse constituencies and the analytic depth to support their specific use cases and requirements.

Example: Customer activity and experience

Web analytics focuses primarily on user actions (activity) and customer experience focuses on a user’s entire experience.

Experience and activity are tightly connected, but are in fact, distinct.
In the new mobile world, the distinction between user experience and user activity will become increasingly important as the requirements to manage and optimize each diverge.

The following table defines these two categories and highlights some of their material differences.

The table above shows how the mobile application combines the objectives (and therefore the requirements) of on-premise application monitoring and web analytics.

Refactoring the existing web analytics approach is not sufficient as the customer experience improvement requirements will not be fully met – as the following table illustrates.

Mobile analytic vendors are already emerging that effectively offer the monitoring and reporting analog to web analytics (web analytics clones for the phones). Similarly, cloud platform providers offer varying degrees of resource and application activity metering.

These emerging vertical categories are likely to persist, but they also highlight the practical requirement for a common platform able to efficiently integrate these splinter categories to provide a holistic view of applications that span physical network layers, diverse surfaces, and distributed computing services.