Introduction to Application Performance Management

July 27, 2021

Application performance management (APM) ensures maximum application output is achieved with minimum inconveniences. It collects the application’s data, analyses it to identify potential problems, and measures its performance.

Introduction

Since its invention, the computer has been with humans every step of the way. Digitalization is now the leading part of evolution, and computer applications are in the middle of it. These applications become more powerful and sophisticated with every update they receive. However, they need constant and proper management systems to work efficiently and to avoid server sprawl incidences.

Application performance management (APM) ensures maximum application output is achieved with minimum inconveniences. It collects the application’s data, analyses it to identify potential problems, and measures its performance. Upon identification of performance limitations, it either raises an alarm or provides a solution hence aids in keeping the application performing its tasks without interruptions or delays.

Measuring performance using APM

APM is used to rate performance based on two metrics; user performance experience and computational resources utilized by an application. An example of user performance metrics is an application’s response time at peak load. Load is defined as the volume of digital transactions that a computer application performs. These transactions are initiated through computer-based demands.

During the development of computer programs, the applications may not be subjected to peak loads and hardly experience performance limitations. However, this may not be the case with the end-user. At peak loads, applications may take longer to process demands. The period between a computer-based demand and the application’s feedback to the user is referred to as response time. Inefficient and poorly managed applications will result in a longer response time.

An example of a computational resource metric used to measure performance is storage. Computer programs use the device’s hardware and software to get tasks done. As so is the case, the computer should possess the capacity to hold and run an application’s load at its peak without being compromised. APM applies this metric to identify and provide solutions to computer resources-related application problems.

Dimensions of APM

Gartner, a global research and advisory firm for Information Technology (IT), finance, and Human Resource (HR), states that application performance management is based on three major dynamics. These include:

  • Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM)

  • Application Discovery, Tracing, and Diagnostics (ADTD)

  • Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps)

Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) focuses on the relationship between users and applications. The data it collects and analyses are based on how users get affected by the application in use. It detects and helps solve problems that affect user experience directly. Examples of such problems include long application response time and user unfriendliness.

Many companies have realized that the only way to be competitive and stand out from the crowd in the current industry is by delivering a user experience that is top notch. Its not only providing customers with an excellent experience when they call customer service representative; but also ensuring ease-of-use of any application or software that a client accesses.

On the other hand, Application Discovery, Tracing, and Diagnostics (ADTD) address the technical logistics of an application. This includes the runtime architecture. It manages applications by monitoring both hardware and software resources that form the digital environment to execute an application.

It is more of a discovery, tracing and diagnostic tool. It helps with discovery and dependency mapping capabilities, monitoring key metrics and a deep analysis of transactions in order to discover errors. However, its advisable to evaluate the capabilities of ADTD before purchasing it.

Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) applies to platforms that analyze and learn machine language to enhance the performance of applications. It improves performance continuously by integrating and deploying core IT functions to suit different and more sophisticated tasks.

Although this will not be a requirement for every business, it is very useful for some organizations. A major component of the AIOPS is the application of analytic component of process monitoring which comprises of: alerting features, root cause analysis and performance anomalies.

Gartner and other leading analyst believe that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is an essential component for any APM tool. It ensures future-proofed service for the coming age of intelligence. There is a good chance of us seeing growing reliance on AIOPS going forward as more applications continue to be infused with intelligent features.

Significance of APM

  • It helps to foretell and handle application performance setbacks before it impacts businesses and its clients. This is important in achieving overall performance targets for a business.

  • Since it alerts an organization or provides solutions for performance issues within an application, it largely minimizes poor performance incidences and application delays.

  • APM enables performance problems to be solved much faster than before. This, in turn, helps companies save a lot of maintenance time and the expenses that come with it.

  • It promotes stability in computer applications, enabling them to work more efficiently.

  • Through Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM), APM enhances user’s experience and promotes professionalism in the IT industry.

  • It sets standards for faster, efficient, and high-quality software releases by developers.

  • Business-wise, it reduces operational costs by eliminating manual monitoring of application performance. This, plus increased efficiency of computer programs, boosts revenue production and results in higher profits for a company.

Challenges faced by APM

Current data management systems are built sophisticated enough to offer more than just computer resource utilization reports. For example, they can single out individual transactions from a pool of highly distributed data systems and monitor them.

However, this sophistication is limited by high data rates. This is because, for ulterior analysis, data demands extended periods of storage time. This results in large data that tends to overload APM tools. This limitation is addressed with modern key-value data stores developed to accommodate large data while allowing viewing of up-to-date computer infrastructure.

The rising development of cloud-native applications is also a major challenge for APM. The applications generate huge amounts of telemetry data. This makes it difficult to locate specific events within an application’s infrastructure. To tackle this challenge, companies combine management tools to monitor individual components within an application.

Tools of APM

Tools of APM are programs used to monitor the performance of applications. They are selected based on the users’ preferences. These preferences range from in-depth business transaction monitoring, solid analysis ability to costs of the monitoring tool. The data size in the application being managed is also an important aspect to consider when choosing a monitoring tool.

For instance, Stackify Retrace is a widely used tool preferred by software developers. However, it is relatively pricey at $79 per month as of June 2021. Stagemonitor, on the other hand, is free. It is used by developers using Java. Small business owners prefer Datadog and Scouter. These owners have to part with $31 monthly to use Datadog, in contrast with the free Scouter.

WordPress businesses prefer New Relic, which charges $99 each month as of June 2021, while ITRS is the tool of management for most banking entities. Pinpoint, AppDynamics and Dynatrace are powerful monitoring tools and are used by large enterprises.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are hundreds of Application Performance Management (APM) tools to choose from despite the technical and cost differences. Regardless of one’s preference, there will always be something for everyone.

References

  1. Application Performance Management

  2. Application Performance Management (APM) Software

  3. APM Tools Comparison: Which One Should You Choose?

  4. What Is AIOps? A Beginner’s Guide


Peer Review Contributions by: Collins Ayuya


About the author

Ernest Mwangi

Ernest is an undergraduate software engineer. He enjoys building software applications and contributing to the society through writing.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to enged@section.io.