Have you ever seen those art installations consisting of suspended objects, similar to a mobile? There may be hundreds of items of differing sizes, shapes, and colors, all hanging at different heights and locations within a room. When you first see them, they may appear to be little more than a chaotic jumble of individual pieces; but when you change your perspective, something else comes into focus. Instead of confusion, the elements coalesce into a single, three-dimensional image. The same can also describe a typical IT environment. It’s also a pretty good illustration of how application performance monitoring can make sense out of the complexity that characterizes your business applications.
You see, without the right perspective, your IT environment is nothing but a cacophony of devices, applications, services, and virtual machines all shouting for your attention. Each has an important role in carrying out the mission of your business, and each is eager to tell you how it’s doing—whether systems are running smoothly or if something needs fixing. Application performance monitoring (APM) gives you a complete picture of your business application—although it does not provide a complete view of your entire infrastructure. (We’ll get to that later.)
Having introduced the acronym APM, I need to take a moment to address a common point of confusion since APM can mean both application performance monitoring and application performance management. Too often I hear these terms used interchangeably, but there is a huge difference between them. Application performance monitoring is foundational to application performance management. The two are complementary.
What is application performance monitoring?
Gartner defines application performance monitoring as “one or more software and hardware components that facilitate monitoring to meet five main functional dimensions: end-user experience monitoring, runtime application architecture discovery modeling and display, user-defined transaction profiling, component deep-dive monitoring in application context, and analytics.”
Application performance monitoring is a passive process, keeping watch over the operations of your applications and the infrastructure in which they run and reports back on the status. That information then feeds into analysis that informs the decision making required to respond and fix problems.
Why is application performance monitoring important? Let’s say your organization is running an important business application that is central to your business mission, but lately it has been experiencing frequent and persistent outages. With comprehensive application performance monitoring in place, you have a unified view in which you can see the data associated with the problem, localize the problem, and identify the possible root cause (or causes) of the problem. The picture comes more into focus. But it’s not the complete picture since it only looks at one layer of your IT—the application.
What is application performance management?
Application performance management, like application performance monitoring helps you see the availability and efficiency of your business applications. But unlike application performance monitoring, application performance management is active, meaning it automatically changes things in response to events. While application performance monitoring watches and reports, management helps close the loop, helping you automate tasks so that you can detect and fix problems faster. And potentially avoid problems altogether.
The concept behind application performance management is simple:
- 1. Collect data from every configuration item in your IT environment.
- 2. Apply powerful analytics to that data to infuse it with context.
- 3. Then feed that contextualized data in real-time to inform ITOps and, ideally, automate as many processes as possible so you can minimize the need for human intervention on routine tasks. (AIOps)
Application performance management also manages your entire infrastructure holistically, it doesn’t just focus on application performance data. Yes, you’re able to get performance data on your entire application along with what infrastructure resources your app is using, how your app was deployed, where your app was deployed, and much more. This is why application performance management can help you run efficient IT operations, finding and collecting all the data associated with the configuration items that comprise the IT environment. Broadly speaking, that data falls into three categories:
- Availability and health: the status of each application in the IT environment;
- Topology: this includes application dependency maps but goes further by understanding all of the dependencies between the app and underlying infrastructure. This identifies the locations and associations of all CIs in the IT environment;
- Component behavior: the status of all configuration items (servers, storage, containers, virtual machines, clouds, operating systems, etc.) and their effect on application performance; and
- Automation: a closed loop system needs a way to effect change across all layers of the operational environment at machine speed. Through direct action or tight integration with orchestration tools.
Every application lives within the context of a complex IT environment. If your focus is on the application and not on all the things that influence the application, you can overlook important information and influences because you aren’t getting the complete picture. Every application your organization is running affects the performance of your infrastructure—and vice versa. If you lack a complete, real-time view of the dependencies of both, you can never achieve a meaningful level of automation. You can never achieve artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps).
Application performance management does not exist in mature form today, but AIOps is starting to fill this gap. Why?
- Because it’s inclusive of the entire infrastructure stack as well as the application—AIOps brings focus to your entire IT ecosystem, not just the app.
- AIOps uses multiple types of data fused together with context, not just the one type of data or the one layer.
- AIOps provides analytics in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
- Tight closed loop automation enables ITOps to actively change, modify, heal, and optimize.
To summarize, application performance monitoring exists today—helping you see the complete picture of your application so you can find and fix problems in your application faster. Application performance management gives you a complete picture of your entire IT ecosystem—enabling automation—but does not exist in a mature form today. The good news is, if you’re looking at a chaotic jumble of elements that make up your IT environment, ScienceLogic can help you bring that confusion into focus. We’re proud that our SL1 platform for AIOps is positioned in the upper-rightmost quadrant of that Q2 2019 Forrester Wave report on Intelligent Application and Service Monitoring.
If you’re at a point where you need to find a catalyst for achieving maximum IT operations efficiency and move toward process automation—or if that’s where you need to be—let us know how we can help.