Gartner's recently published Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring defines “five distinct dimensions of, or perspectives on, end-to-end application performance” which are essential to APM, listed below.
Gartner points out that although each of these five technologies are distinct, and often deployed by different stakeholders, there is “a high-level, circular workflow that weaves the five dimensions together.”
End-user experience monitoring is the first step, which captures data on how end-to-end performance impacts the user, and identifies the problem.
The second step, the software and hardware components involved in application execution, and their communication paths, are studied to establish the potential scope of the problem.
The third step involves examining user-defined transactions, as they move across the paths defined in step two, to identify the source of the problem.
The fourth step is conducting deep-dive monitoring of the resources consumed by, and events occurring within, the components discovered in step two.
The final step is the use of analytics – including technologies such as behavior learning engines – to crunch the data generated in the first four steps, discover meaningful and actionable patterns, pinpoint the root cause of the problem, and ultimately anticipate future issues that may impact the end user.
“These five functionalities represent more or less the conceptual model that enterprise buyers have in their heads – what constitutes the application performance monitoring space, ” explains Will Cappelli, Gartner Research VP in Enterprise Management and co-author of the Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring.
“If you go back and look at the various head-to-head competitions and marketing arguments that took place even as recently as two years ago, you see vendors pushing one of the five functional areas as: what you need in order to do APM,” Cappelli recalls. “I think it's only because of the persistent demand on the part of enterprise buyers, that they needed all five capabilities, that drove the vendors to populate their portfolios in a way that would adequately reflect those five functionalities.”
The question is: should one vendor be supplying all five capabilities?
“You will see enterprises typically selecting one vendor as their strategic supplier for APM,” Cappelli continues, “but if that vendor does not have all the pieces of the puzzle, the enterprise will supplement with capabilities from some other vendor. This can make a lot of sense.”
“When you look at some of the big suites, and even the vendors that offer all five functionalities, in most cases those vendors have assembled those functionalities out of technologies they have picked up when they acquired many diverse vendors. Even when you go out to buy a suite from one of the larger vendors that offers everything across the board, at the end of the day you are left with very distinct products even if they all share a common name.”
For this reason, Cappelli says there is usually very little technology advantage associated with selecting a single APM vendor over going with multiple vendors providing best-of-breed products for each of the five dimensions. However, he notes that there can be a significant advantage to minimizing the number of vendors you have to deal with.
“Because APM suites, whether assembled by yourself or by a vendor, are complex entities, it is important to have the vendor support that can span across the suite,” Cappelli says. “So in general it makes sense to go with a vendor that can support you at least across the majority of the functionalities that you want.”
“But you do need to be aware that the advantage derived from going down that path – choosing a single vendor rather than multiple vendors – has more to do with that vendor's ability to support you in solving a complex problem rather than any kind of inherent technological advantage derived from some kind of pre-existing integration.”