For anyone working in big data, understanding the basics of application performance management and the role of APM metrics is crucial. In recent years, the demand for APM solutions has been on a sharp rise. The APM monitoring sector, valued at $5.7 billion in 2020, is poised to grow to $11.9 billion by 2027.

For those of us who are APM solution industry “insiders,” we welcome this very exciting development. While there isn’t a lot of mystery when it comes to understanding the functionality and value of application performance management, we feel it’s important that we share our knowledge, as the rise of APM solutions means a heavy influx of new users who need to get up to speed with APM monitoring software functions and the importance of APM metrics.

To level set, APM can mean both application performance management and application performance monitoring in the tech space. They are often used interchangeably. In this article, we’re using APM to mean application performance management. However, application monitoring tools will also be mentioned, just not via the APM acronym.

What is Application Performance Management?

Application performance management (APM) is the monitoring and management of the performance of your software applications. The primary goal of APM is to maintain an expected level of service and availability by understanding why transactions in your application/workload are slow or failing. Application performance monitoring, another phrase the acronym is used for, is a part of application performance management.

What are APM Metrics?

In order to measure application performance, app developers and IT admins need to quantify and qualify the data their applications generate. They do this by viewing and interpreting different APM metrics.

Powerful APM solutions come with tools that monitor different components of two kinds of APM metrics. The first one is based on the performance experienced by users, including loading times and response times during peak usage. The second one involves the capacity of compute resources, which enables app developers and IT admins to establish baselines for performance and pinpoint bottlenecks.

Why Do We Need Application Performance Management?

We need application performance management because failing to right-size your workloads can result in disappointing application performance. This can then lead to under-delivered cloud expectations. Right-sizing your workloads, when executed right, can increase operational efficiency, and minimize application downtime.

Other uses of APM software are to:

  • Track application usage to understand spikes in traffic.
  • Find bottlenecks or latency problems with application dependencies including SQL, queues, caching, etc.
  • Identify slow SQL queries.
  • Find the highest volume and slowest web pages or transactions.
  • Find the root cause(s) for application problems.
  • Identify ways to optimize application performance.

APM solutions perform a plethora of functions in the quest to optimize application performance and account for all relevant APM metrics, including:

  1. Anomaly detection: Enables a rapid response to application behaviors that begin to fall outside the normal operating range. Anomaly detection also identifies events that do not conform to expected behavioral patterns.
  2. Application debugging: The process of finding the causes of undesirable effects on application behaviors. This requires identifying defects and errors in program code.
  3. Distributed profiling of the many potential sources of application performance degradation: This involves identifying and localizing the sources of performance degradation across an ecosystem consisting of applications, services, and machines.
  4. IT service monitoring: Shows whether response times and uptime commitments are being met, including adhering to SLAs and performance thresholds.
  5. Root cause analysis: Attempts to determine the probable cause of a problem, then constructs a causality chain correlating case and effect.
  6. End-user experience monitoring: Captures user-based performance data to gauge how well the application is performing and identifies potential performance problems.
  7. Application topology discovery and visualization: The visual expression of the application in a flow-map to establish all the different components of the application and how they interact with each other.
  8. User-defined transaction profiling: Examines specific interactions to recreate conditions that lead to performance problems for testing purposes.
  9. IT operations analytics: The discovery of usage patterns, identification of performance problems, and anticipation of potential problems before they happen.

What Is an APM Solution?

An application performance management (APM) solution is a tool or suite of tools designed to analyze and monitor an application’s performance. The solution automatically detects performance issues through an ongoing analysis of APM metrics, and notifies the system administrator or other stakeholders for immediate resolution. Performance management tools enable IT professionals to pinpoint the root causes of infrastructure or application issues.

For example, a development or operations team can instantly tell from their APM monitoring software if an application is causing some performance spikes. They can then leverage their application monitoring software to determine the root cause, identify which queries were affected, and make appropriate adjustments to resolve the issue.

Who Uses APM Solutions?

APM 01

ITOps Teams

IT operations teams are typically responsible for the operation, management, and maintenance of the system infrastructure. It’s their responsibility to make sure that every application runs efficiently and smoothly. That’s why they use APM solutions to track application health and quickly recognize the early signs of application problems. APM tools also perform root cause analysis to determine the cause of performance issues and prevent them from happening again.

DevOps Teams

DevOps teams require APM tools to help pinpoint, diagnose, and resolve issues in their applications. This is essential, as DevOps personnel want to protect the integrity of their code and ensure the effectiveness of their apps upon release. DevOps also utilize APM tools during the development and testing phase to measure performance and compare APM metrics when contrasting different versions of their apps.

Application Owners or LOB (Line-of-Business) Managers

Traditionally, application owners and LOB managers receive information and other APM-related updates from the IT teams. However, with APM solutions now readily available, application owners and LOB managers can access information and performance metrics to help them identify trends and end-user sentiments/experiences. This provides application owners and LOB managers the insight they need to drive their decision making.

Essential APM Metrics to Measure

APM tools also gather an incredible set of APM metrics as they continuously monitor the cluster and application environment. Essential APM metrics to track are average response time, error rates, request rate, application and server CPU and memory, and application availability.

Let’s take a deeper look into each of the metrics mentioned above:

Average Response Time

The amount of time an application takes to return a query or request to a user. To measure average response time, an application is tested under different circumstances (i.e. number of concurrent users/number of transactions requested). Typically, this metric is measured from the start of the request to the time the last byte is sent.

Other factors, like the geographic location of the user and the complexity of the information being requested, can affect the average response time for users. These should all be considered in the overall evaluation of application performance.

Error Rates

The last thing you want your users to see are errors. Monitoring error rates is a critical application performance metric.

There are potentially three different ways to track application errors:

  • HTTP Error % – Number of web requests that ended in an error
  • Logged Exceptions – Number of unhandled and logged errors from your application
  • Thrown Exceptions – Number of all exceptions that have been thrown

It is common to see thousands of exceptions being thrown and ignored within an application. Hidden application exceptions can also cause a lot of performance problems.

Request Rate

Understanding how much traffic your application receives will impact the success of your application. Potentially all other APM metrics are affected by increases or decreases in traffic. Request rates can be useful to correlate to other metrics to understand the dynamics of how your application scales. Monitoring the request rate can also be good to watch for spikes or sudden inactivity. If you have a busy API that suddenly gets no traffic at all, that could signal something bad. A similar but slightly different metric to track is the number of concurrent users.

Application and Server CPU and Memory

If the CPU usage on your machines is extremely high, or you have limited memory resources, you can expect to eventually suffer from application performance problems. Monitoring the CPU and memory usage of your servers, cluster, and applications is a basic and critical metric.

Application Availability

Monitoring and measuring if your application is online and available is a key metric you should be tracking. Most companies use this as a way to measure uptime for SLAs.

All of these metrics should be evaluated over time, and one that is critical should be fed into a rules engine that raises alerts when a set threshold is exceeded. Ultimately all metrics can and should be used to understand what is normal for your application so that abnormal behavior can be detected, analyzed, and resolved.

Choosing The Right APM Solution

There is a wide selection of application monitoring tools out there. Choosing the right one can be a difficult task. Making the right decision is a matter of asking the right questions and looking into what your organization really needs from an APM solution.

Check out our guide to picking the best APM software to help you filter your choices, shortlist the most qualified vendor partners, and choose the best solution for your company.

The Pepperdata Advantage

Here at Pepperdata, we provide businesses with a comprehensive, robust big data optimization platform to help them improve the performance of their applications, accelerate business processes, and optimize resource utilization while keeping cloud costs manageable.

Our solutions carry APM capabilities, designed to boost cloud capacity and scale resources so applications operate at an optimal pace. Beyond enhancing the performance of applications, we also utilize big data analytics to gather and analyze reliable, up-to-date information from multiple sources and continuously monitor to achieve total observability.

With observability, teams can dive deep into the “why” of performance issues so they can find answers. From there, we provide you with the data you need to prevent those issues from reoccurring while delivering powerful and data-driven configurations for optimal performance.

Our superior observability enables enterprises to combine and analyze volumes of reliable performance data from APM metrics and logs, deriving actionable insights that drive performance of applications, reduce downtime, and positively impact your company’s bottom line.

Download The Three Keys to Big Data Performance Management now to discover how to fully unlock the value of your big data.

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