Application Monitoring – What is it and Why its So Important for your Business

Application Monitoring!

by Aaron Leskiw, CCDA, CCNA, MCSE, ITILv3, MCSA, A+ - Last Updated: August 3, 2022

In my previous article on network monitoring basics, we did an overview of some of the network areas that you might want to monitor, and some of the tools available to do the job.

In today’s article, we’ll discuss monitoring applications, which is complementary to network monitoring tools already employed in your infrastructure!

Here is our list of the three best application performance monitoring tools:

  1. AppOptics – FREE TRIAL This SaaS package provides application monitoring facilities for both on-premises and cloud-hosted systems. Use this service to trace through code and observe the performance of interdependent applications. Start a 30-day free trial.
  2. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor – FREE TRIAL This on-premises package will monitor hybrid environments, tracking the services of cloud platforms as well as your own servers along with the applications that they support. Access a 30-day free trial.
  3. Datadog APM This SaaS package provides code profiling, distributed tracing, and application dependency mapping to provide full observability.

Application Monitoring Are Not the Same!

If your organization is like most, putting in the request for application monitoring after the request for network monitoring will probably get you a statement something like: “Didn’t we just buy a monitoring solution?”

How can you explain the difference between application monitoring and generalized network monitoring?

One easy way to explain it is to point out that network monitoring tells you when people can’t get to an application, application monitoring tells us when an application is not working properly, even though people can get to it.

Application monitoring will let you know when your main line of business apps, or their related databases, email system, etc… are not performing properly.  Proper app monitoring software will give you a visual dashboard to trend usage, performance, and growth.  All these are extremely important for capacity planning, meeting SLA’s, and finding problems before they cause outages.

App Monitoring Options

The Application Monitoring field is large, and there are even a couple of mature, well used open-source options, such as Nagios and Hyperic which provide powerful monitoring solutions for all sizes of business.  In addition to these open source options, there are several commercial options available as well.  SolarWinds has their powerful AppOptics APM integrated management system, which can monitor your applications without an agent installation.  There’s also options from Datadog, which work in a similar fashion to the SolarWinds product line.

How it Works

All Application monitoring packages work in one of two ways, using either an agent-push, or a polling method.  In some cases, they use a combination of both methods.  Agent-push uses a locally-installed monitoring agent on the server to push monitored data, while the polling method uses WMI, SNMP, or other similar methods of gathering application information.

Historically, agent push has had more powerful monitoring options, but it introduces a management headache, as you have to install and update agents to the monitored servers.  Polling is becoming the preferred method, due to the ease of deployment of the monitoring solution.

Application Performance Monitoring Tools

AppOptics APM- FREE TRIAL

SolarWinds AppOptics Applications Performance Monitoring (APM)

The AppOptics system gives you a choice of Infrastructure Monitoring or APM + Infrastructure Monitoring. Thus, the AppOptics APM is always delivered with monitoring services for all of the systems that support applications.

The package watch over all of the server resources that support software and chains all the way up to the interfaces that users see.

The APM focuses on serverless systems, identifying all of the code that lies behind microservices, APIs, and frameworks. These units can often be overlooked when tracking the performance of an application even though they perform the bulk of the work that produces the user-facing system.

The monitoring system provides a live application dependency map and then performs distributed tracing on each discovered module to record performance metrics.

Systems that are delivered in plain text programming languages, such as Java, Python, and PHP are subjected to code profiling, which tracks each line of a function as it executes. This enables the APM to identify exactly where performance problems originate. Right down to the line of code.

The full stack observability system that is at the heart of the APM + Infrastructure package provides live root cause analysis, enabling system managers to see immediately whether the true cause of an application’s performance problem is actually a server resource or a connectivity issue.

The AppOptics service is charged for by subscription with a monthly rate or an annual charging period.

You can try AppOptics APM on a 30-day free trial.

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor – FREE TRIAL

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor is your best option if you prefer to host your own monitoring systems.

Despite being hosted on your network, this tool is not limited to monitoring your on-premises systems. It can also access applications running on other servers, particularly cloud platforms.

The system provides dependency mapping for infrastructure and examines the interactions between running applications and system resources.

Many applications, such as RDBMSs and Web systems have their own internal monitoring mechanisms and the SolarWinds monitor interacts with these to extract activity data. This communication is activated through integrations. The Server & Application Monitor is shipped with more than 1,200 of these interfaces.

The Server & Application Monitor doesn’t include distributed tracing but it does offer opportunities to construct code-profiling mechanisms through Java monitoring and PowerShell routines. You can put together a monitoring template to track the performance of your own custom applications.

The software for the SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor installs on Windows Server but it is also able to monitor Linux servers across a network and AWS and Azure platform activity across the internet.

SolarWinds offer a 30-day free trial for Server & Application Manager.

Datadog APM

Datadog APM

Datadog is a cloud platform of system monitoring and management tools. Its services keep expanding and evolving and the APM module is actually a group of services.

With an APM subscription, you get application dependency mapping, distributed tracing, and code profiling.

The distributed tracing service implements the OpenTelemetry and OpenTracing standards. These systems are industry-wide standards and many producers of microservices integrate debug messages within their procedures that the distributed tracing system in Datadog is able to pick up.

The code profiler will scan through plain text code, written in PHP, Python, Java, .NET, Node.js, Ruby, Go, and C++. The combination of mapping tracing, and profiling provides a full stack record of everything that your systems do together with reports of supporting services and the activities that your applications provoke.

The operation of many interacting modules is complicated and there is often no standard pattern to look out for. This makes programming performance measurements difficult and so there are customizable thresholds in the Datadog platform that relate statistics to each other, looking for variations in throughput levels, identifying outliers, and raising alerts. By refining these alerts, you can iron out false-positive reporting and get accurate notifications when they matter.

The APM is available with or without the Code Profiler module. You can get a 14-day free trial of the entire Datadog platform.

Summary

App monitoring is another essential piece of the puzzle to ensuring your infrastructure stays operational, you know how your applications are running, how they’re being utilized, and how they’re growing.  With this data, you can more easily plan equipment acquisition, find problems with your applications easier, and know that your clients are able to complete their transactions smoothly.

Don’t forget or neglect this crucial piece of IT infrastructure.  When you’re in a bind, your application monitoring package will probably save your bacon.