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Published February 09th, 2017 by

Application Mapping Software Shootout – BMC, Device42, ServiceNow, and AppDynamics

In the “Application Mapping” tools category, there are but a few tools that even claim to be up to the job. Among the most notable are BMC’s Discovery, ServiceNow’s “Mapping”, and AppDynamics.  For each product in the shootout, I’ve gone ahead and requested a free trial of the software, which I will attempt to install / setup and utilize to discover the machines in our lab.

Each ADM tool has been evaluated for:

  • The trial & setup process – From navigating the site, filling out the form, downloading (if any) and ease of setup (on premises versions will be utilized, if offered)
  • Product’s ease of use, interface intuitiveness, and steps required to discover the infrastructure and its applications
  • Vendor support
  • The discovery results & presentation of the discovered data

BMC’s Discovery ADDM (Application Dependency Mapping) claims to “automate asset discovery and application dependency mapping to build a holistic view of all your data center assets and the relationships between them. “ This being exactly what we are looking for, is why BMC is in this comparison.

Device42 ADM: “Continuous Discovery for your IT Infrastructure”. Device42’s website states that their product will: Automatically maintain an up-to-date inventory of your physical, virtual, and cloud servers and containers, network components, software/services/applications, and their inter-relationships and interdependencies.

ServiceNow’s Mapping product claims “Our entry-level service-visibility solution includes both business service and infrastructure discovery, giving you a unified, connected view of your entire IT network and the services it supports.” The marketing claims are indeed also just what we were looking for.

AppDynamics claims it can “Monitor and manage complex applications and identify and resolve performance issues” while also claiming the ability to “auto-discover and monitor end-to-end application performance.” Though this trial isn’t too concerned with performance monitoring, that’s a nice bonus if the product can do that as well as auto-discover the applications.

Trial offer, type, and steps to get up and running:

BMC:

Starting a trial with BMC Discovery started with this big orange button:  Upon clicking, a standard form is presented – Name, e-mail, phone, address, company, and a checkbox if you’d like someone at BMC (sales, most likely) to contact you. Upon completion of the form, you are greeted with an email containing links to both a VMWare image download & an MD5 checksum download, the latter to verify the integrity of the image.

The Trial is a download of the “community edition”, which is limited to 100 devices and doesn’t include many of the enterprise features like Clustering, CMDB Sync, LDAP Integration, SSO, MainFrame discovery, etc. [full details]

The download is right around 2.5GB, so be prepared for a small wait if your connection is slow, but it’s by no means unreasonable.

The install process is the same as that of any virtual appliance: Unzip, and import into the virtualization product of your choice, with minimal configuration. For this trial, VMware Workstation was utilized. The download itself took about 2 hours, and the import into VMware took another 5 minutes or so.

Total time from web form to up-and-running: 2hr 30m

Device42:

Navigating Device42’s website was very straightforward, as they appear to only offer a single, unified product that contains all of their advertised features, there was no confusion there, either.

An easy to locate blue button (pictured) was visible in multiple places on the home page, and one instance was located right next to an orange “request online demo” button, which appears to schedule a demo with a Device42 staff member (a demo wasn’t requested as part of this evaluation).

Upon clicking the “Try Now” button, a standard form was presented that requested simply a name and work e-mail address. Within a minute or so of filling it out, a download link was delivered to the supplied e-mail box, and the download was started.

The downloads averaged 1.48GB, ranging from 1.1GB – 2.1 GB depending on the virtualization platform chosen. The VMware virtual appliance image we used for this test was downloaded and up & running in a little over an hour, with no real install process to speak of aside from again importing the virtual image and booting.

It did, however, take another approximately half hour to realize that the standalone Windows based auto-discovery software was a separate download, but the download and install was very quick (<5 minutes).

Total time from web to up and running: 1hr 35min

Servicenow:

Navigating the ServiceNow website is not intuitive. With the goal being rather straightforward — to begin a trial — much confusion was faced with regards to how go about actually doing so. Looking back at the notes, it took “…approx. 30 minutes to navigate ServiceNow’s website in an attempt to locate the product trial – still not sure this is it.” A demo was finally located by buried beneath the “SOLUTIONS” menu; after choosing “Prevent Service Outages” (assumption being that preventing outages would be accomplished by mapping applications…). Moving forward, the next three options presented were as such – Servicewatch SUITE, Servicewatch INSIGHT, or Servicewatch MAPPING – each of which presented a “VIEW | DEMO” choice at the bottom. Having chosen the “DEMO” button under “MAPPING” – The form was filled, and to no surprise at this point, yet another maze – a screen full of “guide videos” (what happened to demo?). At the top, however, there was a large “DEMO” button (finally!), which upon clicking, opened a public, shared SaaS (software as a service) demo instance.

In hindsight, after navigating the website a few times over, it was realized that the first demo instance had been the “ITOM” (I.T. Operations Management) demo; depending on the chosen “path” through the maze that is ServiceNow’s website (effectively, the response you choose to the “I need to…” prompt – pictured), you may end up in the “ITSM” (ServiceManagement) demo, or one of a few others – however, they all, aside from the URL, appear more or less the same on the surface, some versions having menu options that others do not – but that’s another part of the review.

Time to find form, fill it out, and get up and running: about 45 minutes (this can now be accomplished in <5 minutes, including form-fill – which must be done each time you’d like to enter the demo). Furthermore, a SaaS demo is the only choice. A local installation is not currently offered.

AppDynamics:

Locating the trial was very straightforward. AppDynamics, much like BMC, had an obvious button: (pictured) in the upper right, appropriately labeled “Start free trial” – which changes to “My Subscriptions” once sign-up is completed. The trial is granted as a 15-day license to your choice of SaaS or an On-Premises trial. On premises was utilized for this evaluation.

The next choice is Windows or Linux (and 32 or 64 bit – but who uses 32bit anymore?). It was originally planned to proceed with a windows instance, but since Linux doesn’t add any cost to the product and negated the need to track down a Windows license, the Linux 64-bit image was chosen. For comparison purposes, both were downloaded – the Windows x64 image comes in at 646MB, while the Linux image is a slightly larger 845MB. At approximately ¼ and 1/3rd the size of BMC’s download, respectively. Though interesting to compare, download size doesn’t say much anything about the software within, as these particular downloads are installers vs. full virtual appliances, and therefore don’t include host operating systems as part of their download images.

The download went proceeded quickly (~15 minutes), and already having a fresh Linux x64 installation ready (Mint, and Ubuntu derivative), SCP’ing the installer over and running it didn’t take long at all. A little less than an hour later, and things were … broken.

After some investigation, it was determined that the installer script didn’t check for the existence of a single required dependency (libaio), nor verify that the limit was set appropriately as required. To their defense, if you look hard enough, you can find it buried on an instructions page – why this page isn’t linked to by default, or at least from the “quick install” instructions found below the download button is anyone’s guess.

A second installation after ensuring dependencies were installed (+30 minutes) resulted success – except the web interface *wouldn’t accept the login*! – This time, after logs were reviewed, it became clear that because the original install wasn’t completely purged, errors occurred [no direct fault of the installer].

After deleting all traces of the prior installs (# rm -rf ./installDir) and re-installing, things worked as expected and the web application accepted the login credentials.

Total time from web form to up-and-running: About 3 hours (it would have likely been about an hour or so less had the instructions page been discovered initially – however, if you were doing this for the first time, you likely would share a similar experience. No ratings on the Windows installer – if desired, leave a comment – if there’s demand, we’ll be glad to go back and review it as well).

Using the product:

BMC:

BMC’s interface isn’t totally intuitive, but after going through this a few times, it’s definitely one of the nicest of the group, divided between “Explore”, “Model”, and “Manage”. Most activity seems to take place (at least in the context of this trial) under “Manage”, which is where credentials are configured and discovery ranges are specified.

BMC was able to discover all the servers in our lab infrastructure in under ten minutes – six minutes, and twenty seconds, to be exact. There were indeed some issues – It was later discovered that to get more information and thoroughly inventory the servers, BMC requires the use of either a dedicated “windows proxy” – a windows machine on the same network you’d like to discover – or presents the option to utilize a “standalone windows scanner”, which per BMC, “will discover limited data”. Once the proxy was set up, which was a rather straightforward windows installer double-click, next, next, next, & install, BMC was then able to discover the installed software and detailed inventory of our test servers.

Device42:

Device42’s interface is easy to navigate, responsive, and functionally comparable to BMCs. While its layout can seem a bit busy at times to newcomers, it is mostly intuitive and overall makes sense, especially so when experienced after ServiceNow.

Much of the discovery takes place from Device42’s web interface, but to run agentless discovery on windows & linux/UNIX machines and hypervisors (non-cloud), the standalone windows discovery tool was utilized. The tool connects to Device42 via it’s API, and populates the data as it’s discovered. Device42 was able to discover the entirety of our test lab infrastructure in under fifteen minutes, including complete inventory, which was a refreshing surprise. Adding and selecting credentials to use for discovery was quite straightforward, and all of our servers were successfully discovered, with detailed inventory gathered on the first attempt (once the correct credentials were entered..!).

For the test server set, discovered data was comparably equivalent to BMC; the real differentiator between these two leaders will come down to price, it appears, when choosing a winner for your environment.

ServiceNow:

Just as it took significant time to navigate the website and locate the trial form, the software itself is too a maze. ServiceNow appears to have a module for every department that exists in a common company, from purchasing to HR and beyond. The demo instance, for example, has user’s health insurance elections, among other things that were far beyond the scope of ADM software, so it was previously believed.

The number of choices in the sidebar menu is simply overwhelming, and none stand out. Furthermore, each, when clicked expands a submenu that exposes yet another group of menu options. There must be a few hundred items in the menu (no exaggeration).

After scrolling up and down numerous times, finally resorting to slow and carefully examination, “discovery” was finally uncovered.  Choosing “quick start”, you are then informed of the need to install and configure a “Mid-Server” (a proxy, similar in principle to that required by BMC) on a dedicated machine on the local network to perform the discovery legwork, which then feeds discovered data back up to the SaaS instance.

After creating a username & pw as per the steps in the “wizard”, and installing the proxy, further progress was halted. The mid-server was unable to connect back to the SaaS demo instance. Upon borrowing access to a development instance, I was able to troubleshoot the issue and determine that the problem is indeed the demo instance not assigning proper user rights to the user created by its wizard, as the mid server would successfully connect to the developer instance – unfortunately, the dev instance doesn’t have a “discovery” license, and progress was therefore halted.

I reached out to ServiceNow support, but have yet to hear back as of this writing. Update: A few weeks have passed, and still no reply from SN support on regarding this issue.

All in all, more work than it should have been, and no discovery to report on.

AppDynamics:

It appears that monitoring or discovering anything via AppDynamics requires the installation of agents on each machine. As the goal of this set of evaluations is discovery, that essentially eliminates AppDynamics, as being able to discover servers and applications without already having a list is the goal of ADM.

Not to come this far for nothing, however, agent installation was launched: on a Windows server, another Windows VM, and a Linux VM. The installation was as simple as unzipping and running the agent via a single command, and the agents successfully registered themselves in the instance.

This, however, is where the usefulness ended. When “view details” was attempted via the UI on the agent-equipped servers, all three presented the same popup window with the same message:

Support was contacted in an attempt to determine what the app actually could do, or if something was done incorrectly, as this message was really surprising considering AppDynamics appears, primarily, to be a monitoring application.

As a last-ditch effort, the UI was utilized in an attempt to query a SQL server running on one of the Windows servers an agent had been deployed to. Even more surprising than the prior licensing issue, to monitor a SQL server, *yet another agent* must be deployed to the server.

Support appears to have ignored the first part of the inquiry regarding the applications standard capabilities (above), instead inquiring as to what licenses were installed (whatever ones come with the trial!), but did indeed confirm that if one desires to monitor “more” things (‘more’ is in quotes because it’s yet to be determined what the first agent is doing), one must install more agents.

AppDynamics, appearing straightforward on the surface, is overly complex with its mix of numerous agents and licenses. Though the instructions were followed & support contacted, in the end nothing useful was accomplished. The support outreach somewhat confirmed this conclusion; I was asked to verify what licenses were installed, and the welcome e-mail specifically states that AppDynamics only provides support for “Pro” customers; non-pro and trial customers are on their own.

Matt Gracie

Matt is a SYS admin with 15 years of experience. In his own time he dabbles in programming and design, but ultimately, he is just an IT geek to the bone.

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