Top APM Tools & Software of 2021

Users and customers are an impatient lot. It wasn’t so long ago that it was acceptable to wait for a letter to arrive to hear news about something. Now we want it all now. It’s the same with computing. As devices and network connections have improved, so too have user expectations. They don’t want to wait a millisecond for an app to open or a web page to appear. And that’s where application performance management (APM) comes in. 

APM refers to the management of the performance of software as a means of ensuring that the expected level of service is being provided. APM takes advantage of a variety of performance metrics such as throughput, IO, and various user experience parameters. The goal is to pinpoint performance issues before users notice that anything is wrong. IT can then fix the issue before user calls inundate the Help Desk. APM software makes it possible for IT to observe application behavior, understand infrastructure dependencies, and correlate this with the user experience and compare to key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Also read: The Importance of Application Performance Management (APM) for Cloud-based Networks

Key APM Features

The core capabilities of APM tools vary from vendor to vendor. They include all or most of the following:

  • Automated discovery and mapping of applications and related infrastructure components existing within the network.
  • Ability to observe the transactional behavior of applications 
  • Ability to monitor mobile and browser-based applications. 
  • Root causes investigation of performance problems.
  • Integration with other enterprise applications used in management.
  • Ability to analyze KPIs, times of login and logout, etc. 
  • Ability to integrate data from third-party sources.
  • Visibility across end users, applications, networks, and the cloud. 

Use Cases for APM 

APM can handle several critical functions, including: 

  • Unified monitoring of applications, networks, and the cloud in order to share common data models and perform correlation analysis and other critical APM functions.
  • APM has morphed from purely applications monitoring into a tool that helps in monitoring the entire business. Increasingly, APM tools are becoming parts of larger monitoring suites. 
  • Digital transformation is going full blast in many industries and APM assists in such initiatives via integration with key performance indicators (KPIs) and other business analytics systems. 
  • IT observability extended from on-premises into the cloud and into multi-cloud as well as hybrid environments. 
  • Full stack observability of data from infrastructure to applications. 

Also read: How Data Centers Must Evolve in the Cloud First Era

How to Select the Right APM Solution

Those evaluating APM software should consider the following:  

  • As opposed to a single-function APM, the modern market provides more comprehensive tools that integrate with IT Service Management (ITSM), analytics, and other functions. Vendor to vendor, these additional functions vary tremendously. Therefore, it is important to match the suite to what you need, not what a particular vendor happens to offer. 
  • Certain APM tools are more suited to specific applications than others. Test them in your own environment. 
  • Many organizations now run in hybrid and multi-cloud environments. APM tools must be able to cope with such a setting. 
  • Those who are already heavily invested in products from vendors from the likes of Cisco, Microsoft, and Splunk should consider their APM offerings first in order to take advantage of packages, discounts, and integration benefits. 

Top APM Vendors

Aternity

Aternity logoThe Aternity Digital Experience Management platform provides actionable user experience insights at every device and app for customers and employees. Aternity takes a scalable big data approach to monitoring cloud-native applications that delivers visibility across the application ecosystem. it is easy to deploy and manage and results in faster troubleshooting of performance problems.

Key Differentiators: 

  • Combines cloud-native APM capabilities with end-user experience monitoring, device performance monitoring, and benchmarking into a single digital experience management platform. 
  • By combining insights from every aspect of the digital experience, Aternity provides the business intelligence to understand the state of any digital experience, take action to improve it, and measure its impact on the business over time.
  • Identify and resolve application problems that impact employees or customers at scale. 
  • Ability to find root causes of application performance issues due to visibility into all aspects of the digital experience. 
  • Provided as a SaaS solution. 

Cisco AppDynamics

Cisco logo.AppDynamics APM software aims to simplify the management of complex applications by delivering traceability and bridging APM and business product usage. It provides full-stack observability with business context, allows users to monitor the performance of the entire IT stack, and view the performance through the lens of the business. It is easy to implement, enabling IT to prioritize the most critical issues before they impact customers. 

Key Differentiators: 

  • Real-time ingestion and analysis of data across the stack, auto-discovery and mapping, anomaly detection and more.
  • By connecting application performance to customer experience and business outcomes, it helps to reduce noise, support efficient teamwork, gather and analyze data across the entire stack, and provide insights to help improve business experience and results.
  • Monitor everything from customer-facing applications down to core network and infrastructure with its full-stack observability (FSO) offering. 
  • With FSO, AppDynamics enables the ability to identify and address performance issues across applications, as well as contextualize the IT performance insights with real-time business data. 
  • By viewing the performance of the application through real-time business analytics and enabling businesses to clearly understand the impact application performance issues have on their KPIs, AppDynamics helps users prioritize their work based on impact to the business. 
  • Since being acquired by Cisco, AppDynamics can offer integration with a wide range of networking, storage, and compute platforms. 

Elastic

Elastic logoElastic got into the APM business via its Elasticsearch application for data analytics. Most users tend to expand from that application by adding its APM platform to view where applications are spending time, quickly fix issues, and test code. Elastic’s scalable native database offering provides the ability to store and query against significant quantities of data. This scalability allows Elastic the ability to work across a wide range of environments and organization sizes.

Key Differentiators: 

  • It is also available as a free and open version.
  • Complements Elasticsearch data analytics.
  • Native support for OpenTelemetry traces and metrics.

Dynatrace

Dynatrace logoDynatrace provides software intelligence to simplify cloud complexity and accelerate digital transformation. With automatic and intelligent observability at the core of its platform, it delivers answers about the performance and security of applications, microservices, the underlying infrastructure, as well as the experience of users.  

Key Differentiators: 

  • As well as APM, Dynatrace provides AIOps, application security, digital experience, business analytics, and cloud automation. 
  • Goes beyond gathering data to provide observability and unparalleled AIOps to make clouds work. 
  • Strategic partnerships with major players including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, and is the only observability platform on the AWS, GCP, and Azure marketplaces. 
  • Multi-cloud observability that spans applications, infrastructure, user experience, AIOps, automation, and application security. 
  • Combines an AI engine, and automation for continuous discovery, anomaly detection, and optimization analysis. 

Microsoft

Microsoft logoMicrosoft Azure Monitor benefits greatly from the vast universe that is the Microsoft Azure cloud. It incorporates Application Insights and is delivered via the cloud. As more customers adopt commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and SaaS applications, Microsoft Azure Monitor plans to continue to rapidly add support for these additional application environments. A major strength, then, is its breadth of integration. 

Key Differentiators: 

  • Update Windows and Linux systems across hybrid environments.
  • Helps simplify configuration management in the cloud. 
  • Collect inventory of operating system resources and track changes. 
  • Multi-cloud support. 
  • Monitoring of on-premises workloads.  
  • Ability to monitor application, infrastructure, and log data. 
  • Can utilize Microsoft Azure Monitor log analytics.

New Relic

New Relic logoNew Relic APM helps software teams detect anomalies, discover root causes, and optimize performance. Whether the architecture is microservices or monoliths, containers or VMs, cloud or data center, APM can deploy, monitor, and scale services. It offers knowledge about what is happening and why, regardless of the system. It gathers current and historical data about memory usage, CPU utilization, database query performance, web browser rendering performance, app availability, error analysis, external services, and other metrics. With this data, it is possible to decipher which programs need to be advanced, edited, or cut altogether. 

Key Differentiators: 

  • New Relic’s APM capabilities are available out-of-the-box with full-stack observability in New Relic One.
  • Provides DevOps teams with a single source of truth to troubleshoot, debug, and optimize performance.
  • The platform provides context and surfaces insights from logs, infrastructure and applications, distributed tracing, and serverless functions. 
  • An app performance at a glance summary gives the user insight into web transaction response time, and transaction traces. 
  • Drill down to the worst area and fix the problem at the root, optimizing app performance.
  • Monitor all aspects of the business on one screen. 
  • No need to program pre-configured alerts. The system automatically groups alerts and informs engineers based on time and frequency, cutting down on alert fatigue. 

Splunk

Splunk logoSplunk is best known for its IT service management, IT operations management products as well as its ability to integrate data streams from a huge number of sources. Splunk’s APM products deliver service through various products aggregated within the Splunk Observability Suite. It can analyze, ingest, and store data for later use, as well as detect issues impacting customers.

Key Differentiators: 

  • Provides DevOps teams with a one-stop shop to see errors and latency across all the tags of any given service.
  • Enhanced offerings in areas such as real user monitoring and network monitoring.
  • Acquisitions of Plumbr, Rigor, Flowmill, and others provide access to multiple monitoring and security features such as monitoring for enterprise applications. 
  • In addition to monitoring and security functions, Splunk offerings provide AIOps and automation functionality. 
  • Support for the largest environments: 

Datadog

Datadog logo.Datadog Application APM provides end-to-end distributed tracing from front-end devices to databases with no need for sampling. By correlating distributed traces between front-end and back-end data, it enables IT to monitor service dependencies, reduce latency, and eliminate errors.

Key Differentiators: 

  • APM, log management and related monitoring delivered as SaaS deployments. 
  • Recently added a security analysis tool. 
  • Collects, prepares and presents telemetry data from logs and various metrics, providing context to reduce incident response time. 

Read next: Hyperconverged Infrastructure is Reshaping IT Management

Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications, including eSecurity Planet and CIO Insight. He is also the editor-in-chief of an international engineering magazine.

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