For more than half a century, businesses have run on technology, but more recently, businesses have started running on apps. However, unlike individual device users — who use apps mainly for fun — businesses need their apps to be as functional and efficient as possible, or else they waste time and money performing at less than their capacity. Thus, many businesses seek metrics to verify their productivity is at its peak — essentially, they need application performance management (APM).
However, APM isn’t a widely understood concept or tool. In fact, APM largely remains an industry term, used by tech professionals and ignored by other business leaders. Yet, all businesses that use software and apps can benefit from learning more about application performance management — and they can do so from this convenient guide.
A Strict Definition of Application Performance Management
Initially, when app monitoring first developed, APM was strictly devoted to understanding specific performance metrics. Primarily, APM worked to measure computational resources used by the application to indicate whether there is capacity to support the load. These measures helped identify possible locations of performance bottlenecks and establish a baseline performance for the application. Secondarily, APM strove to understand performance experienced by end users, especially response times under peak load. Because developers work with software when it is not enduring a high volume of transactions, APM is necessary after the application is released to gather data and optimize the application.
Yet, the digital world has changed significantly since the term APM was first used in 2013. Today, many tech professionals have expanded the definition of APM to anything related to managing or monitoring applications — including code, dependencies, transaction times, and user experience. Thus, a vast market of APM products has emerged, from targeted Office 365 monitoring to SaaS and network performance monitoring. To reign in use of the term, Gartner Research has detailed three relatively nebulous dimensions of APM, which include:
- Reporting data analytics
- Monitoring digital experiences
- Remediating problems, such as those in application runtime architecture, user-defined transactions, and application components
Ultimately, as long as an APM tool helps businesses understand why an application is doing well — or doing less-than-well — then it is an effective tool.
3 Types of APM Tools
While the APM industry has grown significantly most Application Performance Management tools can be sorted into one of three categories — and they aren’t defined by Gartner’s dimensions. Rather, most APM monitoring tools are designated by these types:
- Network-based. APM tools that evaluate application performance based on network traffic fit into this group. However, recently, network-based APM tools have begun migrating into their own industry, called network performance management (NPM).
- Code-based. Writing code takes time and effort, but sifting through that code to find errors is even more intensive. Code-based APM tools retrace the code looking for mistakes, bugs, and other issues that might slow app performance.
- App metrics-based. These are more approachable APM tools for non-developers. Often, metrics-based tools will track data and speed, but sometimes they are too limited to explain why issues arise.
Before businesses settle on one APM tool over another, they should consider their level of tech proficiency and their performance management needs. Further, they should review the following essential features for an APM service.
Ideal Metrics for APM
It typically isn’t enough to know there is a problem with an app; businesses need to be able to pinpoint existing and potential issues with their software to prevent performance slowdowns, improve customer satisfaction, and increase profits. To that end, businesses should focus on obtaining APM tools that can generate the following metrics:
- User satisfaction scores. Also called the application performance index, or Apdex, this score is the standard for understanding the value of an app. The formula is relatively simple, so almost all APM tools should have it integrated.
- Error rates. No application is wholly without errors, but APMs are getting better at identifying errors and assisting in their removal. Tracking error rates is useful for understanding app performance.
- Application instances count. Scaling is mandatory for modern apps, especially as businesses grow quickly, but scaling can make monitoring difficult. APM tools that can count application instances rather than CPU usage are beneficial.
- Request rates. Request rates are perhaps the most important metric an APM tool can monitor because increases and decreases in traffic can affect all other metrics. At the very least, an APM tool should do this.