Applications have become the primary conduit by which customers experience a brand, making the application experience critical to business success. As such, continuous delivery and highly available systems that deliver optimal end user experiences at lightning speed have become top priorities for organizations. Modern IT is all about speed, efficiency and customer experience. Simply put, companies that develop new applications and services the fastest will win.
That’s where containers and microservices come in. Containerized microservice applications enable organizations of all sizes to approach the ultimate goal of continuous integration and continuous delivery. This accelerates everything within the application life cycle, from initial development to component updates and new functionality.
To match the development speed that microservices and containers enable, Ops teams need tools that can also operate hyper-fast, providing an immediate understanding of the impact of changes made, real-time analysis of vast amounts of data across applications and technologies, visibility across a range of languages and infrastructures, and knowledge of how the application is performing for end users.
In fact, we are at a critical inflection point in application performance management (APM), where a generational shift is needed to keep pace with the new hyper-dynamic application architectures consisting of microservices, containers and hybrid cloud environments. To fully understand the impact of this shift, we can examine the genealogy of APM.
The first generation of APM, established at the end of the last century, collected statistics and metrics out of system and application components, providing a first generation of user-defined transaction profiling by using instrumentation technology. APM 1.0 required a lot of effort to implement and maintain, but helped to monitor and analyze the performance of newly developed 3-tier applications.
The second generation of APM was driven by more distributed, service-oriented architectures (SOA) and the rise of more elastic, virtualized or cloud-based infrastructure. APM 2.0 added application topology discovery and could analyze distributed applications. User experience monitoring of web and mobile apps quickly became part of APM 2.0 as more businesses depended on the service quality of their applications. With a primary focus on application monitoring, not management, APM 2.0 required an even broader set of subject matter experts to configure and interpret monitoring data from dashboards and reports. Similar to APM 1.0, the second generation still required way too much human analysis and setup to fully understand application problems and derive actions.
The continuous change in today’s modern dynamic applications makes it difficult, if not impossible, for those older tools to keep up. Throw in additional architectural challenges such as hybrid clouds, containers and orchestration (such as Kubernetes and Mesosphere) and the picture gets murkier, all in the name of high-speed delivery. Meanwhile, the microservice architecture and development strategy spawns wide technology diversity—each engineer can choose the programing language, middleware and databases best suited to code their individual microservice. Scale, complexity and constant change is the new reality for today’s dynamic applications.
Wanted: A New Breed of APM
In this environment, traditional IT monitoring tools won’t work. These new applications use a vastly larger set of technologies, must scale dynamically and are in a constant state of flux.
In this effort to engineer for speed and efficiency, complexity and scalability have increased exponentially, requiring continuous monitoring and more visibility than ever before. As organizations embrace agile methodologies for development and containerized microservices for deployment, developers have shifted their thinking in technology choices. Developers now continually select the most optimal technology for their individual goals regardless of DevOps’s ability to configure, deploy and manage the specific technology.
With several teams across the enterprise constantly publishing new software releases, understanding the impact of these new releases and changes to the overall environment has become a significant challenge. Today there is no single source of truth assisting communication between various organizations, resulting in what seems a wild west–like environment for IT. With so many groups and technologies in play, everybody seems to be speaking a different language, especially when it comes to delivering high-quality applications. In this environment, a new breed of APM is needed that can provide a “Truth Machine”—complete with deep visibility across all application components in the technology stack.
This new breed of APM must be automatic and dynamic to deal with the ever-changing world of applications running in containerized microservices. To deliver these critical capabilities, the tool must provide real-time visibility into dynamic, containerized, microservice applications, regardless of language or infrastructure. New thinking is required to meet the challenges of these complex, large and dynamic application environments; a new monitoring and management approach that can handle dynamism by:
- Delivering real-time analysis of vast amounts of data across all applications and technologies.
- Conducting continuous discovery and automatically mapping every component, host and container, (hosted on-prem, private cloud, public cloud), to the exact architecture of complete technology stack.
- Visualizing the application architecture and delivering actionable suggestions that assure the operational health of systems and applications.
- Providing real-time accuracy to visualize, structure and identify problems immediately.
- Monitoring the complete set of diverse technologies that run in microservice environments.
- Operating in a heterogeneous environment and automating deployment across nearly all programming languages.
Artificial Intelligence for Next-Generation APM
DevOps and IT organizations are struggling to match the speed of agile development, and this is creating exponentially more challenges around new application architectures. The only constant in these modern application environments is change. Whether change is due to microservice architectures, container orchestration or simply more agile delivery execution to effectively manage microservice applications, DevOps needs up-to-date visibility, a precise picture of the application’s structure and an immediate understanding of its health. To accomplish that, DevOps must be able to apply artificial intelligence to the act of monitoring modern dynamic applications.
Rather than spending time configuring and reconfiguring monitoring tools, organizations must automate management steps with as little human setup and configuration as possible. To have complete control and visibility of their environments, regardless of language and infrastructure, organizations must use a modern application management solution that is automatic and AI-powered to deal with the ever-changing world of dynamic containerized microservice applications.
About the Author / Pete Abrams
Pete Abrams is a co-founder and the chief operating officer at Instana, the leader in application performance management for containerized microservices applications. Formerly vice president of customer centric innovation at AppDynamics, Pete has spent more than two decades in the technology industry focused on introducing new products to market and ensuring customer feedback and desired capabilities are incorporated into future product innovation. Connect with him on LinkedIn.