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Application Performance Monitoring: are you outside or inside?

Working with Gartner at the moment on getting our product positioning and marketing focus exactly right. It's a relief to be working with people who take such a structured approach to what has become a very large market segment (Monitoring and Visibility) but it underlines the fact that the term ‘Application Performance Monitoring’ (APM) is starting to mean separate things to two very different groups of people.

First, there’s an explosion in the number of companies creating web-based applications, to be delivered either internally, or to a public commercial audience from the Cloud. Increasingly these applications are built from complex, loosely-coupled bits of software, and the people delivering them need good visibility of how each of those components is performing, and how information is flowing between them: this is the role of tools like Boundary, Blitz, Optier and many others: it’s APM in the ‘internal’ sense, and it’s essential for people writing and maintaining those apps, so let’s call it ‘Developer APM’.

The vast majority of Application users are scratching their heads at this point.

For 95% of the world’s organisations, an Application is something you consume or use because it helps you to sell cheeseburgers, run an airline, or ship cosmetics. You want to know whether it’s working, quickly and reliably and if not, some basic details about the problem (who’s having issues, for how long, has it been fixed yet). You actively DO NOT want to know about the internals. If there is a problem, your first thought is not ‘Oh – looks like the Java Business Objects layer is queuing Map-Reduce requests to the Hadoop cluster', it’s more likely to be ‘Heck – those cosmetics won’t make that customer delivery on time’. In short, Application Performance Monitoring means something very different to you: let’s call it ‘Consumer APM’. As a consumer of the application, you’re viewing it from the outside in; you bought those services to simplify your life, not add more layers.

Both these approaches are valid and necessary. But our view is that while historically our industry has tried to sell one set of tools to do both jobs, organisations are becoming increasingly polarised into one camp or the other, as the explosion in Cloud services means Consumer companies no longer need to think about application internals; and Developer companies can get the tools to write and manage increasingly complex apps.

At NetEvidence, we’re ‘outside in’ people. One of our goals is to make technology go away. We think that if the IT industry is to move on from the still slightly ‘geeky’ image computers have, and become a truly ubiquitous utility, it must hide the technology, in the same way that the Power and Water industries do today. We have to let users – the people who actually pay our salaries – just consume applications and services, and not force-feed them details of the inner cogs and wheels that they neither want nor need.

So - if you’re an application developer, and you need something that discovers the runtime architecture of your software and gives you details that help you tune your components, we would point you to other suppliers. But if you’re a Business trying just to ‘use’ Applications, or Services you’re buying from a Provider, we can help you. We can remove some of the complexity and headache from your life and let you see what you actually need to see. We’re the TV remote control with eight buttons rather than eighty so you can just get on with watching that movie; we’re the green light on your car dashboard that lets you check everything’s OK so you can just get on with your journey.

Consumer or Developer: which are you?