Application performance isn’t just about speed anymore; it’s about enabling high-quality user experiences that deliver tangible business value. Achieving that goal requires fast, easy access to more types of data than traditional APM solutions have provided.
“You have to understand each and every transaction from the start of an action on the user interface all the way down to the back-end application or the components that make up an application,” said Nicolas Robbe, CMO of Dynatrace. “It used to be that the response time of an application was a proxy for the customer experience; my application funs fast, the response time is good, and therefore, the customer experience must be good.”
Inferring good customer experience is unwise when user expectations are at an all-time high and issue resolution times are expected to be at an all-time low, despite the ever-increasing application and environmental complexity.
(Related: How the new definition of APM was forged)
“More companies are competing via their software because that’s how customers engage with your brand,” said Al Sargent, senior director of product marketing at New Relic. “Your software needs to be as good as it can be across three dimensions: application performance, user experience, and the ability to drive business outcomes.”
The growing scope of APM, and the growing universe of data necessary to meet the needs of Dev, DevOps, Ops and lines of business, is causing some solution providers to re-categorize their offerings. For example, New Relic is now promoting “software analytics,” while Dynatrace prefers “digital performance management.” Others, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise and CA, are simply expanding the capabilities of their APM offerings to meet the needs of modern organizations.
The data you need today
Delivering great user experiences can be very challenging, especially when so many potentially disruptive factors are outside a software team’s control. To minimize the effect of a disruption occurring on the front end, the back end, or anywhere in between, APM must provide insight end to end so the root cause of an issue can be identified and resolved quickly.
“To truly measure user experience, APM requires that you measure the interaction with the software, the user response time, the usability of the software, the design of the software, and also what they’re saying on social media,” said Joe Fox, director of product marketing at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “For a mobile application, you need to be able to trace those user interactions or transactions end to end across a composite application through a mobile gateway or a Web server through to the application where the data processing is done, back into a database where there’s potentially some middleware component. Then, you need to be able to distribute the transaction to additional services or a mainframe or other data store.”
Componentized applications and environmental complexity dramatically increase the amount of monitoring that is necessary and the amount of data collected. To be of value, APM solutions must be able to scale accordingly.
“Identifying the source of an application problem such as performance degradation or an outage is arguably the main use case for APM,” said Kieran Taylor, vice president of products and solutions marketing at CA. “Many don’t realize that nearly 80% of the Mean Time to Repair is tied up in locating the culprit. [If you’re] only focusing on the usual suspects, [you] may miss the true cause of an application issue.”
To avoid such blind spots, developers need code-level analysis, including session state and activity, crash analytics, stack traces and affected users. User experience teams must understand usage statistics such as startup time, spin time, session activity, and which portions of the user interface are used or not used and why. Operations teams need insight into the user experience, network and carrier performance, battery status, and network changes, as well as information about specific URLs, and information about disk, memory, and CPU usage. All of that data must be segmented by app version, platform, operating system, network, device type, and even user location, Taylor said.
“In a world of componentized apps, this means instrumenting hybrid environments where some elements such as the mainframe are in the technology team’s datacenter, but container-based app components are not,” he said. “In the latter case this means harvesting metrics specific to Dockerized applications, Node.js reporting or monitoring the operation of API gateways that are the connective tissue for many applications. Support for these modern monitoring techniques is crucial to ensure there are no blind spots when [troubleshooting] a poorly performing application.”
Some APM solutions are monitoring customer sentiment information from social networks and interconnecting with enterprise applications (such as CRM) to enable more proactive customer engagement. For example, a cosmetic company uses Dynatrace to minimize revenue leaks caused by online ordering woes. When it appears that one of its 2 million agents is having trouble placing an order, a company representative can proactively call that particular agent to offer assistance.
“It’s a tremendous shift in how you think about performance,” said Dynatrace’s Robbe. “APM is not just a troubleshooting tool; it’s a tool the business and developers can leverage to proactively resolve issues, engage with customers, and understand the experience they’re delivering to customers.”
Trainline, the largest seller of train tickets in the U.K., is using New Relic to monitor connections to different payment gateways.
“Because they’ve stored the data in a lossless manner, they’re able to jump in and troubleshoot the problem, understand which payment gateway is down, which transactions didn’t go through, which type of currency is being used, and which error messages and response codes [appeared],” said New Relic’s Sargent. “All that information is available in an unaggregated manner, so the engineers have the information they need to resolve the problem quickly.”
Managing the data
The amount of application-related data that can be monitored and analyzed is staggering. Modern APM solutions provide an easy way to control what data is collected, analyzed and reported, how long the data is kept, and for what purpose. For example, HPE allows its customers to set up specific summarization rules that define how long instance-level data is kept, and the granularity at which the data is summarized.
“We’re providing an end-to-end view of APM so it can be analyzed and then presented to different constituents, whether that’s business personas, developers, or technical views for application support or operations teams,” said HPE’s Fox.
Dynatrace analytics and data visualizations simplify data navigation and accelerate root cause analysis. “We also provide the ability for people to share data and collaborate around specific issues,” said Robbe. “The collaboration aspect is critical because it provides data in the context of the users in the tooling that is most familiar to them.”
New Relic helps organizations monitor massive amounts of data at scale with confidence. “You really have to ask yourself if you want to be in the business of managing trillions of events imported into your system every day,” said Sargent. “We make sure data is available fast so our customers don’t have to worry about it.”
CA provides role- and task-relevant views of data. Its latest release allows multiple teams to collaborate so applications can be continually optimized more efficiently. Users can also filter complex datasets into time-based views that correlate performance issues with changes in an application environment.
“APM Timeline View correlates separate events such as changes to [the] network, device configurations, hardware, software or even personnel,” said CA’s Taylor. “Identifying changes and connecting them to performance issues is the largest portion of time spent on problem resolution.”
Gleaning more insights
APM solutions are interconnecting with more types of tools, services, platforms and applications than ever before to provide new insights, more relevant insights, and more granular forms of insight than were available previously.
“You need to be able to follow a transaction across multiple vendors so you can get data from all your tiers and the various underlying pieces of software that make up the experience,” said Robbe. “[That way], you have one thread, across all of your systems, that comes from different vendors and different technology stacks. [The] unified data representation enables developers to troubleshoot code in minutes over extremely complex systems.”
New Relic has a number of APIs that third parties have used to build more than 100 plug-ins. The plug-ins monitor enterprise information infrastructure, including databases, list brokers and cloud services.
“The next phase is that people will start sending us lossless event data for faster troubleshooting,” said Sargent.
HPE provides a standardized way of measuring user experience. It monitors user interactions, the stability of an application in crashes, and application performance data. It then uses an algorithm to calculate a single performance score.
“FunDex gives customers a way to normalize user experience and compare user experiences from version to version or platform to platform,” said Fox. “In the mobile world, there are thousands of permutations of devices, operating systems, and versions of the mobile applications. Now you can normalize that into a single UX score.”
CA leverages an API architecture that enables easy integration with CA application-delivery tools and third-party solutions. “Historically, the process for building software is that we make a best effort, pass it to the next team to do their part, and they pass it to the next until it goes into production,” said Taylor.
“Then, we wait for it to break, and we fix it. The whole process is organized around finding and fixing bugs. APM is un a unique position to offer real-world reporting into pre-production such that monitoring now ‘shifts left’ in the software development cycle.”
Solutions for APM
AppDynamics: The AppDynamics Application Intelligence Platform provides a real-time, end-to-end view of application performance and its impact on digital customer experience, from end-user devices through the back-end ecosystem—lines of code, infrastructure, user sessions and business transactions. The platform was built to handle the most complex, heterogeneous, distributed application environments; to support rapid identification and resolution of application issues before they impact users; and to deliver real-time insights into the correlation between application and business performance.
AppNeta: AppNeta provides APM for DevOps and APM for IT. APM for DevOps allows users to monitor and optimize their applications. Features include the ability to identify trends and outliers at a glance, resolve issues faster, track user performance, and measure performance, functionality and availability from the user’s perspective. APM for IT allows users to find and resolve issues. Features include end-to-end visibility and SLA tracking on any network, end-user experience monitoring with synthetics, intelligent application identification with real user data, and flexible and scalable deployment.
BMC Software: TrueSight App Visibility Manager goes beyond application performance monitoring to provide deep insight into user experience. In addition to tracking and measuring user activity at the individual or location level (on premises or off), it filters data to ensure the delivery of relevant application information without the unnecessary noise.
CA Technologies: CA APM is built to be easy, proactive, intelligent and collaborative, or EPIC. It offers easy deployment of APM agents, including Node.js and PHP. Proactive identification and resolution of issues occur across physical, virtual, cloud, containerized and mobile applications. Intelligent insight comes through 360-degree mobile-to-mainframe visibility, which captures billions of critical metrics per day to verify transactions. CA APM is collaborative, aligned with DevOps methodologies to instill continuous performance improvements at every stage of the software life cycle.
Catchpoint Systems: Catchpoint offers innovative, real-time analytics across its Synthetic Monitoring and Real User Measurement (RUM) tools. Both solutions work in tandem to give a clear assessment of performance, with Synthetic allowing testing from outside of data centers with expansive global nodes, and RUM allowing a clearer view of end-user experiences.
Crittercism: Crittercism’s mobile application performance-management solution enables enterprises to accelerate their mobile business. Crittercism’s solution monitors every aspect of mobile app performance, and provides a real-time global view of crash, service and mobile transaction metrics across iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, HTML5 and hybrid apps.
Dell: Foglight APM, a smart APM SaaS-based solution, requires zero configuration. Or, monitor your applications from a single pane of glass with an on-premises solution that can be optionally combined with other Foglight performance-monitoring capabilities for database, virtualization or storage.
Dynatrace: Dynatrace delivers developers and testers the answers they need to ensure superior user experiences, proactively solve problems, and accelerate DevOps/Continuous Delivery strategies. Dynatrace User Experience Management and Dynatrace Synthetic Monitoring help developers to proactively understand and optimize user experience; Dynatrace Application Monitoring is designed to maximize application performance; and Dynatrace Data Center RUM delivers app-aware network insights.
HPE: HPE’s Application Performance Management suite empowers businesses to deliver exceptional user experiences by examining the impact of anomalies on applications before they affect customers. Business applications are available with proactive end-user monitoring and actionable diagnostics to measure the performance and stability of apps from a user perspective.
Neotys: NeoSense is a proactive application performance monitoring solution for all Web and mobile applications. It actively monitors the performance and availability of critical business transactions within recorded user paths. NeoSense leverages the test scenario design capabilities of NeoLoad to quickly create realistic monitoring profiles. Easy-to-read dashboards, alert triggers, and notification rules provide actionable insights for pinpointing performance issues and getting to root causes quickly.
New Relic: New Relic’s comprehensive SaaS-based New Relic Software Analytics Cloud provides a single powerful platform to get answers about application performance, customer experience, and business success for Web, mobile and back-end applications. New Relic delivers code-level visibility for applications in production that cross six languages—Java, .NET, Ruby, Python, PHP and Node.js—and supporting more than 70 frameworks. New Relic Insights is embedded in the platform, enabling customers to do detailed, ad hoc queries for real-time analytics across New Relic’s APM, Mobile, Browser and Synthetics products.
Oracle: Oracle provides a complete end-to-end application performance management solution for custom and Oracle applications. Oracle Enterprise Manager is designed for both cloud and on-premises deployments; it isolates and diagnoses problems fast, and reduces downtime, providing end-to-end visibility through real user monitoring; log monitoring; synthetic transaction monitoring; business transaction management and business metrics.
SmartBear: AlertSite’s global network of more than 340 monitoring nodes helps monitor availability and performance of applications and APIs, and find issues before they hit end consumers. The Web transaction recorder DejaClick helps record complex user transactions and turn them into monitors, without requiring any coding.
SOASTA: The SOASTA platform enables digital business owners to gain continuous performance insights into their real-user experience on mobile and Web devices—in real time and at scale.
Challenges in APM
We asked our APM Buyers Guide sponsors about the APM challenges today’s software teams are facing and how their companies are uniquely addressing those challenges. Here is what they had to say.
Al Sargent, senior director of product marketing, New Relic
It has never been more important to build great software, but software isn’t just built in one release. Software requires constant iteration based on feedback from users.
When the APM market was created over a decade ago, it helped shed light on app performance. However, it didn’t reflect how modern software is built collaboratively today by cross-functional teams, or the need to understand customer experience and the impact on the business.
Today, companies need to measure performance throughout the stack, from server to business outcomes. We call this Software Analytics. This shift from APM to Software Analytics allows companies to understand how their customers are using their apps, how the apps are impacting the business, and how the apps are behaving, by asking any question about their real-time software data.
Software Analytics implies unaggregated data to understand outliers. This leads to a massive increase in the data that companies need to manage.
New Relic enables companies to understand how a customer is interacting and experiencing their software from any dimension, through a SaaS Software Analytics cloud. The result is faster innovation, increased competitiveness and lower costs.
Kieran Taylor, vice president of products and solutions Marketing, CA
In a world of Digital Transformation and DevOps, successful software teams must adopt lean and agile methodologies that emphasize fast response to customer needs and business value. The challenge is that this means running smaller, more continuous releases at a dramatically faster pace. Without iterative collaboration and continuous feedback, release frequency and quality falter, negating any advantage offered by agile disciplines. APM creates continuous feedback loops from production into pre-production.
The problem is that extracting value from many APM tools requires arcane knowledge typically housed in a few experts that then become overly taxed.
The newest release of CA APM 10 is designed to protect the valuable experts in a technology organization by unlocking application insight so it is more easily shared across development and operations teams. Specifically, CA APM 10 features new, role-relevant views into what were formerly complex application maps. By removing extraneous information and focusing on what matters for the task at hand, voluminous data is converted into actionable insights that are easily leveraged by all members of development and operations teams.
Joe Fox, director of product marketing, application performance monitoring, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Software
End-user expectations are on the rise. Mobility breeds expectations of immediacy, meaning that users expect what they want when they want it. Users also expect a continuous application experience that picks up where it left off regardless of the device type or whether the user has moved from a native app to a Web app. Finally, users expect high application quality. In other words, the success of an application depends on the user experience it delivers.
Failing to monitor the user experience and failing to introduce that data earlier in the application life cycle places the business at risk.
To enable high velocity and frequent quality releases, APM tools must be used consistently across the application life cycle. Using the same APM tool, Dev, Test, Operations, and business managers benefit from a consistent base of information and views specifically designed for each persona.
AppPulse, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s next-generation APM, uniquely addresses the needs of modern organizations. AppPulse monitors applications during test and alpha and beta releases to determine where crashes occur so development teams can drill down to the offending lines of code. Lines of Business can also monitor the application performance with an index that contemplates the entire user experience. Finally, AppPulse helps Operations troubleshoot by drilling down to the back end to determine whether a database, application server or third party is slowing down the completion of a transaction.
Nicolas Robbe, CMO, Dynatrace
Dev and Ops groups have been transforming culturally to adapt to three challenges: accelerating the pace of release without compromising quality, taming complexity further compounded by the rise of microservices, and matching the infinitely increasing customer expectations when it comes to their digital experience.
Dynatrace offers what no other APM provider can: the opportunity for developers to collaborate more efficiently with other teams across the enterprise using a common language, shared dashboards, data, insights and perspectives.
The most mature organizations are already embracing the practice of digital performance management to fully leverage Dynatrace. As a result, these groups innovate faster, cutting through complexity and delivering better customer experiences. Dynatrace has been the longest-standing recognized leader in APM, and is now driving the evolution of APM to Digital Performance Management.