12 September 2022

What is an APM Application Performance Monitor?

A comprehensive guide on how it works to ensure consistent availability, performance and response times in the online world.

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In today's digital marketplace, modern apps must not only bring value, but also provide around-the-clock availability, quick responses, and real-time troubleshooting. As all businesses rely on software applications, their performance is a major concern and headache of any organization, especially if their applications are not just part of their business, but the business itself. This is where APM comes into play.

In this guide, we'll delve into what Application Performance Monitoring is, how it works, and why and how to use it to help you troubleshoot performance issues faster and ensure peak app performance and flawless user experience.

Definition: What is Application Performance Monitoring (APM)

Application Performance Monitoring (APM) is the strategy and practice of continuously monitoring and monitoring application performance and availability, as well as the end user experience. Using APM solutions, IT and DevOps teams can detect anomalies, understand trends, optimize resource utilization, and fix performance issues before they impact end users. These tools allow you to gather information that helps ensure customer satisfaction and drive business growth.

Application Performance Monitoring (APM) is the practice of tracking the performance metrics of key software applications using monitoring software and telemetry data. Professionals use APM to ensure system availability, optimize service performance and response times, and improve user experiences.

Mobile apps, websites, and business applications are typical use cases for monitoring. However, with today's highly connected digital world, monitoring use cases expand to services, processes, hosts, logs, networks, and end users accessing these applications, including a company's customers and employees.

Application Performance Monitoring

How application performance management is different

Application Performance Management is the broadest overall performance management strategy, starting with code, application dependencies, transaction times, and user experience. Monitoring is a small, but crucial, part of it. Emphasize, usually via warning notifications, that there is a problem.

On the other hand, performance management takes it one step further. Using the alerts sent by your tracking tool, it allows you to see when and where during their journey, users have encountered problems and why those problems have occurred. For example, tracking will warn you that your app or website is slow or down, but management will help you understand the causes and make changes that could potentially fix the problem.

Such a comprehensive strategy ensures full visibility into app performance, helping DevOps teams spot trends and be better prepared to respond to similar problems in the future.

Benefits: Why application performance monitoring is needed

When it comes to the digital economy, avoiding downtime and measuring the availability, response times and behavior of every business transaction is critical.

Detect why applications are running slowly

When you are facing application slowness, you need to determine why your app is slow, since when it ran slow and what is causing the slowness. It would be easy if it weren't for what modern software applications look like today: highly distributed, multi-layered, multi-element architectures based on app development frameworks. However, while this helps build better software applications, it makes managing and monitoring performance increasingly difficult if traditional monitoring techniques such as running ping tests or measuring server-level metrics were to be followed. network, memory, CPU and disk usage, etc.).

These techniques cannot help you analyze the interdependencies between components when working with a distributed application. Logs, metrics, events are everywhere - in the cloud, between clouds, in hybrid clouds - sometimes difficult to locate and manage; therefore, it is difficult to find out why your app is running slow.

Ensure end-to-end visibility of your application

There are other ways to bypass application monitoring, with methods such as synthetic transactions, manual instrumentation of code, or customer feedback. However, while these have their - important - role in a monitoring strategy, they require additional configuration until they can offer the same benefits as an APM tool.

This would take time and money. Conversely, a complete APM solution gives you end-to-end visibility into your application's performance without requiring additional effort on your part.

How application performance monitoring works

Application performance monitoring works by:

  • Monitoring if your app behaves as it should, within normal parameters.
  • If not, send alerts and collect data on the source of the problem.
  • Analyze the data taking into account the impact it has on the business.
  • Offering detailed information on how to tune the app's environment so that similar problems can be easily identified and resolved in the future before they impact the end user. Therefore, APM helps you take a proactive approach to troubleshooting.

What APM measures: metrics to monitor

There are two types of metrics that APM tools measure: those that show how end users experience app performance and those that monitor infrastructure resources. The following are the most critical application performance metrics you should monitor:

  • User satisfaction / Apdex scores : provided by Real User Monitoring (also known as User Experience Monitoring), Apdex measure the level of user satisfaction based on the response time of requests when interacting with your website or application.
  • Response time: the time it takes for an application user to receive a response from an application.
  • Error rates: the number of application errors in a given period of time.
  • Number of application instances: the number of instances of some applications. In today's dynamic deployments, this number typically varies based on traffic, application usage, and so on.
  • Rates required: the number of requests in a given period of time. The higher the rate, the busier the application.
  • CPU usage of applications and servers, virtual machines or containers and: CPU usage of the underlying infrastructure.
  • Application Availability / Uptime (SLA): the extent to which an application is operational, functional and usable to meet user requests.
  • Garbage Collection (GC) - for Java Virtual Machine, Node.js Virtual Machine, and other runtimes that perform garbage collection.

Application performance monitoring strategy requirements

It sounds simple enough, but a non-trivial setup is actually required to take advantage of the full benefits of application monitoring. Here's what your application performance monitoring strategy should include:

1. Monitoring of the digital experience

Also known as End User Experience Monitoring (EUEM), Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) tracks the behavior of a software application from the user's perspective, looking for times when slowness occurs, downtime or errors. You can proactively monitor the end user experience with synthetic monitoring solutions like New Relic or passively with real user monitoring, i.e. tools like New Relic.

Find out the difference between these two methods in our blog post on real user tracking versus synthetic tracking, and find out where RUM fits into the APM strategy in RUM versus APM.

2. Dynamic visualization of the application architecture (service map)

This is a map of how all the components of the application communicate with each other. APM tools automatically detect these dependencies and interactions and update them in real time. The availability of data in visual form facilitates the detection of problems.

3. Code profiling

Transaction profiling, also known as transaction tracking or programmatic performance profiling, analyzes the flow of each user transaction and isolates specific interactions where performance issues are detected. Tracking allows you to follow the user's path from frontend to backend. This way, you can find the exact line of code, database query, or third-party call that affects application performance.

4. Tracking of transactions

Many performance issues are caused by server memory leaks, slow network connectivity, virtualization bottlenecks, and so on, which makes infrastructure monitoring a must for ensuring peak app performance.

An application performance monitoring tool allows for in-depth analysis by collecting performance metrics in the form of transaction traces from all infrastructure components. More specifically, it tracks distributed transactions, as it tracks transactions across tier boundaries providing end-to-end visibility into performance along with the information needed (app and server metrics) to link infrastructure and performance. application with the user's path. Such solutions help keep an eye on the health of each business transaction as they occur so that you can easily understand when, where and why app slowness has occurred and user experience has been impacted.

5. Analysis of IT operations

IT operations analytics refers to data analytics to identify usage patterns, trends, and performance issues that can be leveraged to create a better plan on how to deal with similar situations before they occur and impact end users.

Application performance monitoring tools

A complete application monitoring solution consists of one or more tools that allow you to monitor all three of the fundamentals mentioned above: digital experience monitoring, application detection, tracing and diagnostics, and artificial intelligence for IT operations.

Unfortunately, there are no free open source projects that cover all three aspects of APM as a package. They usually only offer one, be it infrastructure monitoring, RUM, or tracking, which you can combine if you want to go open source all the way. Among the best we can mention Jaeger, Zipkin, Stagemonitor, Pinpoint, Weave Scope, Scouter e Apache Skywalking. They have gathered large communities around them that are driven to innovate and help by providing new features that meet user needs.

On the other hand, there are many vendors that offer both standalone monitoring tools and the whole package.

Why use New Relic as an APM tool

New Relic is an APM solution. Provides end-to-end visibility into your web application performance. Track requests across applications, tiers, servers, microservices, and processes, down to databases, to detect the slowest and most underperforming parts of the stack.

New Relic uses this data along with failure rates and failed transactions to create a dynamic map of the entire app architecture, including connections to external services and databases, showing how all components interact with each other.

How to choose the right APM software

In addition to being easy to use and capable of providing useful information, application performance monitoring tools should be able to:

  • manage applications in the languages ​​used by the applications
  • programmatically monitor performance
  • track the end user experience
  • use artificial intelligence
  • allow you to monitor the entire infrastructure
  • offer insights that help you link app performance metrics with business results.

Conclusion

As businesses go through digital transformations like cloud migration and container orchestration, the risk of app downtime increases, making managing and monitoring application performance more important than ever.

APM is essential to ensure the availability of software applications, making using such a tool a must, especially if you run a SaaS business. APM tools help DevOps understand how application versions affect service performance, security, and reliability. They enable teams to set up alerts to detect and resolve issues before they impact user experience and set up automated actions based on specific events, patterns and trends.

Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you better understand what APM stands for, why you need it as part of your monitoring and alerting strategy, and how to use it to deliver improved app performance, a better digital user experience, and ultimately to drive. business growth.

Now all you have to do is choose the right APM tool and you are good to go!

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