In this interview, I speak with Gijs in 't Veld – Motion10 CTO and Co-Founder, writer, blogger, chairman of the Dutch Microsoft Integration User Group and Microsoft MVP – about monitoring, the future of integrations and his advice for IT managers.
What is your function and in what manner are you confronted with monitoring issues?
My role is strategic advisor on the Microsoft stack, specializing in integrations and architecture. Real life examples point out that supportability must always be a subject that is on the agenda. Addressing monitoring in a too late stage is a big risk.
What do you often encounter in terms of monitoring / what do you notice when working for a customer?
Often monitoring is thought about much too late, usually only when it has already become a problem. Monitoring is often seen as a dashboard while monitoring must be proactive; if you look at a dashboard you are already too late. Point is I actually hate dashboards thoroughly. The right people must receive the rights alerts before things go wrong. Monitoring is often added to a job task (in addition to development and other tasks) so a shortage of knowledge is an issue. Monitoring is often not properly accommodated in the organization. Distinction between platform management, business and integration are three different branches and that is not seen by the customer, monitoring is seen as just monitoring the platform. The bottom line is that integration is often seen too late as mission critical.
What should every IT manager responsible for integration know within an organization (what do you often hear back from customers)?
Involve specialized companies and / or individuals in your integration architecture and platform, someone who can think about safety, integration patterns, logging, etc. Everything must be thought through and documented in advance.
With what purpose are monitoring tools often used (which customer requests are involved, is a goal always specific)?
It often arises from incidents. When a customer experiences (major) problems due to a lack of insight and knowledge of the integration landscape, we are approached for support and prevention of new problems. At that time, Monitoring Solutions is look at seriously.
In what scenario is monitoring most often used, first-line monitoring (functional) vs. second-line monitoring (technical)?
Both are important, it can be hard to determine where one ends and the other one starts.
What is missing in the current monitoring solutions?
A combination of existing tooling would enable end-to-end tracking and tracing (including the message body), but in the separate tooling this is not yet possible. Starting a step earlier with monitoring at the sending application (customer) up to the receiving application. I miss the ability to easily set up end-to-end monitoring, without having to do a day job to configure.
Can you share an example of a downtime incident that caused problems?
One of our customers has ships with expensive cargo sailing around the world. When their integration middleware goes down, ships that cost tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of euros a day are waiting for loading / unloading / departure or arrival. A company is then completely out of business for some time, so you lose a lot of money and business. After the problem is fixed you have to do a catch up that costs time and money. These sorts of situations should be prevented at all times.
Do you have a customer that extracts business intelligence / analytics from their IT systems in general, and integrations environment specifically?
We always try to do something with BAM (Business Activity Monitoring), but it is not a top priority for customers. Because of the rapidly changing environments you remain busy with other matters. Everything can be done nowadays, but you must do it with separate building blocks. It should not cost too much work to set up and maintain a system.
How do you see Azure and the current development towards the cloud? BizTalk vs. Logic Apps?
BizTalk is being phased out, I do not expect a new version. You must be converted to the cloud within 9 years now (before BizTalk support end-of-life), so customers need to start with cloud transition as soon as possible. Azure Integration services must be used. Mapping in Azure is now possible with XSLT and for that you can also 3th party tooling such as MapForce. I hope that eventually Microsoft will also come with a graphic representation of the mapper in Azure as part of Azure Integration Services.
How do you see the future of integration and how should monitoring solutions adapt to this?
Monitoring solutions must come with a complete monitoring solution instead of separate building blocks, and must start applying Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning to their solutions to keep up with Microsoft. No more dashboards but proactive alerting!
The IT world is getting more complex, and IT managers need to cope: How do you see the demands on IT systems getting more complex, and how are you coping with this?
My advice is to always have an architect at your side. Keep up to date with new developments, continue playing with new technologies and have a vision on IT and its role within your organization.
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