Applications are powering every business nowadays. With the ever-increasing complexity of applications (think distribution, continuous deployment, multiple deployments every hour, lots of stakeholders, …) business critical factors like availability and performance of applications tend to suffer. Application Performance Management (or sometimes called Digital Experience Management) is the discipline to monitor end user interactions with the application, detect problems and pinpoint the root cause of the problem.
Since the rise of Application Performance Management about 10 years ago, commercial offerings are available to support enterprises in their challenge to manage the digital experience of their customers. Dynatrace (https://www.dynatrace.com/), AppDynamics (https://www.appdynamics.com/), CA Technologies – a Broadcom company (https://www.ca.com/de/products/ca-application-performance-management.html), Instana (https://www.instana.com) and New Relic (https://newrelic.com/) just to name a few that we often see at our customers (and according to the analysts). In addition, the cloud providers also offer commercial solutions (mostly) for their platform, but this is a blog post all for itself. In addition to the commercial offering, the Open Source community started to crank out tooling to address these challenges as well. Open Source tools currently mainly address a single aspect and need to be combined to build a solution. A huge number of companies that we think of as technical leaders (think Facebook, Twitter, Google, Netflix, Apple, …) are in fact using self-built and/or open source solutions to approach application monitoring.
Novatec is the leading independent consultancy for Digital Experience Management (Application Performance Management). We believe that there is no “one size fits all” for application monitoring and digital experience management. We use commercial and open source tools alike to support our customers in the best way possible. We partner with the big players of the commercial market and support the open source community by providing an own open source solution (http://www.inspectit.rocks/) and by offering OpenAPM (https://openapm.io/), a webpage that describes how you can build your own Open Source APM stack based on different open source tools.
We understand that Open Source is often an alluring approach to companies. Management often argues that Open Source is free of costs (which is not true) and thus reduces their spendings (which is not necessarily true). Developers and operators often like the “build-it-yourself” approach based on Open Source frameworks. The discussion of commercial versus open source is an old one, and most of the time a heaty one. In this post we thus take a different route and focus solely on the advantages of commercial application monitoring offerings (compared to their Open Source rivals). A blog post that focus on the Open Source perspective can be found here: https://www.novatec-gmbh.de/en/openapm-make-your-own-solution/
Commercial APM solutions have a focus on the need of the enterprise customer and the need of the business. Unlike in some OpenSource alternatives, there is no playground thinking to show what is possible with a certain technology but a focus on what matters to the business. Defined scopes, pre-selected metrics, OOTB views – this all helps to keep focus and to not overload with unimportant information.
De-facto standard within market
Business trends and focus topics are typically reported regularly to analyst companies on C-level. These analysts transform these business topics into aggregated business requirements and criteria catalogues for APM tools. Typical APM industry reports challenge the commercial APM solutions against these condensed business requirements. These reports are recognized as industry guidelines to develop against and therefore these unified capabilities and business requirements form the de-facto standard for all commercial APM tools in the market.
Large enterprises have the ability to get into a strategic commitment with a commercial (APM tool) vendor. This allows to build long term partnerships and actively influence the solutions according to the business and end user needs and react to specific market requirements.
All of the large commercial APM providers offer a SaaS operational model, this enables a fast time-to-monitoring strategy resulting in a quick monitoring solution deployment. Aside minor exceptions, there are almost no SaaS offerings available for OpenSource solutions.
Cross customer experience
Commercial APM solutions are typically used by mid-size and large companies. They typically share similar requirements and use cases according to workload, complexity, working environments, proven technologies etc.. So the tools are designed for a variety of different branches and technologies and every customer benefits from the experience flown back from other customers feedbacks and experience.
Security patching and GDPR
Security is crucial when it comes to enterprise software and support. Therefore, commercial APM solutions are entitled to provide regular security updates and patched., Especially in the field of monitoring, requirements and specifications derived from the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) need to be implemented and constantly updated to be compliant with local laws and policies.
Using a commercial APM solution can help to engage someone outside of the company to take the risk and responsibility of performance, availability or service quality.
OpenSource APM solution often focus on one aspect of an APM solution. Therefore, multiple tools must be combined to design a integrated solution or to cover all required use cases. Commercial tools provide “everything from a single source” or “full stack” monitoring approaches, covering infrastructure to end user. Modern APM solutions present user interfaces to investigate and analyze the captured data for business insights to a certain extend within the same toolset. In case of further needs these tools offer defined interfaces to integrate with other data suppliers or data consumers, connecting surrounding tools to a large solution stack.
Of course there are further common advantages and features of commercial APM tools like the professional vendor support and availability of consulting services.
We identified that the continuous development and friendly user-centric UIs are main reasons among our customer base to choose a commercial APM solution; Alongside with this, there is an expected focus and compatibility for enterprise technologies, integrations and legacy solutions. In our daily consulting we’re seeing requirements addressed like high-availability (HA), scalability, the support of distributed environments (cross-location) and heterogeneous technologies (cross-domain).
We see that in some cases, going with a commercial tool is a simple “make or buy” decision. And also whether to delegate the risk of building a successful APM solution by outsourcing to an external company with contracts that cover SLA, compensation and provide everything with defined single points of contact.
The right solution depends on a lot of factors like your situational challenge, organization, strategy and mindset. We know from our daily business that commercial APM tools can be used to support these issues.
Tell us what you think! If you are interested in commercial APM or Open Source and would like to know more, talk to us in the comment section below or reach out to us via email at email@example.com.