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AppFirst Substantially Broadens Monitoring Options

On the surface, AppFirst is doing what any software vendor does--enhancing its product and offering new pricing models to appeal to a broader audience. However, with its latest announcements, the developer of a SaaS-based application problem resolution service is taking monitoring to a whole new level, says Bernd Harzog, performance and capacity management analyst for The Virtualization Practice.

"People are always offering different ways of packaging their software. The fact they're doing that is just normal," he says. "The thing that is really significant is the decision to offer this as an on-premise product as well as hosted."

The company's history since starting in 2009 has been a software as a service (SaaS)-delivered model with the entire back end running in its data center. Harzog says the company has clearly heard from customers that there is no way sensitive data about their applications is leaving their own data centers. "That suggests to me some very large and sophisticated customers are taking a look at this. I would say this is extremely significant as far as their advancement as a vendor and customer adoption. This is a very significant release. It shows a lot of progress on their part, and the kind of progress you seen when customers are buying this offering and paying good money for it."

The company is focusing on the midmarket, which typically finds out about application issues from end users (68% of the time, according to an Aberdeen survey on APM). Another survey (Enterprise Management Associates) shows that, on average, organizations have 60 hours of downtime per year, which works out to approximately $2.8 million per year spent identifying and solving problems.

AppFirst's new features include server tags and log file data access. With server tags, customers can now take a more granular look at their operations, creating specific groups with different alert thresholds to simplify server performance management and troubleshoot issues related to server utilization, performance and configuration, says the company. The addition of log files to its own "miss-nothing" data collection and third-party data sources such as Nagios and Windows Performance Counter can significantly speed up problem identification and resolution. Other enhancements include user-friendly host names, international SMS alerts, as well as support for Fedora 14, CentOS 5.6 and 6.0, and Debian 6.0.

Log file analysis in and of itself is nothing new, says Harzog, but its inclusion with AppFirst's automated solution makes it an "extremely unique and valuable" performance monitor. "It really does turn traditional log file analysis on its head." He says that 99.9% of the time, you can ignore the log file, so, by definition, monitoring it is a waste of your time. But by monitoring application performance and automatically alerting users to performance issues, problems can be resolved much more quickly and efficiently. "It's just important to know when and where to look."

AppFirst is also offering a four-tier pricing structure. Targeted at small companies, the Three for Free Developer program includes all the power of AppFirst with one week of data retention for three or fewer servers. The Standard option, for 75 cents per server per hour (equivalent to $5.40 per server per month), is designed for users who want to focus on monitoring and alerts.

The Professional version, offered at a usage rate of 2.5 cents an hour or a bundled price of $49 a month, is for customers who need monitor/alert capabilities, as well as troubleshooting and problem resolution capabilities. The fourth tier is a customer offering for users requiring a private cloud for monitoring, management and problem resolution of their own private cloud.

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