Application Performance Management (APM) tools are really coming into focus as a result of cloud computing, agile development, virtualisation, and mobile device adoption. We are seeing the industry really embracing “networked applications” and, as such, there will be a great need for these apps to perform well in the network as well as avoiding downtime. This means monitoring and managing from a network perspective, as well as a server and application perspective if we are to eliminate system outages and poor performance.
There are many APM solutions out in the market place - some 200 at last count - across different disciplines and domains, with differing features, methodology and options. The trick is to find one that suits you best. Even though they all go under the same umbrella, their approach is very different. Some monitor transactions across the network, some monitor applications on servers, some monitor the clients, some perform synthetic transactions.
Choosing the wrong solution - a tool that is not designed for your needs - can be costly and ineffective when it doesn't provide the features needed, or while promising everything, turns out to be too cumbersome to use in practice.
So how can you know which vendor’s solution is right for you? Many companies look to their resellers, suppliers, and the press; for product reviews and journalist's opinions etc.
Then there are industry analysts who produce Matrices, Magic Quadrants etc. including Ovum APM guide and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. But, with analysts, it's important to be aware of the criteria being used in developing their research. How do they do their scoring? Would it align with yours? Are best-of-breed solutions that would offer the features you need and be more-cost effective going to be included, or score well if they are part of the study? Maybe not, as they might not the match the criteria an analyst is using. Nonetheless, this analyst data (purchasable) can go a long way in helping to identify which APM solutions are offering what features, if you are wary that your criteria might point toward a product that received a lower score.
So with access to a myriad of information sources it should be an easy choice to make right? Well, yes up to a point, but as alluded to, every customer has their own specific needs and environments and so needs its own "custom" Magic Quadrant or matrix.
It's also worthwhile looking at the history of an APM solution and its vendor, their business practices, their licensing - does it match the way you do business? It's good to understand how and why the technology has been developed and where the author’s technological focus lies. This is important as the way a company has developed will enable you to see if they are a match to your own company in business and not just technology.
So when looking for the right solution, take note that although there is a lot of information out there, from many good sources, in the end no one understands your environment as well as you do. So, be choosy. The solution for you is out there if you look past the matrixes, quadrants and circles.
Jim Swepson is Pre-sales Technologist at Itrinegy.