Every vendor-hosted APM offering is different, and it is up to the consumer to go into the selection process with a clear understanding of what is most important to his/her company. Some offerings focus primarily on synthetic transactions, some incorporate deep visibility to application code, some monitor Internet performance as an adjunct to APM, etc., etc.
For potential customers seeking a cloud option delivering a comprehensive, end to end APM perspective, the options are limited. Here’s why. APM solutions capable of correlating application performance issues down to specific infrastructure components require “behind the firewall” visibility to foundational components such as servers and databases. On-premise-hosted APM solutions require that agents be installed on critical devices for monitoring purposes. To get the visibility necessary for deep triage and root-cause analysis, cloud-based APM products typically require a similar setup. “Behind the Firewall” components gather metrics and data, while “in the cloud” components do the analysis, correlation, etc.
In both cases, metrics are sent to an analytics-rich APM “platform” for correlation, notification, reporting, etc. For “on-premise” APM systems, the platform is installed and maintained by internal IT. For “cloud-based” APM, those capabilities are hosted and maintained by the vendor. Typically, a VPN or similar private connection is the communication vehicle between on-premise and cloud components.
There are a number of questions to keep in mind when selecting an APM solution, regardless of where and how it will be hosted. Cloud-based product “acquisitions” should be approached with the same rigor as on-premise acquisitions, even though the pricing and licensing are different. The same Requests for Comment (RFC) utilized for on-premise acquisitions may well be starting points for cloud acquisitions, and many of the questions will be similar.
Selecting an APM Solution
Here are a few factors to consider selecting an APM product:
1. Is your organization pursuing a “cloud first” strategy?
If so, a SaaS-based product may be the best option.
2. Are you running industry-specific applications which require visibility to a given protocol or standard?
If so, make sure the product selected supports that protocol or standard
3. Does your company have data-related privacy concerns?
Select a cloud product which gives customers options in terms of the locations of data repositories—whether they are on-premise, in-country, or “in the cloud”.
Or consider an on-premise option
4. Are you interested in running multiple Departmental-level (or location-based, etc.) instances of the APM product?
If so, a SaaS-based option may well be cheaper and more convenient, as well as enabling consumption-based billing.
5. Are you seeking to integrate the APM tool with products in adjacent spaces such as IT Service Management (ITSM) or Service Desk solutions?
If so, make sure the APM solution is compatible in terms of APIs and data-sharing with products already in place.
Unique Pros and Cons of Cloud-hosted APM
There are also cloud-specific benefits which on-premise APM products can’t provide. For example, since cloud vendors have access to performance metrics across multiple companies, some offer an “opt-in” for customers to see their performance numbers in context to others within their industries. While SaaS-based APM platforms are essentially analytics-driven big-data repositories “in the cloud”, these types of cross-comparisons are not possible with traditional, on-premise APM solutions.
The demise of the upgrade cycle is another big benefit. SaaS-based solutions are always at the “latest and greatest” version levels, giving customers immediate access to new capabilities.
On the con side, SaaS-based options are harder to integrate with existing tools; may well turn out to be just as expensive as on-premise tools, overall; and are always subject to the connectivity and network bandwidth of any other cloud-based service.
Is there a “best answer”? No there is not. “It depends” will have to suffice.
Julie Craig is Research Director for Application Management at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).