Cisco updates AppDynamics with Smart Agents to tackle sprawl


Cisco has developed technology to help developers manage the software agents they use to monitor applications and IT infrastructure. Smart Agent for Cisco AppDynamics provides agent lifecycle management, which, according to Cisco, dramatically simplifies application instrumentation for full-stack observability through intelligent agent automation and management. 

Cisco said customers can use Smart Agent to identify out-of-date agents and upgrade them quickly using a centralised agent management user interface. 

The company said the product was developed to meet demand for incredibly distributed applications, which tend to be modular and scalable. These software components are usually monitored using software agents. The more complex the distributed architecture, the more agents that are required.

Cisco said this means it becomes harder for IT administrators to manage. While in many companies, the operations team deals with agents in the tens of thousands, those at large enterprises often handle hundreds of thousands of agents, depending on the number and type of applications being observed.

Due to the sheer volume of agents – and the time-consuming and complex nature of updating them – Cisco said many organisations fail to upgrade to the latest versions in a timely fashion, which leaves them with old and unsupported agents, without the latest functionality, and at risk from security vulnerabilities that have been mitigated in the most recent agent releases.

In a blog post, Ronak Desai, senior vice-president and general manager of Cisco AppDynamics and Full-Stack Observability, said: “An average-sized organisation may have upward of 40,000 agents in deployment, but I’ve even spoken with some larger organisations with more than one million agents to support massively scalable applications! Keeping all those agents updated to the latest version can be complicated and time consuming and takes away critical manpower from actually managing application performance.”

He said that when a Smart Agent is deployed on each host, IT admins can remotely install and upgrade Cisco AppDynamics agents from a centralised agent management console. “The console flags agents that are old and outdated, and easily allows IT teams to select them and push upgrades without coding or scripts,” he said.

Cisco plans to update Smart Agent over time with automatic instrumentation for new applications using a single-agent installation by utilising intelligent auto-detect and auto-deploy capabilities. This will be guided by Smart Agent policies to determine which agents are needed. Once available, this update will automatically download, install and configure only those agents needed. According to Cisco, this will reduce instrumentation time from hours/days to minutes.

“Teams can now focus on what matters for the business and react quickly to security events or take advantage of new agent-based functionality,” Desai added.