System admins have been collecting data from IT systems for decades in order to help identify problems and keep everything running. But over the past several years, the art of data-based systems management has spawned a burgeoning, multi-dimensional ecosystem.
It’s no longer enough just to collect basic server data and look for signs of trouble inside it. Today, organizations want to be able to collect data from multiple sources -- on-premises servers, the cloud, containers and sometimes even IoT devices. They want to use that data to enable real-time incident response. Many are also looking for ways to optimize their infrastructure costs.
With these needs in mind, a number of vendors have developed robust APM tools in recent years. Most of these companies say the term APM is short for application performance monitoring, although some prefer application performance management to emphasize that APM is about more than just watching application behavior.
To help IT pros navigate the diverse application performance monitoring/management tool offerings available today, we’ve created a buyer’s guide with information about the APM tools available from eight major vendors. The guide compares the key features and pricing of each tool.
Because the modern APM ecosystem is so complex, the guide breaks APM functionality down into different categories. The most important point of distinction between tools is which types of monitoring they support. Some perform synthetic monitoring, which means that they simulate application behavior to identify potential problems and help optimize performance. Others offer real-user monitoring based on data collected from actual users. Many tools do both.
Some tools also support transaction tracing, which provides detailed information about a specific action inside an application. This technique, which was traditionally used by developers to identify application bugs, has become an increasingly important component of APM strategies for system admins who need to figure out why a specific part of an application is not performing adequately.
Cost analysis features are another important type of functionality that some APM vendors have started to offer in recent years. By identifying underutilized infrastructure, such as an on-premises server whose CPU usage never exceeds more than half its total capacity or a data volume running in the cloud that no longer has any applications connected to it, cost analysis helps organizations avoid unnecessary infrastructure expenses.
Perhaps the most interesting feature in modern APM tools is automated response. APM tools that offer this functionality use machine learning to take action automatically when they detect a problem. For example, if an APM tool with this feature detects an application that is maxing out the resources available on the server hosting it, the tool might move that application to another server with more resources available. Automated response features can’t solve every type of problem -- they’re no replacement for human admins -- but they can help to enable faster incident resolution and free admins to focus on more complex issues that can’t be solved automatically.
All the APM tools in our guide support cloud monitoring and database monitoring. All of them are also now compatible with containerized applications. Support for other types of applications and infrastructure, including mobile apps and IoT devices, is more sporadic.
Our guide notes how each application performance monitoring/management tool is deployed. The majority of tools are available as fully hosted, SaaS solutions that require no local software setup. Some can also operate on-premises if desired, which can be advantageous for organizations seeking to keep their APM tools and data local for security or compliance reasons.
When it comes to APM cost, things get complicated, because the vendors use a wide array of pricing models. Some charge per user, while some charge per server or device. Some tailor pricing to the types of servers that they are monitoring, charging more for cloud-based virtual servers that have more resources allocated to them.
Our guide offers basic pricing guidance designed to help buyers understand how much they’d pay to monitor an environment of small or moderate size using different tools. But the data we present shouldn’t be interpreted as a definitive guide to pricing. Prior to making a purchase, buyers should contact the APM vendors they are interested in to obtain specific pricing for their deployment needs. Click the Download button to access the free buyer’s guide.