With applications performance monitoring established as one of the fundamental cornerstones of today’s DevOps methodologies, it’s easy to overlook the reality that effective instrumentation of such tools remains extremely difficult. Specifically, the biggest challenge remains creating performance metrics that address both IT and larger business initiatives.
There’s no question that APM is one of the most widely adopted and deeply embedded elements in today’s DevOps world, serving as the critical source of measurement that enables more transparent and agile applications. Yet, despite the fact that performance monitoring solutions, and their respective providers, are considered to be among the most mature on the DevOps landscape, customers still struggle to optimize the systems to meet their specific requirements.
However, as the market continues to advance, specifically via direct integration of widely-adopted APM tools with other strategic applications management systems, such as e-commerce platforms, organizations are finding a faster path to success, and bigger-picture DevOps benefits. One such partnership, announced in late August, saw market leader New Relic expanding integration with e-commerce platform provider Magento, owned by eBay.
Jon Azrielant, director of marketing at online retailer Jewelry.com, a Magento customer, said that his company initially ran into significant obstacles in adapting New Relic’s APM capabilities to its processes, despite the comparative strength of the tools.
“We had a really difficult time implementing New Relic initially, it was a painful process,” Azrielant said.
While the APM tools provided Jewelry.com with the data necessary to generate vital alerts, along with more agile sysadmin and operations monitoring, the more silo-based, fragmented approach that it employed could not empower the retailer to circumvent traditional walls between apps support and service support teams, Azrielant said.
Leveraging the extension of New Relic’s Software Analytics Cloud within Magento, the company has created more advanced instrumentation to inform critical business decisions. Among the most helpful of these measurements are those relating directly to customer experiences, while correlation of such metrics with Jewelry.com’s bottom line has also advanced executive decision-making, he said.
“The critical result of this integration is more complete visibility across applications and business performance, importantly tied to the actual business ramifications,” said Doug McIver, director of product for Magento. “In the past, merchants had to do a lot of difficult integration to use these systems together, so obviously this is a hugely valuable capability for us to be able to offer, especially to customers with highly performant site requirements.”
Moreover, Magento claims that it is growing its own customer base by tying APM more closely to its platform. Likewise, New Relic officials concede that to help advance crucial DevOps workflows, it must partner with such platforms to deliver APM data within the context of business requirements.
“If we’re talking about how to win in world where we’re iterating the end users’ experience on a regular basis, we have to put performance metrics within context of the UI, and the business results; working from the same data sets and getting people on the same page is incredibly important,” said Abner Germanow, senior director of solutions marketing at New Relic.
While pure performance stats are “near and dear” to New Relic for obvious reasons, the solutions provider is also attempting to advance a broader array of information that drives closer collaboration through new “iteration and experimentation”. New Relic is also focused on further developing the specific types of information most critical to key constituents such as e-commerce platform users. The need to create a common language for those DevOps efforts is amplified by the fact that development and operations officials are often unsure which metrics are critical to the business, and vice versa.
“Instrumenting code has always been a challenge, and we’ve worked very hard to ease that pain across a lot of different platforms; there’s always another language where work can be done, and we look to our customers to help lead us into the next phase of instrumentation,” Germanow said. “We’re seeing a lot of pressure around the need for constant change and iteration in industries where it’s truly a matter of survival, such as e-commerce, publishing, digital governance and finance – places where the industry is behaving very differently now than it has over the last 50 years.”
This work, and the subsequent APM integrations offered via platform providers such as Magento, have allowed end user organizations to remain focused on customer experience and sales, the ultimate goal of DevOps, said Jewelry.com’s Azrielant.
“In terms of how this relates to the DevOps revolution, this is the advancement that is bringing everything together and allowing everyone to look at the same numbers, to share common APIs, to streamline reporting and event response, and define everything in uniform terms,” Azrielant said. “Ostensibly, the most basic tenet of DevOps centers around the unification of these disciplines, and you can’t support that without the unification of this information.”