Survey Finds Much Room for APM Improvement

A survey of 317 application owners, developers and support team professionals in the U.S. and Canada published by SolarWinds finds that while reliance on application performance management (APM) tools is widespread, most IT teams are still relying on these tools to react to events rather than to proactively improve application experience and performance.

The survey finds 9 out of 10 IT professionals are making use of APM tools that are either deployed on-premises or accessed via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. Nearly 8 in 10 respondents spend less than 10% of their time proactively optimizing their environments, according to the results.

In fact, the biggest APM challenges identified by survey respondents were lack of training for personnel (57%), followed by a lack of awareness of what APM solutions are currently offered (44%) and confusion over which APM solution best fits their needs (42%).

Jim Hansen, vice president of products for application management for SolarWinds, said some of those challenges stem from the fact that there are too many APM tools to deploy and master. Survey respondents are employing a mix of database monitoring (64%), application monitoring (63%) and infrastructure monitoring (61%).

IT management is further being complicated by the adoption of a wide variety of application architectures. According to the survey results, organizations are applying APM tools to manage monolithic (traditional on-prem) app development architectures (59%), N-tier service-oriented architectures (40%) and microservices-based applications (39%).

Hansen said as organizations increasingly move away from monolithic applications, the need for a more proactive approach to APM across the full stack will become more apparent. The level of dependencies between microservices especially will drive organizations toward APM platforms capable of correlating events across both applications and the underlying infrastructure on which they depend, he noted.

Less clear is to what degree IT teams are comfortable using the analytics surfaced by APM tools to automate the remediation of any given issue. According to the survey results 84% of respondents are confident in their ability to successfully manage application and infrastructure performance, with 40% reporting they are most comfortable from a confidence perspective to use APM tools to troubleshoot application performance issues. The top three insights survey respondents said they gain from APM tools are the ability to prevent application outages (73%), the ability to prevent app slowdown related to performance and/or capacity (63%) and the ability to improve user/customer experience (62%).

In terms of areas for improvement, survey respondents identified improving their current skillset/ability to track impact across key business metrics (31%), followed closely by the need to improve their current skillset/ability to troubleshoot application issues (30%). The ability to improve the performance of application code and manage/ensure/improve end-user performance tied at 29%, respectively.

Of course, troubleshooting an existing issue is one thing. Proactively using APM tools to prevent issues from occurring represents a more advanced approach to managing IT in keeping with best DevOps practices. It will be interesting to see how much the adoption of N-tier and microservices applications will foster further adoption of best DevOps practices.

Most organizations today have embraced DevOps practices to varying degrees. However, as IT becomes more complex to manage in the age of the hybrid cloud it’s now only a matter of time before legacy approaches to managing IT as simply no longer practical to employ.

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