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From traditional APM to enterprise observability

01

6 min read

Modern application performance monitoring

Organizations need to monitor application performance to keep applications running smoothly, prevent outages and help DevOps teams deliver better software faster. But in today’s application environment, that job has gotten more complicated.

Application performance monitoring (APM) tools were designed to help IT teams continuously track application performance so they can identify and troubleshoot issues, address problems and optimize resource usage. These tasks are pretty important since you need to know when your website or application is down, determine what went wrong quickly and prevent it from recurring in the future. APM tools promise to give organizations visibility into their application performance so that they can make sure their apps perform reliably.

In the last decade or so, application environments have become increasingly complex compared to what they once were. Change is constant, and modern application environments include cloud-native apps and services in distributed architectures with highly complex interdependencies. Monitoring a modern application stack consisting of so many disparate systems and tools is no easy job, but it remains more important than ever.

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Why monitoring application performance matters

Application performance can directly impact the success of your business. After all, unreliable applications can damage your brand and result in lost revenue and productivity.

Think about the user experience. Your customers and employees count on the applications they need to work quickly and effectively. Today, their demands for delightful, engaging digital experiences are higher than ever. Users have very little patience for applications running slowly or crashing. Just one negative experience can cause customers to abandon your application or business, so you truly can’t afford downtime. Your reputation depends on keeping your applications running smoothly 24x7.

Application performance also has a direct relationship to the efficiency of your resource usage and the speed with which you can deliver new applications and services. Slow applications reduce employee productivity and keep your IT team bogged down with troubleshooting and fixing issues instead of delivering innovative products and services to your customers.

APM tools are designed to provide visibility into your apps — to help you understand what’s going wrong and why, and to prevent future issues. To put it simply, APM tools can help you:

  • Keep your users happy.
  • Avoid wasting time and resources.
  • Empower your IT teams to work more efficiently.
  • Quickly isolate the root cause of an issue and move to resolution faster.
  • Understand the interrelationships in your application environment.
  • Gain actionable insights.
  • Launch applications faster than your competitors.

The modern application environment

All these potential benefits of an APM tool are critically important. But today’s application environment is very different from that of 10 or 15 years ago, when APM tools initially took off. The introduction of cloud-native applications, microservices, containers and Kubernetes in the last decade has transformed the application stack. Not to mention that application development cycles are moving faster than ever with today’s agile development methodology. Continuous integration, continuous delivery (CICD) pipelines have introduced automation and continuous monitoring into application development lifecycles.

You already know the value of having visibility into the health of your application environment. The APM solution you adopted years ago has likely served you very well, providing the visibility and insight you needed at the time. But with this newly evolved application stack, organizations are finding that it’s time for an evolved APM tool.

Today, businesses need a monitoring solution that’s truly designed for the modern application environment — a tool that can monitor the full application stack, all of your applications and infrastructure in an agile development pipeline. Today, you need more than just visibility; you need enterprise observability.

02

6 min read

When traditional APM is no longer enough

Change is constant in IT, but the industry transformation brought about by cloud computing in the last decade has been extraordinary. Microservices, multicloud strategies, containers, Kubernetes and serverless computing have transformed the modern application stack, introducing a host of new challenges to the concept of application performance monitoring.

To name a few:

Teams are inundated with data.
Teams are inundated with data.
Breaking applications down into microservices means that there’s more data than ever to keep track of, but how do you determine what’s important and what’s just noise? Teams get overwhelmed by the number of incidents and struggle to sift through the overwhelming amount of data produced by monitoring solutions.
Root cause analysis is more complex.
Root cause analysis is more complex.
In a more complicated application stack with more interdependencies, it’s hard to find the root cause of an issue. Root cause analysis can take too long and, meanwhile, issues persist or repeat, impacting customers.
There’s no easy way to correlate issues across your environment.
There’s no easy way to correlate issues across your environment.
Applications, platform, infrastructure and services are all interdependent, and the health of one affects the health of another. But in today’s complex application environment, it’s difficult to see the dependencies between parts of the larger system and, thus, difficult to correlate problems across the IT environment.
Cloud-native applications are complex and highly dynamic.
Cloud-native applications are complex and highly dynamic.
Applications born in the cloud are being released and updated continuously.
Today’s application environments move at warp speed.
Today’s application environments move at warp speed.
With CICD application cycles, everything is in motion all the time. There’s no static state from which to monitor an application, and monitoring tools aren’t fast enough to keep up with the pace of deployments. It takes too long to detect issues and too long to fix them.

In this challenging context, you need a way to get all stakeholders the data they need, when they need it. Monitoring tools have been around awhile, but today many monitoring solutions aren’t fast enough to keep up or thorough enough to contextualize the issues identified. They don’t sufficiently empower teams to take action when it’s most critical.

To do their jobs efficiently and well, developers, application owners, DevOps and IT operations teams all need reliable, real-time, in-context information about how applications are performing and how to resolve issues. APM tools that were designed for a previous generation of application infrastructure can’t provide that kind of fast, automated, contextualized visibility into the health and availability of your whole application environment.

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The problem with traditional APM solutions

Application performance monitoring has traditionally focused on providing visibility into your applications’ health. APM tools measure things like the user experience of an application and the computational resources used by an application. They aim to answer questions such as: Why is my application running slowly? What’s the cause of the slowdown?

In the new world of cloud-native applications, monitoring requirements have intensified. The number of applications and technologies in any given environment has increased dramatically. There’s more fine-grained detail to attend to. There are more complicated relationships between the many moving parts in the application stack. And every second counts.

Traditional APM tools simply weren’t designed for complex modern application architectures. To begin with, they were created before cloud-native applications existed. They weren’t built for the large, interconnected set of applications, services, technology platforms, coding languages and so on in today’s tech stack. They require too much manual instrumentation and management. Rather than automating monitoring, conventional APM solutions require manual setup and configuration by development teams each time changes are introduced. They tend to focus on production environments rather than the whole CICD pipeline. And they aren’t fast enough to keep up with the pace of change in highly dynamic application environments where one-second granularity counts.

The bottom line? You need an APM solution that’s equipped for the speed and complexity of your environment today. It’s time to evolve your APM solution.

03

4 min read

Evolving for today’s complex application architecture

When you consider the complexity of monitoring the modern application environment, it becomes clear that traditional APM solutions weren’t built for the born-on-cloud applications organizations are using today. The transformations that have taken place in the technology stack have created new requirements for application performance monitoring.

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Modern applications require modern APM

At one time, traditional APM tools were a cutting-edge technology, providing metrics, logs and traces to give organizations visibility into their applications’ performance. Today, visibility isn’t enough. You need to be able to monitor and manage the whole application delivery pipeline in a more dynamic, diverse environment, and you need to be able to quickly and effectively collaborate across teams.

The industry is at a turning point again. The next wave of APM is observability, but what does that development involve? What is observability, and what makes it different from APM as you know it?

The move to observability

Observability is a more recent term in the APM space. Vendors have begun to recognize that businesses need to do more than just collect data on their applications, and a growing number are now using the term observability to try to express the idea of going beyond traditional application performance monitoring.

Observability signifies the natural next step in monitoring application performance. Observability solutions evolve the data collection methods used in traditional APM tools for today’s cloud-native microservices environment.

The meaning of observability, however, can be elusive. A quick look around the marketplace will demonstrate that a lot of vendors are now using the term. Some APM providers have simply rebranded their existing solutions without changing the underlying capabilities.

What is observability, then?

To help businesses more effectively manage application performance in cloud-native environments, APM tools need to change in more than just name.

Here’s a definition of observability from APM Experts:

“Observability means that you have the data that you need (the logs, metrics, traces and dependency maps) for every single unit of work that your application and its underlying system software perform that is of interest to the business.” 1

As with traditional APM tools, observability solutions show you what’s happening in your applications. But the definition of observability implies providing more than just the technical data. You need to see what’s there, yes; but more than that, you need to see what’s relevant and timely. You need to be equipped with insights that empower you to act quickly and effectively to keep your applications running smoothly.

1 What is observability and how to implement it, APM Experts, 1 March 2020.

04

4 min read

True enterprise observability

To make an application infrastructure truly observable, organizations need access to all the relevant data, as well as the intelligence to interpret and act on it in context.

In today’s complex application environment, with many born-on-cloud technologies, organizations are overwhelmed with data and challenged to keep up with fast-moving application development cycles. They need to do more than just monitor their apps; they need a comprehensive solution that covers the complete CICD pipeline and delivers useful insights.

These reasons are why it’s time to move from monitoring to observability. Observability tools go beyond traditional APM solutions by helping you understand the interconnected relationships in a complex, highly distributed application architecture and, thus, empowering your teams to take meaningful action.

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What is enterprise observability?

Enterprise observability is the application of the observability concept to large business environments. Several features set enterprise observability apart from traditional monitoring:

It’s holistic.
It’s holistic.
With enterprise observability, you can correlate the interactions between discrete systems across your whole IT environment, so you’re not just managing individual applications or systems.
It’s cloud native.
It’s cloud native.
It integrates into cloud-native application environments and works with containers, Kubernetes and microservice architectures. That is, it’s built for the modern applications you’re running today.
It’s comprehensive in scope.
It’s comprehensive in scope.
Enterprise observability is comprehensive in multiple ways. It covers the full CICD pipeline from planning to coding to testing to deployment to measurement and optimization. And it’s able to ingest and contextualize every data source an enterprise uses, whether it resides in a public cloud, private cloud, mainframe or elsewhere.
It delivers data in context.
It delivers data in context.
Enterprise observability tools provide contextualization as a matter of principle. Contextualization means you don’t have to spend your time trying to make sense of where the relevant data fits.
It’s fast and easy.
It’s fast and easy.
It can move at the speed of today’s IT, delivering down-to-the-second granularity instead taking minutes or hours. In this way, your teams see the impact of code changes quickly, and everyone who needs access to the essential data has it.

What an observability tool does

Hopefully it’s clear by now: an observability tool goes beyond just the collection of data. It collects and contextualizes information. It filters out the noise and complexity to help you make sense of your application environment. It automates the application monitoring lifecycle. It empowers your teams to optimize application performance, take intelligent action and accelerate application development and integration.

To meet the requirements of the modern application stack, vendors need to do more than simply rebrand old monitoring tools with a new buzzword. They need to provide an evolved solution that helps businesses deliver software faster and keep applications running smoothly in today’s fast-paced cloud-native environments.

05

8 min read

Four essential features of an observability tool

Businesses are beginning to recognize that the APM industry is at another turning point, and yesterday’s monitoring tools will no longer do. If enterprise observability captures the concept of a more up-to-date, comprehensive suite of monitoring capabilities for cloud-native app environments, what qualities are essential in an observability tool?

It’s not enough for vendors to claim that their tools offer observability if they can’t back it up with truly transformed capabilities. What follows are four key features that characterize the best enterprise observability tools, along with recommendations on how to see through the false promises and make sure you’re using a solution that can truly deliver the deep insight your business needs.

Four crucial features of an enterprise observability solution

The right observability tool will provide:

  • Automation
  • Context
  • Intelligent action
  • Ease of use

Automation
Automation
An observability tool should make life easier for IT teams, taking the arduous manual effort out of tracking and responding to application issues. An observability solution should automate every possible aspect of APM — discovery, dependency mapping, monitoring, tracing user experience, root cause analysis and feedback.

Some vendors say they offer automation, but that automation is limited or applies only once your environment is set up. The best observability tools deliver complete, continuous, automated discovery of new components, services and dependencies. When you add a new service or update an application, you don’t have to tell the observability solution what to look for, and your developers don’t have to write code. You can simply drop it in and let the observability tool discover and map it. This automatic awareness extends to every update, so that even in fast-paced, cloud-native microservices environments, you get continuous, automated monitoring.
Context
Context
An observability tool should also provide clear context for how every component of your application stack works together, so there’s no guesswork on what data is relevant and how it fits into the larger picture. Contextualization in an observability tool means you get a straightforward visual representation of your whole environment, in real time. You see the relationships and dependencies.

If a vendor claims that its APM tool provides context, find out whether you have to spend time manually setting parameters to tell it what services, infrastructure, transactions and so on go together. Also, ask if the tool has the intelligence to provide a comprehensive view of your application stack that enables you to focus on the important stuff. The quintessential observability tool will help its users concentrate on the portion of the data they care about most. This method enables user to quickly and easily see the relevant performance impacts in a single view without the manual effort of teaching the tool how to situate components of the application stack.
Intelligent action
Intelligent action
An observability tool should embed intelligence across its capabilities. The best observability tools have a powerful AI-assisted analytics engine and AI-assisted root cause analysis that can deliver meaningful insights and empower your teams to take action quickly. Instead of just reacting, you can be proactive in optimizing your application environment.

Put simply, when you put the best information in, you’ll get the best information out. If your observability tool truly provides automation, you have always-accurate data to work with. If it contextualizes that information, you have always-rich data to work with. Intelligent action brings it all together to provide insights you can act on quickly.
Ease of use
Ease of use
Finally, an observability tool should give all your teams and stakeholders easy access to the information they need, when they need it. It should be flexible and intuitive, and accessible to everyone.

Many technology solutions promise to be easy to use, but those claims often fall short. Do users have to become subject matter experts to benefit from your APM tool? Are there only a few people in your organization who know how to use it? In contrast, the best observability tool democratizes knowledge about the health of your applications, making it possible for all stakeholders — operations teams, site reliability engineers, developers, application owners — to access the most pertinent data at speed. Easy means easy — and fast — for everyone.
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Conclusion

In the new world of cloud-native applications, microservices, containers and Kubernetes, you need a modern APM solution that offers full enterprise observability — automated, easy to use, delivering information in context, equipping you for action.

You know how critically important it is to keep your applications running smoothly and customers and employees engaged and productive. Business success depends on it. Observability is the next wave in APM intelligence — a comprehensive set of monitoring capabilities that equip you with insights and empower you to move at the speed of today’s IT.