Application Performance Monitoring

Responsible for the operations maintaining the performance of your application? Read this guide to find out how application performance monitoring can ease up your task.

By Swanand Kadam – Lead Architect at Kalaam.io

What is Application Performance Monitoring?

The core of any digital business is the application they serve to the end user. In today’s economy, an application isn’t just the part of a business but it is itself a business. From prototyping to actual development to deploying the app in production, IT teams have to make sure that the final application will check all the boxes and provide a seamless user experience to end users.

As the digital economy thrives and consumer expectation keeps on rising, even a small drop in the performance of application can create obstacles to a company’s growth and future goals. Consumers love a smooth digital experience and that can only be possible if development teams prioritize the application performance from day one.

Because in the end, how the performance of the application matches up with the expectations of end users will differentiate a successful application from an unsuccessful one.

Fortunately, Application Performance Monitoring is one area of application development that gives you a driving seat for monitoring end to end performance of your application.

Application performance monitoring (APM) empowers the businesses to monitor their IT environment as per performance standards, identify bugs and potential issues, and provide flawless user experiences via close monitoring of application runtime. APM ensures consistent availability, performance, and response times to applications so that you can fix performance issues before they impact your end users.


Why APM is necessary?

According to DataReportal’s survey, the number of active internet users across the globe is 4.4 Billion. We use applications to stream movies, shop online, order food, connect with friends, collaborate on a project and other work. Due to a plethora of options, we usually stick to an application which delivers consistent availability, fast performance and seamless UI. It’s always frustrating to experience an application which takes an eternity to load or decides to not load at all.

The variables that can hamper the performance of an application can vary from coding mistakes or ‘bugs’ in the software, database slowdowns, hosting and network performance, to operating system and device type support.

The websites, mobile apps, enterprise softwares may seem simple at first glance but they are a result of a complex interaction between frontend, backend and data layers hosted across multiple cloud services. Thousands of lines of code are written to implement the desired features of an application. This complexity keeps on increasing as the application development process progresses and might even cause code to break if best practises are not followed.

This is why Application Performance monitoring tools are widely used by development teams as it helps them to quickly identify the variables that are impacting the application performance. APM tools bring a new level of confidence to application release and improve productivity of IT teams. If it weren’t for APM tools, IT teams would have to spend a big chunk of their time and resources in manually tracking down the bugs that are impacting the app performance.

What can APM do for your application?

The key to improving an application performance is by understanding the health of every functionality that runs through your application in real-time. The end-to-end application performance monitoring works by:

  1. Checking whether your apps are behaving in a standard way.
  1. If not, alerting to and collecting data on the source of the problem.
  1. Analyzing the data in the context of the impact on the business.
  1. Modifying your app environment to fix similar problems before they impact the business.

APM tools track and collect information about the variables that play a crucial role in application performance. This are some of the most critical application performance monitoring metrics:

  • CPU usage: APM looks at CPU usage, memory demands, and disk read/write speeds to make sure it doesn’t affect app performance.
  • Error rates: APM tracks how often app performance fails. For example, when HTTP/HTTPS requests end in an error or database retrieval fails.
  • Response times: Average Response Time is the metric that signifies whether speed is affecting app performance.
  • Number of instances: For cloud-based applications, you need to know how many server or app instances you have running at any one time. Instances that are running unnecessarily might increase the load on the system.
  • Request rates: This metric measures how much traffic your application receives like spikes, inactivity, or numbers of concurrent users.
  • Application availability/uptime: This metric monitors whether your app is online and available.

By correlating data across monitoring silos into a single source of truth APM saves IT professionals a ton of manual time searching through individual event logs.

Five Dimensions of APM:

Gartner, Inc.  has defined five dimensions for managing application performance. According to Gartner, “Application performance monitoring (APM) is a suite of monitoring software comprising digital experience monitoring (DEM), application discovery, tracing and diagnostics, and purpose-built artificial intelligence for IT operations.”
  1. Digital user experience monitoring: It deals with observing user experience and identifying times when they encounter issues like slowness, errors, downtime.
  1. Transaction profiling: It follows every transaction in an application to identify any possible slowness. Using a tag-and-follow approach, business transactions can be traced through the front end, across the middleware, all the way to the backend database.
  1. Application code-level diagnostics:According to a DZone performance survey, 43% of application performance issues are due an issue in the application code. When a user transaction is slow, it is then possible to pinpoint the exact line of code, database query or third-party call that is taking high processing time and fix it accordingly.
  1. Application deep-dive analysis: When there’s a problem in the application infrastructure – say in the application server when the connection pool is exhausted or there is high wait time for threads or there is insufficient heap memory – it will affect application performance. Detailed visibility into the application infrastructure is a must.        
  1. Infrastructure visibility in context of application performance: Slow network connectivity, a memory leak in the server, virtualization bottlenecks are some of the main causes behind performance issues. Monitoring the health and availability of the underlying infrastructure is key to ensuring application performance success.

To understand why your application is slow, IT teams need to gain complete insight into all aspects of user experience, business transactions, application performance and infrastructure health. A converged application and infrastructure monitoring strategy should be adopted to automate root cause diagnosis and simplify performance troubleshooting. From APM tools, you can get your single source of truth and ensure high performance of applications.

Trends in APM:

Application performance monitoring keeps on evolving due to the increasing need of stable and fast performance applications. If your IT team is equipped with the best APM tools in the industry from start, every application release will become a confident move. One of new trends in APM is related to use case  based performance monitoring. In use case based APM,  performance testing is not only carried out earlier in the development process, but also differently: based on specific use cases rather than overall database performance. We will talk about how use case based performance monitoring helps reduce the cost and improves productivity in detail in our next article.

Summary

While working on a complex application, IT teams might easily miss out on the true purpose of application: To improve the business. APM tools help IT teams stay aligned with this purpose by tracking down the performance issues in application to ensure consistent availability and better end user experience.  We recommend you to follow along with performance management advancements from resources like Gartner, 451 Research, and other industry analysts.

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