Top 8 APM Vendors

This content was last reviewed on
September 11, 2022

Modern-day applications are becoming more complex due to migration from a monolith architecture to microservices or applications using different languages, frameworks, serverless functions, and cloud or on-prem environments. To stay competitive, organizations are going for faster development and deployment cycles. Because of the complexity and variety of data sources, it’s now difficult to understand the root cause of problems. Application Performance Monitoring or Application Performance Management (APM) helps organizations collect, process, and visualize telemetry data from different systems and quickly find the root cause of issues.

There are many open-source and vendor-provided APM tools. Below are some of the vendor-provided APM tools.

Here are the vendors we cover (this is not an exhaustive list!):

If you want to get tips on which vendors are best-suited for common APM use cases, jump to this part.

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Datadog

Datadog APM provides full visibility into modern applications by monitoring, troubleshooting, and optimizing application performance, allowing you to collect and visualize both front-end and back-end data in a single pane of glass. Datadog provides multiple features such as real user monitoring (RUM) for browser and mobile devices, backend services such as tracing without limits, a continuous profiler, and many other features, including synthetic monitoring, infrastructure monitoring, network monitoring, database monitoring, CI visibility, cloud security posture management, etc.

Key features of Datadog APM and Continuous Profiler:

  • Provides end-to-end distributed tracing ability.
  • Provides a good UI with visualizations that reveal dependencies.
  • Provides deployment tracking and detects performance regressions after code deploys.
  • Provides graphs and alerts on error rates or latency.
  • Automatic code analysis with actionable insights and low overhead code profiling.
  • Provides tracing of outliers for faster root cause analysis.
  • Correlates infrastructure metrics with code profiles.
Datadog dashboard
Source: Datadog

New Relic

New Relic APM provides visibility into performance across the entire application environment. It has automatic instrumentation for different programming languages such as Go, PHP, Node, Python, Java, Ruby, .NET, C++, and many frameworks. It reveals transaction time, errors, and throughput in nice dashboards and has service maps that show dependencies between services so that Ops teams can see how everything works together. It captures and analyzes all traces, visualizes the most actionable data, and can catch performance changes during deployments. In addition to APM, New Relic offers infrastructure management, Kubernetes monitoring, log management, network monitoring, real user monitoring, vulnerability management, ML model performance monitoring, etc.

Key features of New Relic APM:

  • Provides complete app visibility from backend APIs to frontend user devices.
  • Traces and logs can be viewed in context to correlate the data across the full stack.
  • Automap feature shows dependencies between services through visualizations.
  • Bottlenecks can be identified easily, and performance can be optimized.
  • Root causes can be found faster by drilling into errors and slow traces.
  • Traces can be grouped to understand errors and anomalies.
  • Can be integrated easily with the most popular languages, frameworks, cloud providers, and open standards like Open Telemetry.
  • Deployment markers feature helps understand how code releases impact performance.
  • Dependency and service map features highlight the components that cause performance issues.
New Relic dashboard
Source: New Relic

Splunk

Splunk APM provides end-to-end visibility to modern organizations to pinpoint issues quickly and find the root causes. With full-fidelity tracing, it ingests and retains all the trace data to identify anomalies. AI-driven troubleshooting makes it easy to identify, scope, and resolve issues. It provides continuous code profiling that analyses code-level performance in context with trace data and minimal overhead. With Splunk APM, service bottlenecks can be identified and fixed. It also identifies resource optimization opportunities in the environment.

Key features of Splunk APM:

  • Splunk APM collects all traces instead of the sampled set, which helps not leave any anomaly undetected.
  • It provides immediate feedback on any release.
  • Dynamically generated service maps provide visibility to all service interactions, inferred services, dependencies, and performance.
  • Correlates events in latency or errors with tag values, providing one place to understand how traces behave across the system.
  • Provides visualizations that help developers understand how their microservices impact all their workflows.
  • Important business transactions can be tracked by grouping traces based on a common service or tag.
  • Provides smart dynamic alerting.
  • Provides code-level performance analysis to troubleshoot bottlenecks and optimize performance in cloud-native and monolith applications.
Splunk dashboard
Source: Splunk

Dynatrace  

Dynatrace provides an APM that supports multiple languages, application architectures, cloud, on-premises or hybrid, enterprise applications, SaaS monitoring, etc. It provides real-time visibility into microservice-based environments and automatically discovers and monitors microservice workloads running inside containers on Kubernetes. It also provides monolith and mainframe monitoring, database monitoring, application monitoring, and many other services for end-to-end visibility.

Key features of Dynatrace APM:

  • Provides all relationships and dependencies across all components in the system.
  • Automatically monitors cloud-native workloads and microservices.
  • Provides complete visibility into microservice communication.
  • Improves production quality with code-level tracing.
  • Provides the ability to push new code to production faster and with higher quality.
  • Identifies database issues that impact application performance.
  • It automatically discovers and monitors all message queues, enabling teams to detect underperforming services and proactively act before it impacts users.

Dynatrace dashboard
Source: Dynatrace

Azure Application Insights

Microsoft's Application Insights is an Azure Monitor feature that provides APM-like tooling for web applications, with agents and/or SDKs for .NET, .NET Core, Java, Node.js, and JavaScript, and distributed tracing (supports OpenTelemetry). Tracing information is automatically collected by SDK dependency auto collectors for popular frameworks, libraries, and technologies.

Key features of Azure Application Insights:

  • Automatically detects performance anomalies.
  • Provides visibility into user interactions with applications by logging different metrics.
  • Powerful analytics tools.
  • Can be used for applications hosted on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments.
  • Monitors and analyzes telemetry data such as logs, metrics, and traces collected from mobile apps.

Azure Monitor dashboard
Source: Azure Monitor

Instana

Instana is an APM that automatically and continuously discovers and maps all services and monitors all application dependencies. It traces each request, ingests metrics, profiles all processes automatically, and provides immediate contextual information about the quality of every service. It has real-time stream processing to quickly collect and analyze telemetry data and gives fast recommendations on whether to roll back or continue with the deployed changes.

Key features of Instana APM:

  • Continuous deep code profiling.
  • CI/CD monitoring with out-of-the-box integrations for Jenkins, Git, etc.
  • Analyzes traces and calls from any perspective.
  • Provides unlimited custom metrics.
  • Real-time machine learning capabilities to identify anomalies.
  • Visualize interactions between services to understand dependencies.
Instana dashboard
Source: Instana

Amazon CloudWatch

Amazon CloudWatch has an Application Insights feature that provides an automated observability setup. It helps identify and set up key metrics and logs across applications and their resources, such as databases, web servers, application servers, operating systems, load balancers, and queues. It monitors telemetry data to detect and correlate anomalies and notifies of any problems it detects.

Key features of Amazon CloudWatch:

  • CloudWatch collects metrics and logs from different services, applications, and resources.
  • It provides visualizations to show trends.
  • It provides real-time monitoring.
  • CloudWatch logs can also be sent to other tools for analysis and dashboarding.
  • Using CloudWatch synthetics, canaries can be created to monitor endpoints.
  • CloudWatch ServiceLens enables transaction monitoring that uses traces to understand dependencies between resources.
Amazon CloudWatch dashboard
Source: Amazon Cloudwatch

AppDynamics

AppDynamics APM by Cisco enables management and monitoring of the application delivery ecosystem ranging from mobile/browser client network requests to backend databases/servers. AppDynamics agents send detailed performance and business metrics back to a central AppDynamics controller that automatically creates a dynamic baseline for each metric. If performance deviates from the baseline, transaction snapshots are captured down to the specific line of code.

Key features of AppDynamics:

  • It helps developers understand how their code performs in production and pre-production environments.
  • Monitor real-time business performance metrics.
  • Provides metrics and default health rules for uncovering infrastructure problems.
  • Automated anomaly detection and root cause analysis to reduce app downtime and the number of SLA breaches.
AppDynamics dashboard
Source: AppDynamics

Who is the best APM provider for you?

With the onslaught of new vendors and features to consider, how do you vet and choose the right APM vendor for you? Below, we break down how some vendors fit in with common APM and observability use cases.

Complex Enterprise Hybrid Environment

Need to monitor a complex hybrid environment (or even exclusively on-premises)? Maybe you also expect a sales cycle and customer support package best-suited for enterprise. In such cases, your best options are:

  1. Dynatrace
  2. AppDynamics

Dynatrace is better if you also have lots of microservices or serverless running your applications, whereas AppDynamics might have more powerful tools for understanding the end-to-end user journey.

Cloud-native Technology Company

If you are a cloud-native technology company that has scaled-up or are scaling up rapidly (e.g., a "unicorn"), the simple answer is to go with Datadog nearly every time. You might want to consider other options if you are sensitive to cost.

Small Business and Budget

SolarWinds APM does not offer nearly the amount of features as other APMs, but it does offer a very simple and affordable pricing structure that is suitable for small environments. Alternatively, New Relic is also free if you keep the amount of data ingested per month to under 100 GB.

AWS Native Monitoring

Amazon CloudWatch usually does the trick if you don't have any (or very little) 3rd party services or other cloud providers in the mix.

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