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Application performance looms large for today's businesses

The need for better application performance monitoring and management is greater these days as developers and operations groups work to maintain performance levels in multi-tiered environments.

This is part 1 of a two-part article. Read part 2 to learn about the benefits of using application performance management (APM) earlier in the software development life cycle.

Application performance is not an event or something you do once — it's a practice.
Mark Kremer
CEOPrecise Software Solutions Inc.

If well-performing applications are one of an organization's biggest assets, poorly performing applications can be one of the biggest liabilities. Add to that the increasing complexity of today's applications and constant barrage of new technologies, and the need to close the "information gap" between development and operations becomes acute. A way to close that gap is by better monitoring and managing the health of applications, or application performance management.

One issue with today's complex application environment is that there are typically multiple tiers -- many different application servers, database servers, firewalls, and all manner of components, said Chris Limberger, marketing manager for application availability/application performance at U.K.-based Macro 4.

"If there is an issue with application performance, the first thing that happens in many organizations is representatives from all these different components that support the application lock themselves in a room and try to work out who's to blame," Limberger said. "We're looking to have a solution that helps people see where the problem is."

Macro 4 is one of a cadre of software vendors addressing the young application performance management (APM) market, a market that has seen acquisitions made by big players such as BMC Software, CA, Compuware, and IBM but still has an assortment of niche and smaller players. The APM umbrella includes products that measure and monitor the health of applications in production, in pre-production and QA, and from the end-user perspective, as well as provide diagnostic information.

"In general, the developers are a silo, and the ops guys have a different silo," said Victor Mushkatin, CTO and founder of Baltimore, Md.-based AVIcode Inc. "The information in many cases doesn't come back to development for problem resolution. What most infrastructure vendors were supplying was tools to monitor the infrastructure, not a deep dive for custom applications. I believe a lot of organizations have embraced the idea of application manageability."

Still, organizations have varying levels of maturity regarding APM, according to Michael Azoff, senior research analyst at U.K.-based Butler Group.

"I expect nearly every organization to have something," he said. "So the DBA will have tools to cover the database, the network people will have tools, and if the guys running mission-critical applications find pain points with their Java application and need to look inside the JVM, they will cover those pain points with specific tools, but it's done as a reaction to problems rather than strategic planning."

But Ted Feyler, senior technical product manager at Waltham, Mass.-based DynaTrace Software Inc., has seen a gradual change.

"There's more discipline around performance now," he said. "There's still more of a focus on functional testing and implementation, but there's more movement toward adopting best practices toward performance."

Setting application performance targets and goals is becoming more important, according to Mark Kremer, CEO of Precise Software Solutions Inc., recently spun out of Symantec, which had previously acquired the Redwood Shores, Calif., APM company.

"Application performance is not an event or something you do once — it's a practice," he said. "APM is an activity that will support [application] service delivery along the whole life cycle, including its retirement. When you retire an application you have to think in transaction performance terms to make sure the service is not interrupted due to the switch."

(Read the second part of this two-part article.)

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