Application Performance Monitoring Tools: Things to Consider
Modern business relies upon software applications today, through which business-critical services are delivered to an organization to maintain ROI and efficiency. Hence, it goes without saying that every organization should remain proactive, while imbuing full visibility and control across the performance and availability of the application infrastructure. For example, in case of an application outage or stagnation, organizations must know what caused the problem, where it originated from, how it originated, and how to prevent it from occurring again!
But, dynamic technological environments and delivery models has made it challenging for organizations to maintain visibility and performance of the applications. On the other hand, customers have become more selective about their services than ever before. Not only do the end-customers desire high-performing, and always-available services, they also publicize their experiences on the social media. Further, service delivery also has become complicated as hybrid architectures and applications are used by many of the businesses today which leverage resources from both on-premise and cloud environments. The availability and performance metrics for these applications is difficult to obtain for the organizations as they are often controlled by third party service providers.
All these contributing factors have together augmented the needs of business managers, IT operation managers, and development teams to have real-time performance data that not only reveal the health of their applications and infrastructure but also the quality of the end-user experience. Further, they need this data in a format that would support interoperability in traditional as well as emerging delivery models such as hybrid systems, on-premise, or cloud.
Application Performance Management (APM) Tools offer these capabilities to organizations to diagnose problems quickly and consecutively improve their quality of service. For example, APM tools develop communication and expedite software production for a firm using Agile and DevOps processes. Continuous monitoring and testing is enabled by the APM tools at every phase including software delivery, production, etc., which ensures that almost every redundancy or loophole in an application is paid attention to.
Importance in the Present Business Context
Today’s business environment is dynamic, tortuous and based on skyrocketing growth in user-facing applications, where software applications play a big role in keeping the business running. Internal and external services are delivered to the end-users across mobile and social platforms, whereas trends such as collaboration and cloud demand the applications to have interoperability features. Applications are entailed by enterprises not only to facilitate services, but also to pursue new business models such as the Internet of Things, analytics, and network management. Over-dependency of enterprises on applications has made even the slightest performance or availability issues of an application to have a huge impact on their brand-value and revenues. In 2014, eBay experienced these problems and had a significant impact on their image. 12 major outages along with security breaches and accessibility issues made them lose the trust of their customers which impacted their revenues greatly.
Industry experts delineate that maintaining visibility and controlling the application infrastructure have become priorities for various organizations, along with the e-commerce and adoption of the agile development for applications. These examples show why APM tools are important, and why firms are in race to leverage these tools to capture the open market. Though they believe that the problems of monitoring and maintaining application performance in a complex environment is nothing new, what has changed is the recognition that APM tools can be simplified. “Using APM tools are kind of like operating a Boeing 757. It's very powerful and very complex, but if you're operating without the right dashboard and cockpit or without auto-pilot, you can't really do it. It becomes very complex,” explained Jyonthi Bansal, CEO, AppDynamics (leaders of APM Tools sphere according to Gartner’s magic quadrant).
Who should employ APM tools?
Identifying the criticality of a software application to the core business of an organization must be ‘the’ focal factor for an organization to decide whether they should employ APM tools or not. For the organizations which use Agile methods and DevOps processes, employing APM is highly recommended as it helps in expediting software delivery and also supports in continuously developing tools and strategies.
APM is relevant to large-scale as well as small-scale organizations. Big organizations can use APM tools to overcome the drawbacks of a siloed approach that can detect technology component issues but cannot show the end-to-end effect of component performance problems for the end user. APM solutions provide large organizations with a more holistic view of their services and systems.
SMBs can wield APM to keep their growth curve steep and active. As organizations gain customers and market share, APM tools can rigorously monitor performance and ensure the business is delivering the right user experience to the end-customers.
APM tools can support organizations leverage Agile and DevOps practices. It breaks up the silos for organizations by helping their Agile and DevOps teams to work better together. Also, these tools steer agile practices specifically by addressing performance problems and errors that can be overlooked due to faster delivery cycles that Agile facilitates and can affect customer experience adversely.
DevOps practice is supported by enabling continuous monitoring during all phases of the application life cycle, including development, test, and production. APM quickly reveals how a new code will affect application performance, and thus benefiting the organizations trying to push out numerous releases in a day or week.
Recommendations to get started
Employing and using APM tools will depend upon on a range of organization-specific conditions and business objectives. Factors to consider using ‘APM tools as a service’ will include the type and extent of the application performance problems which the organization is experiencing. This may include particular APM capabilities which the organization needs, pricing preferences, and the complexity of the application environment.
Identification of pain-points
Before even thinking about talking to an APM tool vendor, an organization needs to jot down the performance problems that can be addressed by employing APM tools. An enterprise must be extra-specific. What kind of visibility is needed to develop the type and depth of the data? Does the organization require reducing outages or identifying bottlenecks that are slowing the services? All these questions must be answered!
Organizations must start small when it comes to choosing capabilities in their APM tool. They should use synthetic monitoring initially just to gain an idea of application availability and response time under simulated conditions. Once the problems are spotted out, capabilities can be added accordingly.
Hybrid APM capabilities
Hybrid APM capabilities lets an organization to leverage resources from both on-premises and cloud-based environments to deliver innovative, convenient applications to their customers. The hybrid approach is extremely advantageous for large enterprises that want to keep some APM in house but not all of it.
The coverage of the application stack must be the criteria considered by an organization to evaluate the vendors. For each component covered, organizations must make sure that the components on which applications run on can be monitored and APM objectives are met. The process of data delivery by the vendors must also be considered. A firm must make sure that the data is tabulated, to integrate it with its own visualization tools.
Type of trials offered, the purchase price, the costs associated with specific components or services, and maintenance costs must be the main points to consider while comparing prices suggested by different vendors. As there is no unified approach to APM pricing, there is a need to consider several pricing strategies and features in accordance with the organization’s need and senior management’s decision.