What Is Application Dependency Mapping (ADM)?

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Application dependency mapping (ADM) is the process of identifying and documenting the relationships between components of an application and their dependencies on other systems, infrastructure, and services. This mapping can help organizations understand the interdependencies between different components and how they relate to each other.

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ADM typically involves creating visual diagrams or maps that show how an application is structured and how its components interact with each other. These maps can be used to help identify potential issues or bottlenecks in the application, as well as to aid in troubleshooting problems when they arise.

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There are various application dependency methods available, ranging from simple manual documentation to more sophisticated automated solutions that can automatically discover and document dependencies between components.Β 

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These tools make it easier for organizations to better understand their application architecture, improve their ability to troubleshoot problems, and ultimately make more informed decisions when managing their IT infrastructure.

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This is part of a series of articles about application mapping.

Why Is ADM Important?Β 

Application dependency mapping is important for several reasons:

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  • Understand application architecture: ADM helps organizations gain a better understanding of the structure of their applications and the interdependencies between various components.
  • Identify potential issues: By mapping out the dependencies between different components, ADM can help identify potential bottlenecks, performance issues, or security risks in the application.
  • Troubleshooting: ADM can help organizations troubleshoot issues more effectively by providing a visual representation of the application's architecture and dependencies.
  • Change management: ADM can help organizations manage changes to their applications more effectively by providing a clear understanding of how changes will impact the application and its dependencies.
  • Capacity planning: ADM can help organizations plan for future growth and capacity needs by identifying potential scalability issues and dependencies.
  • Risk management: ADM can help organizations mitigate risks associated with changes to the application by providing a clear understanding of the dependencies between different components.

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Related content: Read our detailed guide to software mapping

Types of Application Dependency Mapping Method and ToolsΒ 

There are several methods and tools available for application dependency mapping, each with its own advantages and limitations. Here are a few common types:

Sweep and Poll

This method involves periodically scanning the network and collecting information about the devices, services, and applications running on it. The sweep and poll technique can be performed using various tools such as SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) or WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation). It provides a basic level of visibility into the infrastructure and application landscape.

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Pros:

  • Simple to implement and execute.
  • Low overhead in terms of system resources.

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Cons:

  • Limited to the data that can be collected through scanning.
  • Can miss real-time changes and transient dependencies.
  • May not capture all dependencies accurately.

Network Monitoring

Network monitoring tools capture and analyze the flow of data packets between devices and services in the IT environment. By examining communication patterns, these tools can identify relationships between applications, services, and infrastructure components. Examples of network monitoring tools include NetFlow, sFlow, and IPFIX.

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Pros:

  • Real-time visibility into network traffic.
  • Can identify dependencies based on actual communication patterns.

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Cons:

  • May require significant network infrastructure configuration.
  • Can be resource-intensive and impact network performance.
  • May not provide a complete picture of dependencies, particularly for encrypted or non-IP traffic.

Agent on the Server

This method involves deploying software agents on servers and devices within the IT environment. These agents collect detailed information about the applications, services, and dependencies on their respective hosts. Examples of agent-based tools include Microsoft SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) and various commercial APM (Application Performance Management) solutions.

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Pros:

  • Provides deep, granular insight into applications and dependencies.
  • Can capture real-time changes in the environment.

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Cons:

  • May require significant effort to deploy and maintain agents on all devices.
  • Can be resource-intensive, as agents consume system resources.
  • Potential security and privacy concerns with agents accessing sensitive data.

Automated ADDM

Automated application discovery and dependency mapping (ADDM) tools combine multiple discovery and mapping techniques to create a comprehensive and dynamic view of application dependencies. These tools often use a combination of network monitoring, agent-based data collection, and other methods such as log analysis or API integrations.Β 

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Pros:

  • Provides a comprehensive view of application dependencies.
  • Can adapt to changes in the environment and capture real-time updates.
  • Often integrates with other IT management and monitoring tools.

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Cons:

  • Can be complex to set up and configure.
  • May require significant resources for implementation and ongoing maintenance.
  • Potential for overlapping or redundant data collection from multiple sources.

Orchestrating Application Dependency Mapping

The application dependency mapping process can be highly complex, especially in modern IT environments that utilize many components working dynamically. Automation and orchestration platforms can help manage these environments efficiently by performing various automated tasks and configurations across multiple components and keeping track of these components and the underlying server resources.

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Organizations can leverage these solutions to create a hybrid discovery and dependency mapping solution that employs diverse techniques, including AIOps, agent-based or agentless tools, and APM. In some cases, hybrid discovery and dependency mapping can ensure the monitoring system performs optimally and cost-effectively.

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This implementation requires setting up processes to avoid performance bottlenecks and proactively managing risks. Here are important aspects to consider when orchestrating dependency mapping:

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  • Applications and systems: The process should be continuous and based on up-to-date information. It requires comprehensive information about all impacted systems and apps, sourced by continuously updating dependency maps when changes occur, including introducing new features, application components, and infrastructure resources.
  • Risks and mitigation: Regularly evaluate and prioritize all relevant risks by analyzing vulnerabilities from a cost, security, and performance perspective. Include specific guidelines, define roles and responsibilities, and add this information to the overall risk mitigation plan.
  • Feedback and iteration: IT environments constantly evolve with new software installations and the adoption of cloud migration and advanced technologies, creating a dynamic and complex environment. These changes often require staff training, changes to knowledge bases, and investment in new tools and procedures for application discovery and dependency mapping.

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Related Content: Read our guide to code dependencies

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