Application Performance Monitoring Explained


Application Performance Monitoring (APM) is, at its core, a set of tools and processes used to monitor and manage the overall performance of software applications and websites. Organizations use APM tools to detect and diagnose application performance problems before they impact key user groups, thereby ensuring that applications meet performance standards and provide a satisfactory user experience. APM tools are designed to deliver real-time data and insights into the performance of applications, mobile applications, websites, and business applications. Monitoring data is an essential part of application performance management, as it gives teams the insight they need to identify areas in need of optimization so that they can prioritize tasks effectively.

Who uses Application Performance Monitoring tools?

Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tools are used by various stakeholders within an organization, each with specific needs and objectives related to application performance. The primary users of APM tools are developers, operations teams, DevOps teams, site reliability engineers (SREs), quality assurance (QA) engineers, and IT administrators. These teams use a variety of APM tools to guarantee system availability, optimize service performance and response times, and ultimately, improve user experiences.

Why would you use an APM solution?

Building and deploying applications as a collection of microservices, rather than as single monoliths, is more and more becoming the preferred method used by systems architects. Microservices typically run on distributed infrastructure components, such as virtual machines (VMs), containers, or serverless functions. Designing a system in this way enables individual microservices to be scaled independently, thereby improving the application’s availability, durability, and efficiency. However, while application performance monitoring is crucial for both monolithic and microservice-based architectures, microservices present unique challenges. The distributed nature of microservices makes it difficult to achieve visibility into every layer of the application, not to mention its infrastructure. Lacking this visibility, detecting and resolving performance issues becomes challenging and has the potential to impact user experiences, leading to lost revenue. Because of this, organizations choose to leverage a variety of monitoring tools to increase system observability and more effectively manage performance.

What is tracing, and how does it relate to APM?

Tracing is the process by which a utility traces individual transactions or requests as they move through the different components of the application stack, from the front end to the back end. This helps in identifying where delays or failures occur within the application flow. A trace connects operations that happen in different parts of your application stack, originating with a network request. For example, when your frontend makes a request to your backend, that request is processed by various other components (services, databases, caches, etc.) before a response is returned. A trace tracks the complete path that data takes through your distributed system to accomplish a task, along with associated metadata like the latency of each operation. Tracing is the core technology that enables performance monitoring but is not limited to that. Because traces contain spans, and spans tell us how long operations took, traces happen to be very useful for understanding the performance of an application, but traces can connect everything collected by Sentry: errors, metrics, replays, and more can all be part of a trace.

In DevOps, observability is the process of gathering and analyzing data to monitor, measure, and understand the state of a system or application. Typically achieved through a combination of logs, metrics, and traces, it’s a proactive approach that goes beyond traditional monitoring to help engineers understand not only what’s wrong but also why. Observability is critical for maintaining strong performance and resolving problems. Observability can be thought of as a more comprehensive approach to understanding a system based on gathering extensive amounts of data and looking at it in an in-depth manner. Where APM tools help DevOps teams gather information, observability is more holistic in that it enables teams to better understand not just how and why a particular issue is happening but how that issue stands in the grand scheme of things.

Why is Application Performance Monitoring important?

Whether it’s a slow-running query or a latent payment endpoint that’s at risk of timing out and negatively impacting sales, APM tools like Sentry remove the complexity and do much of the analysis for you, surfacing the most critical performance issues you can address immediately. At Sentry, our approach to APM focuses on delivering actionable insights to developers at an affordable price point, making it a valuable tool for maintaining high performance and availability of software applications. By combining error monitoring with tracing, Sentry provides a comprehensive solution that supports developers in ensuring their applications meet performance standards and provide a great user experience.

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