Several young companies are bringing APM systems to address the problem, including AppDynamics, New Relic and Manage Engine. In addition, Microsoft, BMC, IBM, HP and Dell's Quest Software are already well-established players in the space. Whether newcomer or old hand, all parties agree that is necessary -- but difficult -- to get an end-to-end view of how an application is running, from browser window down to the legacy application code itself.
New Relic was founded by CEO Lew Cirne, who was also a founder of Wily Technologies, acquired by CA as the basis for its APM in 2006. Wily's Introscope provided insight into Java applications, and most APM vendors today still provide the best real-time insight into running Java applications. (CA also can monitor and report on .Net applications, Cramer said.)
Introscope and the APM systems that followed it started to collect massive amounts of data from server logs, then analyze and apply it to ongoing operations. A great deal is known about the running characteristics of Java, and its related languages capable of running in the Java Virtual Machine, such as JRuby. One challenge for each APM vendor is to ask how deep its system can go into Java application diagnostics and how broad is its reach into applications that may not be written in Java.
Dan Kuznetzky, principal of the Kuznetzky Group, in a column Monday described several other points that can be used as metrics for evaluating APM systems.
-- Determine whether an APM system can automatically learn about database engines and application frameworks as well as the application, servers, storage and networking. What about future applications?
-- A wild card in APM is whether the APM system can recognize what mobile devices are being brought to work and the applications that run with them.
-- Test the learning capability of the APM system. Can it collect data from your running applications and learn from it? Does it "just provide alerts and reporting," or can it "actually manage workload components?" he said.
The ability to see how a running application is performing is a more crucial task than ever, but it's gotten more complicated. Slowdowns inevitably occur. Not being able to see what's going on in the end user's browser may turn into a new Achilles heel of IT administration, especially when all components of the application are no longer on premises.
APM is starting to hinge on an ability to use large amounts of operations data in near real time; that is, as problems develop. It's still an imperfect process, with much work to be done, but application management now is much less of a passive process of reacting to what's gone wrong, and more one of active intervention.