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The evolution of the application performance management tool

As apps evolve, the tools IT uses to manage them have to as well. App virtualization in particular has altered management needs by requiring that IT be able to see into the entire app stack.

IT professionals can use application performance management tools to quantify application performance and resolve problems. Over the last several years, the nature of enterprise applications has changed substantially and, with it, the nature of the application performance management tool.

Whereas organizations once used traditional desktop applications exclusively, modern organizations use a combination of cloud applications, mobile apps, virtual applications and legacy desktop applications. This shift in the types of applications users work with has forced organizations to reassess what an application performance management tool should do.

What to look for in a modern application performance management tool

The single biggest difference between modern application performance management tools and those from a few years ago is that many of the newer tools are designed to monitor the entire application stack. This is a critically important consideration because technologies such as application virtualization have made app delivery more complex.

A problem anywhere in the virtual application stack could lead to a poor end-user experience, but the sheer complexity of the stack can make troubleshooting difficult. By providing insight into the application stack, however, an application performance management tool can make it far easier to address any problems.

An application performance management tool must do more than just watch the application stack. Sometimes, infrastructure metrics do not provide an accurate picture of the end-user experience. This tends to be especially true for virtual applications because they run on a virtualization host, but the user accesses the applications from a thin client.

Drivers for purchasing APM tools
Reasons an enterprise purchases APM tools

An application performance management tool that focuses solely on back-end metrics might not be able to see certain issues, such as connection latency problems, that affect the end-user experience. As a result, IT may believe that an application is healthy, but, in reality, users could be seeing severe performance issues. As such, a good application performance management tool should examine the end-user experience.

The most important consideration is how well the tool will work for virtual and cloud-based apps.

Application performance management tools should monitor applications at the code level. Modern application performance management tools can monitor coding languages, including .NET, Perl and Java.

Ideally, however, such a tool should also be able to monitor the SQL queries an application performs. That way, if an application does experience performance problems, it's possible to see which SQL queries are involved.

Because of the changing face of applications, modern application performance management tools tend to be feature-rich. When shopping for an application performance management tool, the most important consideration is how well the tool will work for virtual and cloud-based apps, as well as at what level of granularity the tool can provide the information IT needs.

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What do you look for when evaluating application performance management tools?