Your Challenges in Ensuring the User Experience of Your Systems

Do you ask yourself how you can satisfy your system’s users? And how to guarantee the efficiency of your processes verifiably and permanently? By creating transparency concerning the health, availability, and performance of your systems! A continuous, detailed, and always current view of the behavior of your IT systems as well as the functional processes allows problems to be detected automatically and resolved before they have a negative impact on customer satisfaction.

Countless examples and studies show: To ensure the success of your business, you must understand the behavior of your software and ensure its availability and performance.

If you take a closer look at the desire for transparency, you will discover that certain questions keep coming up:

  • What are the current performance and availability of my IT systems?
  • Are there currently problems with the software applications in the operation?
  • What are the causes for problems and how can they be remedied quickly?
  • How are users and business figures affected by problems?
  • Are the resources and infrastructure used efficiently?
  • How can we improve the functional processes?

Do such questions sound familiar to you?

Application performance management (APM) solutions provide answers to these questions!

They help you ensure a high degree of customer satisfaction and give you greater room to maneuver in functional questions based on insights into the business processes.

In the meantime, the term “application performance management” is associated with many common terms: monitoring, observability, end user monitoring, or tracing.

While these terms partly overlap and partly refer to different subdisciplines and aspects of APM, they all basically pursue the same goal: to provide insights into the technical and functional system behavior and to provide a rapid response to incidents and problems in the system.

There is a variety of tools for APM, monitoring, and observability, both in the commercial market as well as the open source market. And all have their specializations, strengths, and weaknesses. Just as the technologies, systems, processes, and people in a company are different, the resulting requirements that companies place on an APM solution are also just as different. An APM solution that is suitable for another company may not necessarily be a good solution for you. The following applies to the choice of an APM solution: There is no reasonable “one size fits all” approach.

So the question is: What does a suitable solution for your applications and your context look like?

In the case of APM, you basically have a choice between commercial tools, open source solutions, and hybrid approaches. While commercial APM and observability tools can be a good choice in many cases, open source solutions are becoming more important because of certain advantages.

OpenAPM shows you which open source tools are suitable for your APM stack. This will be the optimal approach if the criteria of flexibility, sustainability, and not the least, cost control are especially important for you. With OpenAPM, you create a tailored APM solution by integrating different tools in a way that is perfect for your environment!

What is Open Source Application Performance Management?

Open Source Application Performance Management (OpenAPM)
The term OpenAPM refers to application performance management solutions that are based on a combination of open monitoring components.

Specific OpenAPM solutions are geared to the requirements and circumstances of a company and its context. Thus, the specific characteristic of an OpenAPM solution can look quick different from company to company. This flexibility paired with the advantages of open monitoring technologies is the strength of OpenAPM solutions.

The Advantages of Using Open Source Monitoring Solutions

With the triumph of microservices and the accompanying DevOps approach, enormous significance and attention have been given to the subject of application services management, monitoring, and observability. As a result, in a few years a large market for open source monitoring components has emerged. Unlike commercial tools, open source components focus more on the functionality, but do perform these tasks in an effective and excellent way. At the same time, most of these components are open and can be integrated into a variety of other components. This combination of focus, effectiveness, and integrability opens an enormous potential for open APM solutions.

OpenAPM Initiative

We recognized this potential early and created the OpenAPM Initiative. The interactive map on openapm.io provides an overview of available monitoring and observability components in the open source market and their functions.

Components in OpenAPM.Source: Novatec internal

In addition, openapm.io shows the possibilities of integrating and combining different components. Use OpenAPM to design an open application performance management solution tailored to your exact needs.

Flexibility

Do you have individual requirements? Do you require the ability to capture really special data? Do certain third-party systems have to be integrated into the monitoring solution? Do you perhaps need a special way to visualize your data?

It is not uncommon for commercial solutions to find themselves in over their heads with such concerns.

Because of the open design, integrability, and combinability with other components, and not the least because of the open source code, open source APM solutions can usually be adapted to your individual requirements and requests with little effort.

Readiness

A large number of monitoring components on the open source market can trace their origins to big IT players like Google, Twitter, or Uber. There, such components are not only developed, but are also used in extremely large, productive environments for monitoring purposes. More and more are following this trend, so that a large number of companies now rely on open source technologies for APM, monitoring, and observability worldwide. Especially in the context of new technologies like microservices, cloud environments, and Kubernetes, open source solutions have become the standard.

Open source solutions are therefore not only tried and tested, but are also the means of choice of renowned companies for modern environments.

Sustainability

It is not uncommon for companies to be purchased, company strategies to change, or certain company divisions to be discontinued. This has also been observed repeatedly with some commercial APM manufacturers in the past. Companies in such a situation that are caught in the lock-in of an APM manufacturer often find themselves at a disadvantage: Features are discontinued, product orientation changes, or prices are raised.

Open source components are often subject to permissive licenses, and as such, belong to the community. This rules out any lock-in effect, because the software can be developed further according to one’s own requirements and strategy. Open source APM solutions are therefore by nature sustainable and future-proof.

Cost control

The license fees for commercial APM tools are usually based on the size of your system landscape (e.g. number of agents) or volume of data measured. If you are operating large system landscapes now, and perhaps even want to equip your test and development environments with APM functionality, this often adds up to a considerable (often six- to seven-digit) amount for the license fees.

Even though the assumption that open source solutions are free of charge is not entirely correct, the costs are scaled quite differently here. In the case of open source solutions, costs are usually incurred for adjustments and the actual operation of APM components. These costs, however, are usually significantly less dependent on the size of your target system and thus easier to control.

Perfect fit

Commercial APM tools often contain a very large functionality. And regardless of whether you actually need and use 100% of the functionality or only a small fraction, not only do you pay the full license fees, but you are often overwhelmed by the possibilities.

An approach based on open source allows you to put together an APM solution that is tailored exactly to your requirements.

What is the Idea Behind OpenAPM?

Data is the essential material for application performance management. Because, as the famous quote by Peter F. Drucker states: “What can’t be measured, can’t be managed.”

We can describe the ability to identify behavior and context data in software applications and systems as “observability”. There are three basic types of data that form the pillars of observability:

  1. Metrics
    Metrics are numerical time series data that can be brought into a technical, functional, or other context via so-called labels or tags. The response time of a service endpoint plotted over time is a metric. Metrics efficiently map the behavior of a system by statistical mapping. But metrics usually do not provide any insight into the individual events of a system.
  2. Events/logs
    Events and logs, on the other hand, provide detailed information about individual events and requests, but are very memory intensive.
  3. Traces
    Traces are a special form of events that map the control flow of individual requests in the system. While metrics tend to have a summarizing, overview-like character, events and traces are very suitable for a cause and detail analysis of problems and events.

The capture of such observability data is the first link in the chain of an application performance management solution. The processing, correlation, and representation of the observability data produce more high-quality application performance management features. This includes, for example, anomaly detection and alarms, tools for problem diagnosis, the possibility of creating informative dashboards, the dynamic detection of a functional context, and much more.

Creating more high-quality APM features.Source: Novatec internal

The open source APM market

There is a large variety of tools and components for application performance management, monitoring, and observability on the market for open source. Most of these components have a focused functionality that is excellently implemented for this purpose.

  • For example, Grafana is the leader among tools, including commercial tools, in its functionality of data visualization.
  • OpenCensus and OpenTelemetry are the standard for data acquisition.
  • inspectIT Ocelot is a flexible, dynamic agent for the automation of data capture in Java-based systems.
  • InfluxDB is a powerful, high-performance database for time series data and Jaeger is a scaling system for persistence and analysis of traces.

Each of these components itself has a rather manageable functionality and individually each offers only limited benefits for APM. Only the combination and integration of several components produces a comprehensive solution with typical APM features.

OpenAPM: Combination of APM components for an APM solution.Source: Novatec internal

The combination of components in this example is only one of a great many possibilities for putting together OpenAPM solutions. They can vary considerably, depending on the circumstances, individual requirements, and requests.

For example, if you are already using an Elastic Stack in your company, it could also make perfect sense to integrate it into your OpenAPM solution for persistence. If your DevOps or development teams are already collecting metrics using the Prometheus format, the OpenAPM components chosen should also support this format. And if you have a requirement that you must capture data without having to adapt the source code, then agent-based data capture is indispensable. There are countless examples of this kind that show that there are a great many factors that influence an APM solution suitable for your context. At the same time, the possibilities that you can draw from are practically unlimited. The charm and power of OpenAPM solutions lies precisely in this flexibility – the ability to design an application performance management solution that fits your requirements exactly.

inspectIT Ocelot

The open source market offers many tools for capturing metrics, logs, or traces in applications. They are mainly libraries that augment the target applications by measuring probes through code adjustments.

But the following is also required for data capture:

  • Automation – Data capture without the need to adapt the source code
  • Flexible – Proprietary code and frameworks can also be instrumented
  • Dynamic – Instrumentation can be adjusted at runtime
  • Distributed – Tracking of requests across service boundaries
  • Complete – Capture of metrics, traces, and events
  • Integrable – Any components can be used to process the data

inspectIT Ocelot is only one of many possibilities for data capture. But it is the only tool for Java applications that combines all the characteristics mentioned.

Data capture by inspectIT Ocelot.Source: Novatec internal

inspectIT Ocelot allows you to define your own, specific data capture simply by configuration. At the same time, inspectIT Ocelot comes with a comprehensive standard configuration that covers data capture for common technologies and frameworks like Spring Boot, HTTP, JMS, JDBC, JMX, and more, out of the box. Adjustments can be made in the data capture dynamically during runtime without having to restart the target applications. Internally, inspectIT Ocelot relies on the observability standard, OpenCensus (in the future, OpenTelemetry), and is therefore not only compatible with other data capture technologies, but can also be integrated directly with a large number of components and tools for processing and utilizing the data captured. With inspectIT Ocelot, you have the flexibility to capture different data in your target system, thus obtaining not only a technical view of the behavior of your systems, but also of acquiring functional metrics and insights into the applications and processes.

Our OpenAPM Services

Novatec is a pioneer in Open Source APM! As an initiator and driver of the OpenAPM Initiative and of the Java agent inspectIT Ocelot, we are familiar with and use the relevant components on the open source market. We have been developing our own open source tools for application performance management since 2008 and since then have accumulated an in-depth understanding of the APM methods and technologies. We are able to implement individual requests to your highest satisfaction.

Are you toying with the idea of implementing a flexible and sustainable open source solution for application performance management? Then contact us and we’ll help you with the implementation, from the solution design to the realization and coaching of all those involved.

Overview of our OpenAPM services

Requirements analysis

Requirements can be as different and complex as there are technologies on the market, processes in a company, and people’s preferences. To explicitly identify, understand, and classify the requirements of your totally individual context for all those involved is the first essential step towards the successful introduction of an OpenAPM solution.

With our expertise and knowledge of the open source APM market, we can identify, structure, and evaluate your totally individual conditions and requirements for an OpenAPM solutions together. Here, we use tried and tested methods to examine the technological, functional, organizational, and cultural circumstances in your context that can influence the design of an APM solution.

Solution design

Individual requirements demand individually tailored solution designs. At the same time, because of the huge variety of open source monitoring components, the number of solutions and possibilities is extremely large and overwhelming. Through our broad knowledge of the open source market and our in-depth understanding of the functionality and possibilities of the tools, we can help you to get a real grasp of the possibilities on the open source APM market.

Tailored to your individual requirements, we will design a suitable architecture and solution alternatives for an APM implementation with which you can put the subject of application performance management into practice in your company sustainably.

Proof of concept

Do you want to examine solution alternatives more closely? Do you want to get a better feeling for the implementation of an OpenAPM solution?

With targeted proofs of concepts, we help you try out the solution alternatives that are relevant for you efficiently in practice and evaluate how well your requirements are covered based on specific scenarios in a structured manner.

Implementation & setup

Are you convinced of an open APM solution and would you like to implement one? We can also help you with this step! Regardless of the strategy you follow for the APM solution – on-premises, cloud, or APM as a service – we can help you turn the solution design into an integrated, scalable, and highly available APM system. Do you have requirements that are not yet covered by the existing components on the open source market? No problem! We can develop new components and expand existing tools for you, so your OpenAPM solution will fully meet your requirements.

Onboarding & customizing

If your OpenAPM infrastructure is in place, your applications, product, and project teams will be able to use the OpenAPM solution for their individual questions and concerns to gain insights and added value. But what is to be done for the individual stakeholders in order to exploit the full potential of the OpenAPM solution?

We’ll help your teams and APM stakeholders to incorporate the OpenAPM solution optimally in your applications, capture specific data, create informative dashboards, set up proactive alarms, and adapt the APM solution to the individual requirements.

Training & coaching

The introduction of an APM solution will actually be successful only if the relevant stakeholders also continue to use the solution. The stakeholders for the APM solution in your company must be familiar with the possibilities, the functioning, and the advantages of your OpenAPM solution. This is the only way to ensure an intrinsic motivation to use the added value and a sustainable introduction of application performance management. We train and coach your stakeholders in how to use your individual solution, we explain the added value and advantages for your daily work, and show the best practices for solving their problems. In addition to our standard training, we also offer individualized in-house training on all subjects related to OpenAPM.

Your direct contact

bildhübsche fotografie | Andreas Körner | www.a-koerner.de | info@a-koerner.de | +49 711 22 11 20

Mario Mann

Senior Consultant
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Your direct contact Mario Mann Senior Consultant