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Can APM Solutions Monitor Today’s Complex Software?

April 6, 2021

Do you know how many software applications your organization is using? According to the Okta Businesses at Work 2021 report, the average number of apps deployed per company was 88. Over the past four years, the number has risen steadily by 22% across all industries and company sizes. 

How can organizations manage all these applications to improve and maintain performance standards and user experience? The solution lies in using application performance monitoring (APM) software.

Modern APM solutions

However, times have changed since the introduction of cloud applications and microservices. Microservices are very complex to monitor because they consist of individual sections of an app that run on hundreds of containers within servers interacting across multiple environments.

They have become widely popular over the last couple of years as reports found that 77% of their IT survey respondents have adopted microservices. Traditional APM software has a hard time tracking these microservices because of their sophistication. Yet, in the last five years, more and more companies are starting to use them.

graph depicting a survey that highlights when organizations started using microservices

In 2020, around 77% of the 1502 companies surveyed by O’Reilly are using microservices. (Source)

In this article, we provide an analysis of the capabilities of APM software and how you can use them to manage your cloud applications and microservices.

What makes microservices special?

Why are microservices different from traditional applications? A traditional application has one monolithic codebase containing all the application’s functionality. Microservices, however, break up applications into smaller functions and operate under containers. This enables them to be individually deployed within containers to be more resource efficient and scalable. There is no need to deploy the whole application when only a small part of its functionality is needed. 

Additionally, microservices can be updated individually without updating the whole software. This agility is the reason why companies today opt in for microservices design for their software.

However, microservice design adds complexity for monitoring software. Traditional software deployed within the application server involves simple and direct communications between other applications. With microservices, the application environment may contain thousands of distributed components that must constantly interact with each other across different environments. 

APM tools that were designed for traditional applications can no longer provide a complete picture of today’s operating environment.

Related: What are Microservices? (+Microservices vs. Monolithic Architecture)

APM features for monitoring microservices

Full transaction monitoring

Good APM tools need to trace every transaction, otherwise, it only provides a fragmented, incomplete view that leaves too many blind spots for troubleshooting. Unless all transactions are monitored and properly correlated, it can be difficult to conduct a root cause analysis. For example, if the APM tool only tracks the nth transaction when there is a memory leak, the transactions consuming the extra memory would go undetected since they aren’t being tracked.

Automatic context correlation

Containers can change frequently and some containers don't even last a minute. So how to track transactions and containers when they are changing so fast? A second-by-second tracking metric would help. 

Another way is to track metadata to add context to the services that the containers are providing. Metadata can cover information about past Kubernetes, containers, and microservice. When metadata is correlated to transaction, it also builds context of the performance issue. For example, with IP address metadata, it can be determined where the issue occurred and pinpoint the problem based on locations. However, tracking by seconds and tracking metadata will generate a significant amount of data. To perform a root cause analysis of this size, APM tools require big data processing capabilities and AIOps to fill in gaps.

End-to-end visibility

Due to the fast-changing environment of microservices, future APM tools need to generate a real-time end-to-end map of every transaction. This will identify which part of the process is going wrong. To accurately map constantly changing container relationships, companies need network monitoring and infrastructure monitoring tools to build the whole picture. Without these monitoring tools, companies risk mixing up hardware and software issues. Simply buying a new server to increase capability won’t always solve the problem.  

APM today

In a cloud-based world, comprehensive APM solutions are a no-brainer for businesses trying to make a mark with optimized application performance. A successful APM practice is a complete solution that helps organizations scale with faster resolution times, better solutions, and meaningful business insights. APM solutions are evolving to meet modern needs and some are beginning to call them cloud observability since new APM solutions not only perform application monitoring but also cloud infrastructure monitoring

For APM software in the near future to keep up with user needs, they need to track more frequently and in more detail. Top APM solutions offer a complete monitoring package to track everything in order to generate a full root cause analysis report. 

Here is a list of metrics that top APM solutions track, analyze, and report:
  • CPU capacity
  • System process resource consumption
  • Server network load (latency, reliability, etc.)
  • Memory and disk I/O analytics
  • Transactions and metadata of transactions
  • End user experience or real user monitoring (RUM)
  • Code level performance
  • Root cause analysis (AIOps)
 

There is no doubt that traditional APM solutions lack the functionality to track modern cloud-based applications. With multicloud adoption on the rise, complex cloud environments are being accepted each day. APM solution is the answer to easing the pain of technology adoption as it provides hassle-free tracking operations.

Find the best Application Performance Monitoring (APM) Software, here.

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