October 03, 2018
As with all our Application Performance Management (APM) blogs, we'd like to first append this with a few caveats.
Firstly, we’re big fans of APM. For too long enterprise monitoring efforts have focused too heavily on infrastructure - and it was APM that first flipped this paradigm on its head. Secondly, we are by no means an APM tool – and whilst we’ll go into our differences later - we simply share the vision that applications should be put at the heart of your IT monitoring strategy. Not servers and disks. And without wanting to give away too many spoilers, this is what both APM and Enterprise Application Monitoring (EAM) are all about.
Although the setting I've chosen for this blog might suggest otherwise - a good old fashioned boxing match – this isn’t meant to be a technological showdown between EAM and APM. Instead, this blog will try to explain why your IT organization should consider both. And whilst the underlying technology does make for a fascinating comparison, you'll quickly appreciate that they satisfy very different IT monitoring needs.
In the interest of fairness, let’s start with the ‘competitor’.
APM tools are essentially a new breed of monitoring technology - one that switches the focus away from infrastructure and towards application performance. KPIs are no longer related to CPU and memory, instead the spotlight is on end user experience and application availability. A message that has gone down well with organizations across the globe.
With current players including the likes of AppDynamics, Dynatrace, Application Insights, New Relic and Data Dog – it’s easy to see why the APM market is predicted to reach $8.773 billion by 2023. APM equals big money. Which is why Cisco were happy to fork out $3.7 billion when they acquired AppDynamics early last year.
APM tools are synonymous with deep, code-level analysis and issue identification – allowing users to correlate performance issues with root cause. Take for example, a slow checkout experience for an online store. Traditionally all the application’s infrastructure components could appear healthy with no sign of root cause. However, with APM tool at your disposal, you can quickly trace the performance issue to a poorly performing database query through code-level analysis. Job done. From a monitoring perspective anyway.
Whilst there’s no denying that the best APM tools provide an outstanding, modern monitoring experience - that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the answer to every scenario. Naturally, cutting-edge features and UX comes with a predictably high price tag, meaning APM is generally only deployed to a handful of vital, revenue generating apps which justify the investment. In addition, the nature of their evolution means they’re much better suited to monitoring web-based applications than any other type. Similarly, the code-level insights they provide are only actually valuable if you’re actively developing the application on an on-going basis and can make changes based on those insights, otherwise they have little value.
Unfortunately, all these factors mean that APM tools aren’t appropriate for the vast majority of enterprise applications. In most cases the cost is either too high, or the applications are too varied in terms of their technology stacks, their heritage and the size of the team that look after them. And rather than being actively developed in agile, DevOps-style circumstances – which is the main stay of APM – most enterprise IT applications were either developed many moons ago or purchased from third party vendors.
And on that note, let's to introduce you to the challenger…
Like APM, EAM focuses the monitoring experience around building a holistic picture of application availability from an end user perspective - although there are four key differences:
1. EAM scales application focused monitoring to all your enterprise applications
2. Deep, code-level analysis is only available with APM
3. EAM enables its users to build custom dashboards for various IT and business stakeholders>
Before we jump in, let's start with a quick history lesson. Squared Up is a presentation layer that sits on top of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). And thanks to its extensible nature, we believe SCOM is perfectly placed to tackle the challenges of enterprise application monitoring head on. Your SCOM agents already collect vast amounts of health data for your entire technology stack – so why jump through all that red tape again? We're firm believers that the world doesn't need more data, we just need to better understand what we already have. For that reason, it's our goal to put all that juicy SCOM data to good work. How? Context. Squared Up puts all that rich, infrastructure data in the context of key applications and services - without the need for any new agents, databases or infrastructure. We just make better use of what you've already got.
And that my friends, is a very quick intro for how EAM works. A slight detour, but a necessary one for the following benefits to have any credibility.
As mentioned previously, we’re not an APM tool. If you want detailed real user monitoring metrics, then EAM might not be for you. Those sorts of insights are typically reserved for key, revenue generating apps; ones that are typically owned by swanky DevOps teams and were originally developed in the cloud. You see, without this active development then APM insights will fast become meaningless.
There is no doubt that APM broadens the audience for monitoring but the same holds true for EAM. Perhaps even more so. The boss doesn’t care about CPU, he wants to know if his SLAs are being hit. End users don’t care if a server is running on low disk space, they want to know when that application they were using is going to be back online. With Squared Up you can deliver detailed service-level monitoring dashboards, with real-time status and SLAs for IT management, right through to detailed server-level insights that tie rich performance data to Visio diagrams. Our Dashboard Designer feature, which has a bunch of data visualization options, means you can quickly build custom dashboards that satisfy the needs of all IT and business stakeholders.
Better still, once you've created all the monitoring views you need, our unique Open Access technology lets you share dashboards across your entire organization. You can push them out to wall monitors or embed them in SharePoint. The choice is yours.
As you’ve might have guessed, unlike APM tools, there’s not an endless supply of EAM vendors to choose from. In truth, there’s just one. Us. Which is why we currently find ourselves embroiled in this faux boxing match with APM. Not because we’re a competing technology, but because APM is a term people already understand - something we can use to better position the benefits of EAM: scalable application focused monitoring at a super competitive price.
Wait a minute? I thought you said this wasn’t a technological showdown?!
Well, to the disappointment of my American colleagues, it’s a tie. If truth be told, they should never have been in the same ring to begin with – is it possible I’m getting carried away with this boxing metaphor? 🤔
EAM is all about scaling application-focused monitoring to the masses, whilst APM tools give much richer insights for a select few. In most cases your applications don’t need rich, application performance metrics, you need to know whether an application is up or down – and if it’s the latter - how to fix it. However, for high value, revenue generating apps, APM is a no-brainer. It’s simply not worth the risk.
To summarise: EAM and APM tools should be considered complementary rather than competing - together you'll have all your IT monitoring needs covered!