Best Application Monitoring Tools of 2020

Modern enterprises are critically dependent on software applications for driving their digital businesses and delivering software-as-a-service (SaaS) or application-as-a-service. In today’s digital era, accelerated service and application delivery without compromising on the quality is what matters to your customers. But, have you ever thought what impact it would have on the business if your live applications running at the clients’ systems go down or don’t perform as expected?

To improve the overall health of your running applications, you need to have monitoring capabilities and real-time root cause analytics in place. There are various application performance monitoring (APM) suite vendors in the market extending their scope of offerings by integrating functionalities such as cloud-native monitoring with data-derived metrics from activity logs, servers, networks, and application databases.

The following are critical aspects of application performance monitoring:

  • End-user experience monitoring, both active and passive
  • Discovery of the application runtime architecture
  • User-defined or business transaction profiling
  • Application component monitoring
  • Application data analytics and reporting

What Is Application Monitoring or Application Performance Monitoring (APM)?

Application monitoring is the process of measuring and analyzing the performance of your software applications to ensure their high availability and satisfactory end-user experience. Application performance monitoring helps to ensure your mission-critical applications are performing smoothly and running at an optimum level. For achieving and maintaining certain levels of service, your applications need to be monitored continuously using advanced application monitoring tools. The tools analyze, detect, and diagnose the complex problems degrading or interrupting your app’s performance and uptime.

In the past few years, APM has become increasingly essential for IT professionals, including IT admins, IT operators, developers, and DevOps teams. Integrating application monitoring capabilities into your existing infrastructure should be an integral part of your IT strategy. APM technology is used to gain actionable insights into application performance metrics and business processes with extending capabilities of IT operations management.

A few examples of application performance monitoring are:

  • CPU utilization and server monitoring where your applications are hosted and running
  • Analyzing access logs of your webserver to compare the number of user requests received versus the amount of time taken to respond to those requests
  • Tracking error rates of your every app
  • Network traffic monitoring to detect application downtimes
  • Measuring and analyzing key performance metrics against app dependencies on programming languages and services like Redis, Elasticsearch, SQL, etc.
  • Web application or website monitoring using an analytics platform (e.g., Google Analytics) to check and identify pages with slow speeds also falls under application monitoring.

An application’s performance is usually monitored and measured with two sets of metrics where the first set measures the performance and experience your app is delivering to end users while the second set of parameters analyzes the resources used by your application for computing purposes.

The first set of metrics include:

Application load time, which is the time an app takes to process the volume of transactions, such as requests per second, transactions per second (TPS), or pages per second. It’s an important performance metric to measure your end-user experience—the less time it takes an app to start up, the more satisfactory the experience. It’s essential to monitor all your applications once they’re running live at the client’s server. Developers usually don’t face performance issues during the development phase as the app doesn’t need to be loaded for processing computer-based demands in systems where it’s being built like calculations, searches, and other transactions. Application monitoring tools allow you to check applications slow to load, indicating system issues, coding errors, resource bottlenecks, etc.

Another critical metric is the response times of your applications, defined by the time each app requires to respond to an end user’s request or action even during overloaded situations.

The second set of performance indicators measure:

Cloud or on-premises resources used by your applications for computation. APM tools monitor apps for load efficiency. They check if an app has sufficient capacity to support loads during different scenarios. These tools also look for potential hotspots or locations where performance bottlenecks are likely to arise.

These metrics are defined to achieve a standard baseline for the application performance and help identify any changes or loopholes in case the app behavior deviates from the baseline. This performance baseline is useful for external event correlation and predictive analysis of your app’s future performance.

Applications failing to comply with the metrics and parameters lose their reliability factor, leading to frustrated users who’ll no longer use your software applications.

Top 6 Best Application performance Monitoring Tools in 2020

An enterprise-grade APM software provides you with a suite of monitoring and management features, including application discovery, issue identification and diagnostics, digital experience monitoring (DEM), and integrated AI-driven features for app troubleshooting and other IT operations.

Let’s take a look at the top 6 best application monitoring tools and software incorporating the functionalities critical to ensuring smooth, optimized performance for your application.

  1. SolarWinds AppOptics
  2. Server & Application Monitor
  3. New Relic APM
  4. Amazon CloudWatch for Application Monitoring
  5. AppDynamics Application Performance Management
  6. ManageEngine Applications Manager

1. SolarWinds AppOptics

solarwinds appoptics showing average response time and cpu utilization by hosts

SolarWinds® AppOptics is a comprehensive application and infrastructure monitoring suite built for hybrid, cloud-native, and on-premises IT environments. Using AppOptics, you can monitor every application (both on-prem and serverless), server, transaction, service, container, and host in your IT ecosystem. The APM tool simplifies troubleshooting with distributed tracing, exception tracking, and live code profiling to help you proactively resolve any performance issues in your applications.

The converged tool brings together application and infrastructure metrics on a common, shared dashboard, so you and your team can monitor them side by side and find out the failing parts in the stack. It not only accelerates the process of root cause analysis but also reduces mean time to resolution (MTTR).

One of the key features of AppOptics is full-stack visibility. It gives you a bird’s eye view and dashboards comparison feature, so you can compare or cross-reference the metrics of application and infrastructure in one screen. Hence, removing all the existing bottlenecks with AppOptics in place becomes a breeze. Besides, the platform facilitates not only consolidated monitoring for your modern applications but also delivers smart visualizations of your legacy applications, including the new implementations in your infrastructure with one-click drill-downs into resource consumption, real-time performance of containers, services, processes, and serverless environments.

SolarWinds SaaS-based application monitoring tool has auto-instrumentation capability automatically instrumenting code to render advanced monitoring and troubleshooting services for various application languages, runtimes, and frameworks. It analyzes AWS services (30-plus) and custom applications built on it. Additionally, it also monitors Azure services such as Cosmos DB, Redis, Load Balancer, SQL Database, and Azure App Services. It supports a wide array of application programming languages – PHP, Python, Java, Node.js, Ruby, Scala, Go, and more.

Outlined below are other core capabilities of AppOptics:

  • Early identification of hotspots: The color-coded heat maps help you identify the hosts that have breached the thresholds and are capable of affecting the application’s performance and availability. You can, therefore, eliminate or minimize downtime with detailed visualizations and advanced alerting on key performance indicators (KPIs) across your entire stack.
  • Over 150 out-of-the-box plugins and integrations: Application performance monitoring consists of several different sets of parameters to measure how well your app stack is performing. However, some of these might be irrelevant to your business. AppOptics offers an extensive library of custom metrics, plugins, and integrations reasonable for you and your business. It empowers you with comprehensive monitoring of your simple-complex applications and allows you to define business metrics relevant to those apps.
  • Log Tracing: The automated, out-of-the-box log context tracing allows you to view logs, correlate them, and traverse all the logs linked to a specific trace for a clear understanding of issues. You can see the logs associated with the source trace with a button’s click.
  • Issue identification and alerting: You must detect and address any performance or latency issues in your critical apps before your customers face them. Leveraging an advanced tool like AppOptics, you can quickly identify the loopholes in your applications and throughout the infrastructure. Its alerting system notifies you whenever there’s a threshold breach of metrics directly via messaging services like Slack, emails, PagerDuty, Big Panda, webhooks, HipChat, and more.
  • Performance trends analysis: Analyzing the application performance trends AppOptics displays, you can improve the current performance and fine tune your applications for overwhelming situations such as seasonal fluctuations, planned events, unexpected traffic increase, business growth, and so on. These trends help you analyze and compare the performance of your application and infrastructure on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
  • Root cause analysis: Its distributed tracing capability helps you pinpoint bugs, inefficient or poor quality application code, slow running queries, and other root causes of app latency or performance issues. This functionality attaches the path of a trace request to the source of the trace, enabling you to track down the blockages and mitigate the impact on end-users.
  • Easy, accelerated troubleshooting with code profiling: AppOptics combines code profiling with distributed tracing to enable you to see beyond the front-end of any application not performing well and to figure out out the line of code causing the interruptions. This expedites the entire troubleshooting process.
  • Cost, speed, and efficiency optimization: The out-of-the-box dashboards and real-time analytics help you correlate application performance to resource allocation and used, so you and your team can work on its efficiency and speed, thereby reducing cost. Hence, you have every little detail you need to make the most of your apps and ensure your expensive cloud and on-prem resources are neither overconsumed nor underutilized.

SolarWinds offers flexible pricing options for AppOptics, including a free trial of 14 days. You can request for a customized quote to best fit your budget and business needs. Find out more about SolarWinds AppOptics here.

2. Server & Application Monitor

solarwinds server and application monitor showing top 10 application and network response time

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) is another monitoring tool providing comprehensive, continuous monitoring of server and application performance. You also have the flexibility to correlate hybrid IT data, map infrastructure and app dependencies, and create monitors for custom apps. It has over 1200 pre-defined templates to extend its monitoring capabilities across multi-cloud environments—public, private, and hybrid cloud.

The tool allows you to monitor a wide range of processes, services, and custom applications. You can also leverage different APIs, PowerShell, and scripts to integrate third-party SIEM tools and applications. One of the key highlights of this tool is application dependency mapping, which helps your team identify issues in your network and troubleshoot performance bottlenecks quickly.

To download a 30-day free trial of SAM’s complete version, sign up here.

3. New Relic APM (Application Performance Monitoring)

new relic apm showing web transactions time

New Relic APM is an efficient enterprise tool painting a complete, clear picture of your live applications and running environments. It helps you get a detailed understanding of your app performance, latency issues, infrastructure dependencies, and other bottlenecks.

The cloud-based platform features auto-instrumentation for the seven most widely used programming languages, so you can keep track of your apps from one single dashboard regardless of their operating environments. This functionality automatically instruments or adds a middleware (e.g., a mobile agent in Android apps) to your application for performance monitoring without altering its source code manually. The granular and detailed information on transactions processed by your applications helps you spot root causes and fix problems quickly. These details give insights into the called method with line numbers and external dependencies of your apps irrespective of their sizes and complexities.

You get a holistic view to ensure and restore your app’s smooth performance as this tool lets you bring together and compare key metrics of web and mobile running apps, including the parameters of their hosts, services, and databases. Like all other modern application monitoring tools, New Relic APM also facilitates distributed tracing to help you discover the entire request path and the logs associated with it in a complex application stack. The tool helps you reach the deeply rooted issue or error in your app by tracking down each one of its dependency, service, and database—throughout the trace chain.

The tool also gives you the flexibility to define and benchmark your application performance at every step of execution—from its initialization to termination. Besides, the alerting system warns you about the early signs of unusual incidents, so you resolve them before they impact your end user’s experience.

When it comes to the pricing structure, New Relic offers its Application Performance Monitoring solution in two different packages with a 14-day free trial to start. The Pro package is suitable for enterprises with advanced monitoring requirements and starts at $25 per month (predictive pricing without auto-billing). The “Essentials” package is usually for the organizations with minimal or basic monitoring needs for their application stack. The Essentials package starts at $12.50 per month.

You also have the option of requesting a tailored quotation based on your needs.

For detailed information about the New Relic APM solution, visit the web page.

4. Amazon CloudWatch for Application Monitoring

amazon cloudwatch showing application insights for .net and sql server

AWS offers CloudWatch service for IT managers, developers, site reliability or system engineers (SREs), and DevOps teams to observe and monitor the entire application stack and infrastructure. It gathers data such as event records, logs, metrics, etc. required for monitoring and analysis of your apps, resources, and services running across AWS and physical servers. CloudWatch then transforms the information into valuable and actionable insights, presenting a unified view of what’s happening in your apps. This enables you to quickly respond to application-wide changes, optimize resource consumption, and improve overall operational health of the stack.

Leveraging this AWS service, you can easily identify anomalies in your application environments, configure custom alerts, and analyze app logs and metrics alongside. You can also take automated actions whenever there’s a breach in the system or application. Automatic detection and troubleshooting errors ensure your apps are running without any interruptions. For comprehensiveness and granularity, CloudWatch pulls data from every layer of your application’s performance stack. It then monitors those fetched logs and metrics on automatic analytics dashboards, no matter if they run on AWS, containers, on-premises, or serverless.

The application monitoring service empowers you with analysis, visualization, and correlation capabilities to respond to issues proactively. It tracks the trace data end-to-end using AWS X-ray in combination. It also helps you minimize the mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR) and accelerate the debugging process for your applications with easy user request analysis in real-time.

AWS offers your two different pricing tiers – free and paid. The free tier limits allow you to operate many applications and fetch monitoring metrics to CloudWatch for many AWS services like S3, EC2, Kinesis, and more. On the other hand, the paid tier does not bind you with any up-front commitment or minimum fee. AWS charges you on the “pay for what you use” basis where you get billed at the month’s end only for the resources or services you have consumed. However, the charges for CloudWatch usage varies by region.

Check out AWS CloudWatch here for further details.

5. AppDynamics Application Performance Management

appdynamics apm showing application flow map

Like AppOptics, App Dynamics also offers a comprehensive suite of application performance and end-user monitoring capabilities. It helps ensure all your critical, complex, and error-prone applications are fine-tuned, geared up, and running smoothly across multiple environments – public and private clouds, hybrid, and on-premises.

Its instant root cause analysis and diagnosis enable you and your teams to cut down MTTR significantly, correlate app performance metrics with business metrics to troubleshoot problems quickly. The tool provides real-time visibility into your infrastructure (servers, databases, hosts, etc.) supporting the application stack, including each transaction, every line of code, and more. It helps optimize your apps at the user level (where end users interact with your business) and deliver lasting, reliable customer experiences.

AppDynamics provides a free 15-day SaaS trial to see the value in its APM product. For a licensed version, you have to request a pricing quote tailored to your business requirements. Visit the page to learn more about the AppDynamics solution for application performance monitoring and management.

6. ManageEngine Applications Manager

manageengine applications manager showing slowest method calls and count

ManageEngine Applications Manager is an efficient application monitoring tool built to cater to all your tracking and analysis needs. Applications Manager provides transaction-level insights into all your apps, infrastructure elements, and servers in real time. Analyzing the statistical data of every component contributing to performance, uptime, and delivery of your critical applications, you can manage your end-to-end IT operations efficiently.

Also, the tool helps in measuring the response times of your web applications by delivering detailed information at code level for programming languages – Java, .NET, and Ruby on Rails. Applications Manager allows you to measure satisfaction levels of your end users using Apdex Scores (the open standard for measuring software application performance) where you can compare the user experience delivered before and after fine-tuning the application. It monitors the exact method called and lets you drill down to particular SQL statements and code segments for quick identification of flawed methods impacting your application performance.

Performance and speed issues occur due to slow transactions. Pinpointing these laggard transactions and their root causes across your live app environment is critical for maintaining high uptime. This application monitoring tool gives you a comprehensive view of invocation trends and detailed information about all the transactions for end-to-end transaction tracing and troubleshooting.

ManageEngine has the following three editions of Application Manager with out-of-the-box support and features for over 100 apps. Make sure to choose the right edition for your monitoring needs.

  • The Free edition has no usage limit or period, but it allows monitoring of up to five apps or servers only.
  • The Professional edition offers a suitable pricing model for small and medium enterprises, starting at $945 for 25 monitors. It provisions integrated performance monitoring for a diverse set of applications.
  • The Enterprise edition is suitable for large companies as it provides distributed monitoring capabilities for massive deployments. The pricing starts at $9,595 for 250 monitors.

ManageEngine Applications Manager provides you with a 30-day free trial on all the three editions. Explore more about the features of ManageEngine Applications Manager here.

Conclusion

Application performance monitoring tools and suites are becoming increasingly essential as they not only provide vital functionality required to support the application delivery cycle and IT operations management but also helps accelerate digital transformation. I&O leaders need to thoroughly evaluate the capabilities and ensure the APM solution caters to their evolving business needs and technologies.