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A Trusted Roadmap for Full APM Success

Our latest survey, SolarWinds Cloud Confessions 2020, showed APM tools have hit mainstream in terms of usage, but more work is needed to realize their potential as key business drivers. This means overcoming challenges from a lack of solution awareness, to learning how to right-size APM strategies for certain environments, and the need to develop skills beyond troubleshooting only the most critical of applications. You can read all about this here. The question for tech pros then becomes: “How do I overcome these challenges and use APM to optimize more of my environment?” To help tech pros take APM from troubleshooting toolset to digital transformation enabler, here are our recommendations.

Know Which Combination of APM Elements Is Right for Your Environment

Today’s environments are highly complex and distributed, involving microservices, N-tier, monolithic and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications. This means the potential benefits of APM are even greater in modern contexts. In terms of code analysis, APM solutions provide great value in identifying problems that report when a transaction or an application is slow or failing due to sub-optimal application code. This level of code analysis via APM can be used by developers and DevOps teams and traditional IT teams like operations for cloud or hybrid environments. However, all applications aren’t always built by your company. Instead, they’re purchased, which is an important delineation—knowing where the problem is in the code is only of value if it’s your code and you have the ability to change or fix it. When tech pros are measuring performance of purchased applications or COTS, different forms of APM will be beneficial. Real user monitoring (RUM) injects code into the user’s browser and measures how long the web application takes to respond to user requests. Synthetic transaction monitoring uses remote probes to simulate user behavior. Both RUM and synthetic monitoring work regardless of applications being purchased or custom developed. And both deliver key insights into the performance of the applications using metrics that matter: response time and transactional throughput.

Develop an APM Plan

With an understanding of what APM is in the context of modern environments and what levels of APM you need, follow a 5-step series for developing an APM plan. The steps include:
  1. Inventory your applications: Review and classify your applications by their source (who built them) and by their business criticality.
  2. Assess which key business insights and technologies to monitor and why: Involve the application support teams early on and make sure the application monitoring project will ultimately meet its performance requirements.
  3. Evaluate APM tools: Evaluate APM tools to ensure the correct mix of server-side (application, infrastructure, and log monitoring) along with client-side (synthetic availability monitors and RUM) are provided to ensure you meet your business needs.
  4. Test and trial APM tools: Understand the basic requirements for each type of monitoring—performance monitoring (synthetics and RUM), APM (code profiling, analysis, and tracing in production), and logging.
  5. Measure your APM ROI or CRAQ: Build an ROI tracker for monitoring projects around cost savings, revenue protection, agility, and quality of service.

Speak the Language of Business

Understanding APM means knowing its place in larger business discussions and how you as a tech pro can make an impact. Digital transformation projects remain a top concern for business leaders. In these scenarios, digital transformation efforts create applications that must be highly available, perform well, and focus on user experience, making end-to-end APM more important than ever before. Application owners and business stakeholders responsible for digital transformation efforts are interested in factors like revenue, market share, and customer satisfaction associated with the business services applications are automating. Present dashboards that contextualize APM in their language with elements like performance, throughput, and error rate.

If You Build It, Skills Will Come

Complex, modern applications will produce disruptions due to infrastructure and operations skills gaps in 75% of enterprises, according to Gartner. However, following the recommendations above also provides a blueprint for APM skills development. It all begins with rooting yourself in an understanding of APM functionality and then right sizing strategies and tools to achieve full-stack APM while also communicating performance to key business stakeholders. With APM’s potential benefits including the ability to optimize highly complex and distributed environments while delivering game-changing business results, tech pros need to take APM skills development and learning seriously. By following these recommendations to fully use APM, success is sure to follow.
Jim Hansen
Jim Hansen is the vice president of strategy for applications, infrastructure, and security at SolarWinds, bringing over 20 years of experience to building and delivering…
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