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In general terms APM is simply 'the monitoring and management of the performance and availability of software applications'
Apr. 28, 2017 10:45 AM
Can Wire Data Be APM?
I recently read something – a blog, a tweet, a LinkedIn article perhaps – describing the use of wire data to analyze application performance. I remember that the author’s use of the term “APM” in this context caused one reader to comment, complaining that “you can’t call wire data APM.” This was around the same time I referred casually to Dynatrace’s wire data offering (Data Center Real User Monitoring, or DC RUM) as both “APM for IT Operations” and “probe-based APM.” So that complaint has stuck with me, prompting me to ask – and offer an answer to – the question.
It depends, of course, on answers to related questions. How do you define APM? What role does APM play in your organization? What APM insights can wire data provide? Let’s take a brief look at each of these.
What is APM to you?
Beyond the helpful simplification of the dimensions, there’s another interesting change to Gartner’s definition; it now explicitly calls out requirements for specific technology platforms. Included are web and mobile, HTTP, Java and .NET; by omission, all others are excluded.
“Traditional” APM architectures
At least for mission-critical web apps.
Mission critical? Or vendor critical?
First, at a high level, it implies that some apps are not critical, and therefore don’t warrant monitoring. Maybe it’s a matter of degree – critical vs. important. But if an application isn’t at least important, why do you still have it? And if it is important, shouldn’t you be monitoring it?
The second facet is vendor-driven; APM vendors have steered the mission-critical discussion to web apps, the “apps of engagement” that are revenue-producing for many businesses. Distilling the messaging, one might conclude that “web apps are mission-critical; non-web apps are not.” This sounds like a spin on Maslow’s law of the hammer, illustrated nicely by Grace Witherell: “When all you have is a hammer, only nails are problems.”
I’d venture to say that your Oracle EBS and Forms-based apps, your SAP ERP applications, your Epic EHR and other custom thick-client applications that might be delivered via Citrix, all running core parts of your business – these and many others like them are probably critical as well.
But these “other” (i.e., non-web) apps run on a diverse set of often proprietary or closed platforms, without the instrumentation interfaces that have facilitated agent-based APM solutions for Java and .NET.
APM for IT operations
One dominant example of these different interests is reflected in the need for code-level insight, a component of the second of the three APM dimensions. Application development and support teams likely need this, at least for applications built or customized and maintained in-house. But for IT operations teams, code-level insight may be less of a priority; common operational goals such as meeting service quality SLAs, reducing MTTR, and controlling costs can be easily accomplished by other APM capabilities. And the lack of code-level monitoring doesn’t preclude effective DevOps collaboration; inter-tier transaction monitoring and parameter capture help fill the gap.
Analytics transforms this interpreted wire data into useful insights, and at Dynatrace, we’ve built a wire data analytics platform (DC RUM) that focuses on delivering application and user performance insights – in fact, mirroring many of the core capabilities defined by Gartner’s APM dimensions. These include:
For an expansion of these wire data capabilities, you can read my blog “Where APM Agents Fear to Tread.”
In fact, the primary limitation of a wire data approach to APM might simply be the lack of code-level insights; in its place, however, wire data can offer enhanced network infrastructure visibility as well as enterprise-wide application coverage; for IT operations teams, that’s often a reasonable – if not desirable – tradeoff.
A positive-sum game
At Dynatrace, we’re redefining monitoring to mean every user, every app, everywhere. This doesn’t mean separate products for different environments; it means a unified and modular AI-driven solution that offers comprehensive coverage for enterprise, web and newstack environments.
So, can wire data be APM? Some APM vendors want to argue that it can’t, but it might be that they’ve got only hammers to sell.
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