In this guide, we’ll show you how you can build up your advanced application performance monitoring (APM) skills. You’ll gain a better understanding of the features of APM—which are now found within our New Relic platform—and how these can benefit your business.

We'll examine best practices through three stages of the APM maturity curve:

  • Early stage
  • Stability stage
  • Innovation stage

As a note, the tips and tricks found in this article are summarized from our recently published white paper. Let’s get started.

Understanding the APM maturity curve

If you already know the basics of APM, it’s time to focus your efforts on areas that’ll drive real results for your team and organization.

Our APM capability offers the most comprehensive instrumentation available on the market, allowing you to configure deep, customized error and tracing analytics and flexible instrumentation solutions.

Getting the most out of APM is a gradual learning process. We’ve organized the information in this guide into three stages:

  1. Early stage: Quick-win areas that you can act on immediately.
  2. Stability stage: Practices that help you further strengthen your overall visibility.
  3. Innovation stage: Put everything you’ve learned together to tailor your experience through dashboards, instrumentation, and more.

Mastering application performance monitoring: early stage tips

Tip 1: Improve performance with APM transactions

The APM transactions overview page allows you to identify transactions that could be improved or optimized. On the page, you’ll find the following information about the selected app:

  • Transaction requests
  • Top transactions by percent of wall-clock time
  • Relevant throughput (requests per minute)

For non-web transactions (such as message processing, background tasks, and other processes and jobs that do not handle web requests), the transaction page gives an overview of CPU and memory usage.

Tip 2: Identify and troubleshoot app errors

An accurate overview of errors allows teams to focus their efforts to resolve issues faster. The New Relic APM error analytics feature automatically groups errors by class. You can apply filters manually to identify specific underlying problems or patterns that are causing recurring performance dips.

Tip 3: Understand connections and dependencies

Using APM Service Maps, you can view a quick snapshot of your app architecture, including connections and dependencies. You can then use this information to troubleshoot issues between services.

Service Maps are particularly useful for apps and services that are:

  • Closely monitored: apps your team are most interested in
  • Central: apps with a lot of connections
  • High-traffic: apps with the highest throughput

Mastering application performance monitoring: stability stage tips

Tip 1: Catch problems fast

With Alerts, you can access full-stack alerting over your application environment. This helps you resolve issues before they become critical. You can also set up policies relating to the metrics that are most meaningful to your organization.

Tip 2: Keep watch on your most important transactions

New Relic APM allows you to identify any transaction as a key transaction. Key transactions have a custom level of monitoring and can be designated their own alert policy.

Tip 3: Diagnose errors in distributed systems

With distributed tracing, you can track the path of every request through your microservices. You can follow the chain of events from start to finish, pinpointing the latency of the full request and identifying the steps that could create a bottleneck.

Mastering application performance monitoring: innovation stage tips

Tip 1: Track real-time performance

Software deployments are risky, especially if you don’t have complete visibility over the changes they instigate. With New Relic deployment markers, you can see how the performance of your software ebbs and flows following a deployment. If issues arise, you can respond quickly and effectively.

Tip 2: Uncover bottlenecks in production

New Relic’s low-impact production thread profiler collects stack traces during a specified time period and aggregates and displays them in a call tree. From there, you can undertake a fine-grained diagnosis to uncover the bottlenecks limiting your production performance.

Tip 3: Custom instrumentation

Using custom instrumentation, you can get detail into facets of your code that aren't automatically captured by APM. Custom instrumentation is effective when:

  • Ignoring a select transaction that you don’t want to be instrumented
  • Adding custom attributes to transactions for quicker troubleshooting

Tip 4: Flexible dashboards

New Relic dashboards make it easy to mix and match data from across the platform to build customized, user-friendly, interactive visualizations. This allows you to grasp the state of your system and application in real time with one easy view.