What is Application Performance Management (APM)?
Application performance management (APM)—sometimes referred to as application performance monitoring—is used to refer to monitoring tools that allow IT, developers, and business leaders to monitor their backend application architecture to resolve performance issues and bottlenecks in a timely manner.
Application performance management (APM) is a practice within systems management that targets managing and tracking the availability and efficiency of software applications. APM involves translating IT metrics into business meaning. It examines the workflow and the associated IT tools that are deployed to analyze, identify and report application performance concerns to make sure the expectations of businesses and end-users are met.
Application performance signifies how quickly transactions are accomplished or details are sent to end-users using a particular application. Application performance management is commonly used for Web applications built on Microsoft .NET and JEE platforms.
APM monitors performance in two steps:
- It measures the resources that are used by the application
- It measures the experience of end-users, which has two components: The time taken for the application to respond from an end-user’s perspective, and the number of transactions that go through the system in the course of response-time calculations.
These methods will eventually help to create a performance baseline consisting of three high-level categories:
- Response times/transaction performance
- Resource consumption
- Transaction volume
Application performance management is associated with real-user management and end-user experience management. Among these, assessing the experiences of real users while using an application in production is regarded as the most genuine method. Optimum productivity can be accomplished more effectively by means of event correlation, predictive analysis and system automation.
According to research conducted by Gartner, APM consists of five unique functional dimensions:
- Monitoring of end-user experience
- Modeling and application runtime architecture discovery
- User-defined transaction profiling
- Application data analytics
- Deep-dive application monitoring
Who is APM for?
Since APM is all about using data to understand why problems occur, and doing whatever it takes to deliver the best possible user experience, the whole team can benefit from APM. Using one centralized tool means the entire team has access to the same data and use it across the whole development lifecycle, from pre-deployment, production, and post-deployment.
Support teams give faster and better quality customer service.
Developers can manage the quality of their work with APM and deliver a better user experience.
Testers can conduct load testing and ensure consistency throughout the product.
Operations can monitor performance and ensure code quality before performance problems reach end users.
Product managers can use real-time data to get a tight feedback loop on how users are adopting new features.
Business leaders are able to trace key business transactions based on production application behavior. If there are any performance problems impacting business growth, they’ll know about it straight away. MTTR (Mean Time to Resolution) is reduced as performance issues are fixed faster.
Features and functions of APM tools
Application Performance Management tools gather a significant amount of data, but teams need actionable insights, not just reports. Here are the top features and functionalities that most APM tools will have to surface actionable data.
1. Full stack data
Understanding what is happening across your whole technology stack, whether microservices or monolithic, is incredibly helpful. It brings the whole team visibility and makes detecting and solving errors much easier.
2. Server monitoring
Arguably most critical to APM tools is understanding the server story. Metrics like CPU and memory are important, but when monitoring the server side of your app, high-level charts on which pages are performing poorly are more vital to developers. It’s the mechanism to understand what to improve.
It is also important to gather information on services like MySQL queries, Redis, or Elasticsearch.
Before you install any APM solution, you’ll need to know what’s involved in getting it setup, for example, if there is an agent and how much CPU it requires.
3. Transaction tracing
Transaction tracing is the core part of APM and records a detailed view of a transaction. One of the biggest advantages of an APM tool is visibility into the causes of problems. APM tools use transaction tracing to understand and drill down into the root-case of any application issue immediately, including the exact line of code, function, database or API call that are causing issues. You should be able to see detailed information on the user, function calls, database calls, and external calls so you can troubleshoot performance problems faster.
Tracing must have a low overhead, and should never slow down your application.
4. Deployment tracking
How are your deployments affecting page load times? Everything is about the customer, so you want to make sure changes you make are not negatively impacting page performance. Almost 1/3 of software businesses count on their end users to report these errors, so deployment tracking features alone can save many hours of development time.
5. Data Visualization
APM tools collect billions of data points every day, so an essential feature of APM is a way of presenting the data in an easy to use central dashboard. APM must display metrics like code level performance and errors so you can spot trends and correlate data points easily. Date and time filters are a must.
Custom dashboards are an even better feature for visualizing data so you can curate your own list of vital metrics. If you are responsible for the health of the system, you need to be able to produce a report that of the key areas you are interested in, not be clogged up with information about things that are outside your SLAs.
6. Intuitive and user-friendly UI
The rich data Application Performance Management provides has its downfalls if it’s not presented in an easy-to-digest format. Flame charts, averages, and helpful icons will help your team interpret data and navigate through the app to locate problems quickly.
7. Correct language support
Some tools are stack-specific, where others support many major languages.
8. Intelligent alerting functionality
An APM tool must have intelligent alerting like email notifications for when something is wrong. You can usually set alerting parameters around triggers in your application, for example, when thresholds or baseline are exceeded.
9. Integration support
Integrations should distribute your APM throughout your technology stack. Most APM tools integrate with ChatOps, issue tracking software, and hosting service for a better error resolution workflow.
10. Real user monitoring
While server monitoring and crash reporting are essential for functioning applications, APM tools traditionally don’t capture anything about the user. RUM specifically allows you to drill into individual sessions, giving detailed information on the user.
11. Crash Reporting
Crash reporting and error tracking tools are a critical part of APM strategy. Otherwise, you have no context about an error. Some APM tools offer a graph that shows error detection over time, but not enough diagnostic information for developers to solve an issue.
Here are four ways APM can benefit your IT organization:
1. Gain Visibility Into Apps Across Your Entire Technology Stack
When properly designed and implemented, APM will provide you with the right levels of SPM transparency. You’ll gain visibility into how your applications are performing across your entire technology stack — whether they’re located in legacy systems, private clouds or public clouds. You’ll be able to monitor app performance for all your enterprise users — regardless of where they’re located or what device they’re using.
This visibility lets you experience apps the way your end users are experiencing them. If a performance problem arises, you’ll see exactly where within your technology stack — including the network, servers, database, application code or end-user device — the bottleneck lies. With this level of diagnostic insight, you can address the technical root cause before your end users complain.
When you proactively identify issues, you can determine whether changes in your IT environment are causing degradation in services. This helps your IT organization move from being a “fire fighter” to a “fire safety and prevention specialist.”
This also improves productivity across the enterprise, as you can greatly reduce the amount of unplanned work that comes with service disruptions.
2. Make Your IT Organization More Valuable to the Business
APM’s deep insights allow IT organizations to become more service-centric. The more visibility you have into your apps, the more you can ensure that your IT services meet the business’s SLAs. For example, you can use APM to provide real-time reporting on your service level compliance, demonstrating your commitment to service delivery.
The context analytics that you gain through APM lets you measure how applications impact the business. This helps you tie service performance directly to the business’s financial results. This capability makes your IT organization more valuable – reinforcing your strategic role in employee productivity and customer engagement while also driving revenue.
APM will also provide you with visibility that allows you to make data-driven, service-based investment decisions. For example, since APM tools automatically gather performance data and track system resource utilization, you can gain deep insights into how your servers and infrastructure are consuming resources – both in and out of the cloud. This insight allows you to optimize your infrastructure spending, plan for seasonality, allocate costs and negotiate service contracts with cloud or hosting vendors.
3. Your IT Costs
APM helps you manage your costs, as you can use its insights to better predict peaks and valleys in application consumption. You can also manage the capacity of your capital-intensive resources.
Taking a strategic approach to performance management and using APM tools may allow you to consolidate your technology-domain-centric tools. This helps eliminate redundancies and the need for specialized skills. It also can boost your efficiencies.
4. Take a Proactive Approach to IT Management
Extending your performance strategy into your service/application design and development phases can enhance your IT organization’s proactive management capabilities. For example, APM shows developers how their code is performing — whether they use agile or waterfall design processes. This helps them meet the business’s desired performance levels before they deploy apps.
APM can also help your IT operations team. For example, when they receive alerts about slowdowns in production, they canview up-to-the-second diagnosticsthat can help them troubleshoot. They can use these diagnostics to collaboratively resolve the problem without pointing fingers or assigning blame.