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Application Performance Management (APM) was first introduced in the mid-’90s to address complex Java applications built to J2EE application servers. Then in the early part of the 2000s, APM evolved to address the newly invented n-tier application and the resulting distributed application architecture. Now, the application architecture is shifting again to an even more distributed and approach-oriented basis around microservices running in containers.

Let us explore how today’s applications need to be monitored based on business needs and challenges driven by increased complexity, including:

  • Digital Transformation
  • Evolution of the Technology Stack
  • Multi-Cloud Architecture and Platforms
  • Dynamic nature of the Stack

Finally, and most importantly, how APM must evolve to become more comprehensive, simpler to implement, and more affordable to address this explosion of new applications in production.

Digital Transformation and the Imperative to Digitalize Core Business Processes

Digital Transformation means that the key business processes of the company get implemented in software. This creates the following imperatives for the teams building and managing these applications in production:

  • Drive online business results
  • Time to market
  • Rapid and continuous improvement
  • Great customer experience
  • Fast resolution of problems
  • Scale in response to demand
  • Be cost-effective

In summary, the teams building and supporting all these new applications at every enterprise must now be as agile in building the new applications, and in enhancing them over time to keep them competitive as software vendors have become.

Complex Multi-Cloud Architecture

Today the question is not whether to do cloud, but which clouds and how many different ones will be deployed. Enterprises who want direct control of their underlying infrastructure have an on-premises, private or hybrid cloud using a vendor like VMware vSphere. Alternatively, organisations who do not wish to set up or maintain their own cloud servers choose public clouds like Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. Most organisations have a blended, multi-cloud architecture where public clouds are integrated with the existing on-premises, private or hybrid cloud. Multi-cloud architecture is needed for two main reasons:

  1. In many cases, latency (performance) and security-sensitive applications still need to be run in dedicated data centres on dedicated hardware.
  2. The public cloud behaves entirely differently than a private cloud, assuming stateless applications.

This means for cloud operations teams, the cloud is a source of increased complexity, not a source of simplification. In these complex environments, it is crucial that the APM tools do not become a source of complexity and management overhead themselves.

Monitoring Challenges with Modern Applications, Stacks, and Processes

The modern application, technical stack, and its dynamic behaviour, combined with the development process create the following new and unprecedented challenges for teams building and supporting these new applications in production:

  • Modern apps are highly scaled out with many things to monitor (i.e., hundreds and thousands of microservices in production).
  • Modern apps are highly dynamic with their high rate of change in scale and new versions (i.e., multiple releases of new software into production every day).
  • Modern apps are incredibly diverse with many different languages and stacks, driving the need for developer productivity and ever more diversity.
  • Business services are often comprised of not only the modern applications, but previously developed n-tier, monolithic, and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications.
  • Enterprises struggle to deploy APM tools broadly and pervasively due to their complexity and cost.
The SolarWinds APM Suite

The SolarWinds APM Suite — Pingdom, AppOptics, and Loggly combine user experience monitoring with custom metrics, code analysis, distributed tracing, log analytics, and log management to provide unmatched visibility into modern applications. A key feature of the suite is that all the major types of data are collected, including logs, traces, metrics, and both synthetic and real end-user experience data. The suite is also unique in how its feature functionality works across all three major architectural patterns for application development—monoliths, n-tier SOA, and microservice-based applications.

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