What Is APM?

Suppose your website’s sales volume per hour suddenly drops. Something’s wrong. You also notice a fluctuation in the time it takes for a customer to add the last item to their cart and finish checkout. In this time, they enter payment details, log in to a payment portal, and finalize the purchase. This takes, on average, four minutes. However, this number has suddenly spiked three-fold to 12 minutes. Something’s definitely wrong. 

With application performance monitoring (APM), you not only get access to this kind of data, but you also improve IT observability and cut down on your mean time to recover (MTTR)

In the shopping cart example, your APM system detects a failure in the code of the app that runs the checkout process. Thanks to the alerts from your APM, you have eliminated several other potential causes for the drop in sales volume. Is it a failed product page? No. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack? Nope. A sudden lack of interest on the part of customers? Uh-uh.  

Knowing the root cause enables you to get to the bottom of the situation, get the system back up and running, and restart the engine of your business. 

Application Performance Monitoring Explained 

Application performance monitoring refers to a system used to check how well the code is working within an application, helping your apps do what they’re supposed to. The code in an application is a lot like tools a worker needs to perform their job. If a tool malfunctions, it can interrupt the worker’s entire process. In some apps, the “work” can still get done, but it just comes out wrong. The app produces an outcome, but it may be different from what the end user expects. 

One famous example is a bug in an app that caused F-35 fighter planes to see multiple targets when only one existed. Therefore, they didn’t know what to shoot at. APM was able to identify the problem and potentially save lives. 

Application Performance Monitoring vs. Application Performance Management 

Application performance management differs from monitoring in that it expands its focus to include all the applications end users use. The efficiency of the end user is largely dependent on how well their applications function. With application management, you can make tweaks to apps that may be affecting the end user’s experience. In a situation where several applications work interdependently, adjustments to one can start a positive chain reaction, significantly boosting outcomes.  

Performance monitoring is just a subset of application performance management. The code within individual apps needs to be monitored to ensure the app functions as it should, then the performance of these apps is analyzed in the performance management process. 

Think of the various applications that impact your end user’s workflow like workers in a factory. Unbeknown to you, one of the workers starts secretly taking generous coffee breaks. Production lags a little. Something’s wrong. If others join in on the fun, although Starbucks rewards go up, your efficiency heads in the opposite direction.  

Application management gives you an eagle’s eye, omniscient view of the “factory” of your system. Without application performance management, you may have no idea why business-critical systems are failing. With modern application monitoring, you gain observability, empowering your IT team to address issues faster and fine-tune applications that could be hurting your end users' production. 

Shortcomings of APM 

One of the primary weaknesses of APM doesn't necessarily stem from the technology itself but from the silos APM simply isn't able to penetrate. For example, the preproduction and production teams need to be able to speak the same language when it comes to addressing the sources of bottlenecks and performance concerns. Even with an APM solution in place, if the alerts produced aren't observed by preproduction and production at the same time, as each team troubleshoots the problem, they may take different approaches. This results in confusion and ineffective solutions. 

Another shortcoming of APM is it doesn't provide a way to monitor the impact associated with a change. APM is great at flagging an errant process. It's also a powerful tool when you're deciding how to implement changes to improve the system. However, APM doesn't provide a window into how those changes impact the overall system. A change may make sense within the scope of fixing a singular process. But after you make a change, another system could go haywire. Without a comprehensive, global monitoring solution, an APM can end up creating more problems than it solves. 

Get the Most Out of Your APM Solution With StackState 

With StackState, you can improve application monitoring significantly. StackState integrates with your APM solutions and then leverages their information to enhance observability. You can observe anomalies in real time as they impact your system. With StackState’s superior observability capabilities, you can improve APM systems by unifying their insights, resulting in immediately actionable intelligence.  

To learn more about how StackState’s relationship-based observability (RBO) solution can benefit your organization, book a free demo or get in touch with an expert today. 


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