Most Important APM Features

Louis-Victor Jadavji
August 11, 2022
Louis-Victor Jadavji, Cofounder of Taloflow

Louis-Victor Jadavji (or "LV") is a recognized leader in the cloud services industry. He's helped 50+ digital native companies like ModusBox, Later, and NS1 choose the right cloud stack for their applications. His work has been featured in Forbes (30 Under 30 All-Star), HuffPost, The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, and Inc. Magazine.

APM features

There are many features that Application Performance Monitoring (also called Application Performance Management, or APM for short) tools provide. Based on your needs, you can use open-source tools such as Pinpoint, Prometheus, Zipkin, etc., or third-party vendor tools like AppDynamics, Datadog, Dynatrace, New Relic One, etc. to help different IT teams fix issues quickly and easily maintain applications.

Below are some of the important APM features. Keep in mind that what vendors support is highly variable. If you need a hand picking the right APM tool, you can get a recommendation tailored to your use case via our 5-minute questionnaire.

We cover the following features in this post:

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Code Profiling

Every developer occasionally makes mistakes in their code. We invented code reviews to help teams produce more efficient code, but those are manual and time-consuming. Developers will, of course, sometimes see performance issues after deploying their code to production.

Some APM tools provide code profiling features for developers based on their programming language. These profilers find bugs, identify which parts cause performance problems, identify which SQL queries are slow and take up a lot of resources, find application errors and slow web requests, and more at the code level. Based on the constant feedback developers get from these tools, they can optimize their code and prevent performance bottlenecks, thereby leading to fewer maintenance issues.

Integration and Automation

Because of the wide variety of toolsets used in modern architectures, any monitoring tools should integrate with third-party tools and automatically provide a holistic view of the applications and infrastructure. APM tools can provide these integration capabilities without infrastructure changes to accommodate APM instrumentation.

Root Cause Analysis

Modern-day applications are complex and have multiple dependencies that when an issue occurs, it is challenging to find the root cause without the proper tools in place. Some APM tools help identify where the problem is occurring and help Ops teams drill down on the detailed data to get a better chance at determining the root cause, be it an increase in latency or a database overloaded with multiple requests. Overall, this helps stabilize the system and improve the end-user experience.

Endpoint Monitoring

Organizations in various industries, like manufacturing and supply chain, use mobile applications. In addition, these mobile applications are used across different endpoint devices such as mobile phones and tablets. APM tools can help monitor endpoint devices and identify issues with those devices.

For example, in a threat detection use case:

  1. You may want to ensure that threats don’t spread from devices to internal networks.
  2. You may want to ensure that endpoint users don’t use insecure or out-of-date versions of applications.

Server Monitoring

Although server monitoring is a basic feature, collecting all the logs and metrics is necessary to understand server performance. It is essential to monitor metrics like CPU utilization, network in and out, memory utilization, disk space, etc., to understand infrastructure health and maintain good application performance.

For example, suppose that database servers are triggering alerts that CPU or memory utilization is too high. It’s crucial to understand whether too many long-running SQL queries or too many API requests to the database are being made and find a fix for impacted applications.

APM tools provide these server monitoring features in the form of easy-to-use dashboards. As a result, Ops teams don’t need to comb through logs for analysis or create custom tools. Instead, they can spend time keeping systems stable and reliable with the help of APM tools.

Real User Monitoring (RUM) or End-user Experience Monitoring

If your goal is to monitor the end-user experience in mobile or web applications proactively rather than wait for the end-user to place complaints, Real User Monitoring (RUM) is necessary.

APM tools provide RUM metrics that track both client and service side metrics and evaluate different actions a user takes when using an application

Depending on the capabilities of the specific APM tool you use, it can track some of the following:

  • Pages a user views
  • Buttons clicked
  • Network request speed
  • Underlying database query efficiency

Synthetic Monitoring

Synthetic monitoring differs from RUM because it does not observe the actual user activity. Instead, it tracks common application usage and uses pre-programmed behavior to detect any threshold changes. With APM tools providing synthetic monitoring features, you can proactively monitor the availability and functionality of user journeys and understand the likely impact of front-end performance on the user experience.

Network Monitoring

For organizations with an extensive network infrastructure using both cloud and on-prem, the network teams need monitoring tools to help them identify any network-related issues. APM tools provide network monitoring, including real-time network mapping, network traffic analysis, centralized Syslog, IP address management, VPN capacity monitoring, hardware lifecycle data, and more.

Dynamic Baselining and Alerting

APM tools collect log and metric data from services and define baselines or thresholds for metrics like latency, CPU, memory, load, etc. When there is a change in these baseline values, alerts are triggered to notify the Ops team. With alerts, Ops teams can prevent serious incidents or, at the very least, quickly act on fixing the issues when they occur.

Advanced Visualization with Drill-down Capabilities

By collecting metrics, logs, and traces, APM tools provide advanced visualizations for IT teams concerning trends, percentages, key performance indicators, etc., and some drill down for root cause analysis.

Tools that provide data analytics capabilities are helpful for network, database, development, and ops teams to troubleshoot quickly rather than spend hours looking at log data or metric data in different systems.

Distributed Transaction Tracing

APM tools collect trace data, making it easy for developers to understand how code affects users. Tracing every web request and transaction helps developers understand the application's performance and where they can improve.

Log and Error Management

APM tools interact with different frameworks and programming languages and collect errors and logs at the application and server levels. These tools provide aggregated analysis of errors and the necessary drill-down features to fix them.

Container Monitoring

Microservices-based architectures are growing in popularity in relation to monolithic architectures. Container monitoring is more important than ever because of microservices-based architectures' added complexity and dependencies. APM tools usually provide a container monitoring feature that helps organizations maintain and support containerized applications.

Serverless Monitoring

Many serverless monitoring services are available on the major cloud providers, like AWS, Azure, and GCP. However, APM tools help trace into serverless applications and help ops teams get better visibility and troubleshooting.

API Monitoring

Most APM tools provide widely used REST APIs and GraphQL APIs to integrate with the applications.

Integration with Alerting Platforms

Integrating APM products with alerting platforms is key to reducing turnaround times when incidents occur. Most tools support widely used platforms like PagerDuty and Slack.

Deployment Tracking

APM tools help identify problems during software releases (CI/CD) and proactively alert developer and ops teams to fix issues in lower environments (Dev/Test/QA) before they turn into customer-facing issues.

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