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Welcome to our new blog series, “The Fundamentals.” Most, but not all of you who regularly read our blogs are technical experts, and we publish the majority of posts for you. We are starting this series to engage business users—or your non-technical relatives—who have limited familiarity with but are still interested in technical topics.

What is APM? What questions can a robust APM solution answer? And, importantly, how will it affect your bottom line?

As New Relic invented the category of SaaS application performance monitoring (APM) in 2008—more than 10 years ago—you may ask yourself what drives us to blog about its definition in 2020. Think about it: Every business is a digital business, and speed is critical. If an end user accesses a slow or error-ridden website or application, chances are, they’ll quit and move on to a competitor. Incredibly, one study suggests that 12% of users would even go as far as warning friends and family against engaging with a particular app or site, which can have a detrimental impact on business success, customer satisfaction, and brand reputation. 

Another phenomenon that begs the need for getting clear on APM is the term “observability.” For instance, if you Google “what is observability” today, the first organic search result is “Monitoring and Observability — What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?” So, what is APM today? Let’s find out.

Help! My application is running slow

Application environments are complicated: think mobile app development platforms, virtualized servers, hybrid cloud, the Internet of Things, ephemeral application architectures, and more. Such a high degree of complexity makes performance monitoring a significant challenge for IT teams.  

DevOps, SRE, agile software development—not only is the environment complex, but the pace of change is increasing because software teams are under immense pressure to deliver new features faster than ever before. 

What’s more, when you consider the sheer number of interdependencies, identifying the root cause—likely causes—of a slow, under-performing application can seem like an impossible task. But it’s not one you can afford to skip. If you want to remain competitive, you must understand the following so you can find and resolve issues fast:

  • Whether your application is running slowly
  • What is causing the bottleneck
  • Does your application have errors
  • Whether or not backend processes are executing correctly

Developers, app owners, and IT managers must connect the user journey with their application performance. That way, they can grasp when, where, why, and how user experience is affected and resolve any issues quickly. And this is where APM comes in.

What is APM?

Application performance monitoring delivers real-time and trending data about your web application's performance and the level of satisfaction that your end users experience.  With APM, you can quickly identify potential problems before they affect your end users. 

What does APM involve?

APM is often compared today with observability because, where APM tells you what is working or not working, observability tells you why. (We’ll dedicate a future post to defining observability, but for now, it’s helpful to know that it’s not the same as APM but involves the functionality of it. The APM market is shifting and morphing with others to drive observability concepts and criteria.) 

Ideally, a robust APM strategy is a great first step toward full observability and should comprise the following five vital components.

1. User experience monitoring

It’s important to track the health and performance of your applications through all the different layers of your technology stack so you can see into the digital user experience your websites and mobile apps are providing to your customers. This typically involves:

  • Monitoring the performance of every application to see how each of its services are connected, and getting the information you need to quickly resolve problems before they impact customer experience.
  • Monitoring the impact of frontend browser performance on real user experience to know what’s happening, from how long a page takes to load to understanding which errors occurred.
  • Monitoring mobile app performance data, including networks and third-party services, crash diagnostics, and insights into HTTP errors to ensure customers have a great experience.

2. Code-level diagnostics

If slowness or errors are detected, time is of the essence. Developers need the ability to quickly understand the potential source of the issue and dive deeper to find a resolution. When developers can quickly drill down into the precise line, query, or third-party API request that is causing a dip in performance, they will save hours of manual analysis.

3. Key business transactions

Monitoring transaction traces is helpful for investigating slow applications. If certain transactions are critical to the business, it’s important to tag them as Key Transactions so they can be tracked and managed independently of the overall application. Having visibility across your entire stack to understand where transactions are slowing down helps you pinpoint application performance issues that may be putting your customer experience at risk.

4. Application infrastructure deep dive

Problems in the application infrastructure can wreak havoc on performance. For example, if the application server is exhausted, the application’s speed will drop drastically. To overcome these kinds of issues, quick and precise visibility into the infrastructure is vital.

5. Supporting infrastructure health

Slow network connectivity, virtualization bottlenecks, and memory leaks in the server often cause application issues. Keeping an eye on the availability and health of supporting infrastructure is, therefore, crucial to ensuring the application’s performance.

APM delivers correlated insight into all facets of application performance

When it comes time to answer the all-important question, “Why is my application slow?” you need correlated insights into a whole host of influential factors: user experience, infrastructure health, business transactions, and more. APM delivers by automating root cause diagnosis and streamlining your troubleshooting process while enhancing accuracy, speed, and precision.

Think of APM as a single source of truth. Pair that with easy access to critical information and actionable insights, and APM empowers your team to take meaningful strides toward the level of performance you know your users expect. 

When you partner with a trusted provider that knows how to do it right, APM is a total breeze. 

See how companies like Delivery Hero are using New Relic APM to reduce costs, optimize performance, and improve customer experience.