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End-to-End APM, Who Needs It Anyway?

Determining if your organization needs APM requires careful assessment of how application performance is affecting the bottom line. If application performance does not have a direct impact on the business, you may not need APM. The added management effort, deployment costs and maintenance fees may just add more overhead to an already strained IT budget. Using existing component level monitoring and management tools may be sufficient for your needs.

However, vendors find themselves in a catch-22 of not being able to adequately determine impacts without APM, and yet these impacts are what will justify the cost and selection of a product. Your organization may also have a general sense of the problem and the knowledge that the slowdown impacts the business but not be able to quantify the problem. External services may be brought in to perform these application impact assessments, but there are also concrete steps that an IT manager can take.

The first step is to itemize all of the critical applications in your organization and obtain a physical and logical architecture diagram, including the supporting systems. You should consider all of the application-dependent components being monitored such as web servers, application servers, and databases as well as any specific network components or external service providers. For example, an enterprise portal will contain multiple application servers, databases, and web servers that will reside on multiple operating systems, systems hardware and network environments. This is a daunting task; one way of narrowing the field is to prioritize applications based on their importance to the organization.  

The primary challenge of figuring out what APM component or product is right for your organization stems from the complexity of application architectures designed to support maximum redundancy and high availability.  In most organizations, critical applications are almost always multi-tier systems responsible for e-commerce, financial transaction processing, or enterprise communications and data processing.  Problems with applications like enterprise portals, online ordering, or customer relationship management may result in user complaints, lower productivity and lost revenue.

So, is end-to-end APM worth the effort? Probably, as part of a larger IT strategy around service management. Many of the concepts for end-to-end APM get wrapped up in broader strategies around providing more transparency to users and in software development environments. While the specific value will depend on your environment, some form of end-to-end APM will likely make sense for larger enterprise environments over $50M in annual revenue, or that run more than 10 mission-critical, enterprise applications that directly affect the bottom-line.