Let’s face it: Our lives revolve around applications. We use them to engage and transact with our customers, to drive our productivity at work, in our downtime to stream videos, browse the internet, and stay connected with friends and family. And we expect them to perform flawlessly every time. Think about the last time you experienced poor app performance. Did you try to use the application again, or did you — like most consumers surveyed — simply move on?
The reality is that the new competitive battlefield is digital, and the winners and losers are defined by the experience they provide. But this unforgiving demand from users around the world has put technologists under massive pressure to keep their applications continually available and operating at peak performance, at the risk of losing customers and revenue and, ultimately, damaging their brand’s reputation.
This is where application performance management (APM) comes into play. And with the above in mind, it’s easy to argue that APM is not only important, but an absolute business necessity.
What is APM and why is it important?
In short, APM is the practice of proactively monitoring the many facets of an application environment in order to identify and mitigate issues before they become major problems. Across the typically complex and distributed ecosystems of today’s applications, we can think of APM as our guide in finding the needle (or needles) in a digital haystack that spans multiple locations, across various types of technology.
But why do we need APM, specifically?
Let’s look at a few key APM benefits and the role they play in solving performance problems.
Benefit #1: APM breaks down operational silos.
APM provides a unified view across your entire application stack, including every component, connection point, dependency, and user interaction.
This benefits the different teams supporting your application by equipping them with comprehensive visibility, which allows them to collaborate in a way that would be virtually impossible without APM. This is particularly important in the highly distributed, multi-cloud environments that support so many modern applications today.
Benefit #2: APM allows you to meet — and exceed — customer expectations.
As we discussed earlier, when an application experiences performance issues, or is unavailable, you run the risk of losing customers. APM provides real-time performance insights that allow you to react fast when issues arise, including contextual data that helps you reduce the mean time to resolution (MTTR) and restore your application to normal performance.
By proactively resolving issues, you’re better able to provide that flawless experience your customers expect from your applications.
Benefit #3: APM protects your company’s bottom line.
More sophisticated APM solutions provide business intelligence analytics, which can help you visualize and understand how application performance issues impact your mission-critical business metrics — revenue or sales conversions, for example.
This not only helps better align IT with the business, but it also helps technologists prioritize issue remediations by focusing on resolving the problems that directly impact key business outcomes.
What’s important in the world of APM going forward?
APM solutions are continually evolving to meet the demands of the rapidly changing technologies we use to build applications. At the time of writing, we’re on the cusp of a major shift that will bring APM to the next stage of its evolution. The two driving forces behind this shift are observability and OpenTelemetry, which, at a high-level, can be considered to go hand in hand.
Observability has a pretty fluid definition, but in general, you can think of it as APM on steroids. Driven by the advanced needs of DevOps and SRE teams, observability provides the raw, granular data necessary to gain an in-depth understanding of complex and highly distributed systems — typically defined as M.E.L.T. (metrics, events, logs and traces). This fine-grained understanding of how applications and systems should work will help you further reduce MTTR when issues arise.
Sounds great, right? But it’s extremely challenging to get the correlated M.E.L.T data needed to make this a reality. Enter OpenTelemetry. OpenTelemetry is a vendor-neutral standard for collecting telemetry data for applications, their supporting infrastructures, and services, providing the consistent collection mechanism and format needed to understand and validate performance across the most complex of distributed applications.
While observability and OpenTelemetry are still in their infancy, they’re both a testament to the industry’s ongoing efforts to simplify complexity and ensure applications are always driving better digital experiences and business outcomes. Be on the lookout for developments in this space.
As we’ve learned, APM is a critical component needed to keep your applications available and performing at optimal levels, and will continually evolve at the pace of the technology around us. This is important because your applications are the storefront to your brand, and customer expectations are only increasing.
But we’re only scratching the surface here. For a complete overview of important APM capabilities and what the future of APM looks like, check out our definitive guide, An Introduction to APM.