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What Is Application Performance Management (APM) and How Does It Work?

By Chris Graham posted Fri October 01, 2021 04:42 AM


What Is Application Performance Management (APM) and How Does It Work?

What Is Application Performance Management?

Do you know what makes your application tick? Do you know what makes it succeed—or the areas it could do with some improvement?

If you don't know what makes your application work, then you don't know how to make your application do better. That's where application performance management can help (and in many cases, streamline the way you do business).

What is application performance management, and how can it help your applications deliver a better user experience? Here's what you need to know.

What is Application Performance Management?

Application performance management, or APM, is a software system that tracks the performance and availability of assets. As the name suggests, it's often used for applications, but it can also be used for websites. APM is also viewed as a practice within systems management targeting the efficiency, availability, and performance of software applications.

However you define APM, its core concept remains the same: it's a tool to ensure that your most critical applications meet their performance expectations. To do this, APM monitors all aspects of application performance to help you understand why an application is performing a certain way.

In doing so, it's easier to drill down root causes and automatically addressing key issues before they effect end-user experience.

APM Conceptual Framework

To understand how it works, the best place to start is Gartner's APM Conceptual Framework, which outlines five dimensions for managing application performance. They are:

  1. End-user experience
  2. Runtime application architecture
  3. Business transactions
  4. Deep-dive component monitoring (DDCM)
  5. Analytics/reporting

According to Gartner's model, end-user experience or real-time user monitoring accounts for 80% of the APM value. There are two components: passive and active. Passive monitoring is an agentless appliance with minimal risk, usually achieved through network port mirroring. Active monitoring uses bots to report on system availability and transaction preferences.

That said, the other four elements give you the picture in full color. Runtime application architecture, for instance, automates the process of mapping business transactions to underlying architecture components. When combined with expert knowledge, you can figure out how the application architecture and network topologies interact and feed into the user experience.

In plain English, APM allows you to provide a better user experience through deep-dive data collection and analytics so that you can understand performance, improve upon it, and keep your customers happy.

How Does It Work?

To understand APM in practical terms, it helps to look at the process. This can generally be broken down as follows:

  1. Monitoring applications to see if they behave normally
  2. Identifying a problem
  3. Notifying IT of the problem
  4. Collecting and analyzing data to put application performance in context
  5. Adapting the application environment to fix similar issues before they arise

APM systems monitor almost any form of information that plays a role in application availability, all with the goal of improving the application for the business using it. Think of it as a smarter way to see the big picture--and correct the big picture before your customers notice any flaws.

Main Capabilities

APM systems have robust tools for managing this process, but the core capabilities can be grouped in three categories:

  1. Anomaly detection
  2. Root cause analysis
  3. Analytics

Think of it this way: the APM detects a problem, identifies why the problem happened, and analyzes the problem in context to provide better performance in the future. Anomaly detection lies at the heart of this functionality, and its success depends on the depth of data collected and the success of the APM's algorithms.

That said, don't think of APMs as failure-focused tools. APMs help you identify what's working just as much as what isn't working--that way, you can replicate your successes elsewhere.

Benefits of Application Performance Management

What does this look like in real-time benefits?

Let's say, for example, that your application has a bug. Not a major one, but a small bug that could fester into a much larger problem. Only a few users notice it at first, but it can easily turn into a performance issue if left unchecked. This is where your APM saves the day. Once it identifies a problem, it alerts administrators so that they can quickly fix the issue before it can spiral.

In doing so, your APM greatly reduces your mean time to resolution (MTTR). This is due to root cause analysis, which allows you to winnow down to the heart of the issue. That way, you don't have to fight your way through manual troubleshooting--you just get it right the first time.

Potential Users of APM

Who can benefit from APM? And who uses APM solutions the most?

APM is quite popular among IT teams and development teams, typically those tasked with managing the system infrastructure. IT needs APM to monitor and maintain the health of a business's applications, while development teams rely on APM to ensure that their code is effective.

At a higher level, though, APM solutions can also provided much-needed granularity to application managers so that they can make the right judgment calls for their organisation. IT and development teams often provide performance metrics to managers, but APM offers far greater detail so that they can put their decisions in context.

The Application Performance Partner You Need to Thrive

You know your business. We know application performance.

Our Application Resource Management (ARM) software perfectly complements APM by continuously making resourcing decisions to ensure your applications always perform at the top of their game. Turbonomic integrates with leading APM providers—AppDynamics, Dynatrace, Instana, New Relic, AppInsights, Datadog, Prometheus, and more—to continuously fine-tune the infrastructure feeding your applications. That way, you can focus on what you do best—delivering an outstanding customer experience.

Want to see how our software can strengthen your product environment? Request a demo today to learn more.