APM - Moving Beyond Troubleshooting
February 18, 2020
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While Application Performance Management (APM) has become mainstream, with a majority of tech pros using APM tools regularly, there's work to be done to move beyond troubleshooting, according to SolarWinds Cloud Confessions 2020, a survey of application owners, developers, and support teams, inclusive of roles spanning cloud operations, DevOps, monitoring engineering, and site reliability engineering (SRE). The opportunity for tech pros lies in fully leveraging the benefits of APM across the entire application stack, so they can better communicate results to the organizations they serve.

Nearly nine in 10 tech pros use APM tools in their environments, whether on-premises, hybrid, or in the cloud. However, respondents report their highest confidence area in managing and monitoring applications is troubleshooting. This is consistent with last year's findings, in which nearly half of respondents said troubleshooting was a top three task they managed daily.

To move beyond troubleshooting, tech pros cite a need for more training and education on which APM solutions best suit their environments. According to the survey, tech pros also report the need to develop skills in tracking APM impact across key business metrics to maximize the value of their APM solutions and strategies.

"The Cloud Confessions results show that while APM has finally hit mainstream, it's largely misunderstood and therefore underutilized. This isn't surprising considering APM has typically been siloed across DevOps and Operations teams without a holistic view of the application code, supporting infrastructure, and end-user experience," said Jim Hansen, VP of Products, Application Management, SolarWinds. "To move beyond simply reactive troubleshooting, tech pros should consider modern APM tools as the keystone to connecting these previously siloed functions to gain comprehensive insight across the entire application stack. When tech pros achieve this level of proactive optimization with their APM tools, they'll feel more empowered in their roles, in collaborating across teams, and in communicating results to the business at large."

Key survey findings show:

1. APM is Mainstream

Tech pros are using APM tools, employing a nearly even mix of SaaS and on-premises to support the three architectures most often found in modern environments.

Nearly nine in 10 tech professionals are using APM tools in their environments:

■ 59% are using APM for monolithic (traditional on-prem) app development architectures.

■ 40% are using APM for N-tier service-oriented architectures.

■ 39% are using APM for microservices.

The top three most commonly deployed tools in support of APM strategies are:

■ Database monitoring (64%)

■ Application monitoring (63%)

■ Infrastructure monitoring (61%)

2. Confidence in Troubleshooting

Overall, tech pros are confident in their ability to manage and monitor applications on-prem, in hybrid environments, and in the cloud. This confidence mostly sits within their ability to troubleshoot:

■ Over 8 in 10 (84%) respondents are confident in their ability to successfully manage application and infrastructure performance.

■ Two-fifths (40%) of tech pros surveyed are most confident troubleshooting application issues and monitoring application availability and performance (respectively) given their existing skillset.

■ One-third (32%) of tech pros confident in collaborating with team members.

Troubleshooting and monitoring as the top two areas where tech pros have the most confidence is consistent with last year's findings — in 2019, troubleshooting app issues was the number one activity tech pros spent their time on, with 48% of respondents choosing this as a top three task.

3. APM Confusion

Two-fifths of tech pros face challenges due to lack of awareness of what APM solutions are currently offered and confusion over which currently offered APM solutions are best for their needs (respectively).

When ranking the challenges, tech pros said:

■ Lack of training for personnel was the top challenge (57%).

■ Lack of awareness of what APM solutions are currently offered (44%).

■ Confusion over which currently-offered APM solutions are best for our needs (42%).

■ All other challenges were at, or under, the 30% rate.

Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) tech pros report spending less than 10% of their time proactively optimizing their environments (vs. reactively maintaining). In 2019, 77% of respondents reported spending the same amount of time on proactive optimization.

4. Business Insight Delivered by APM Tools

Tech pros value the business insights delivered from APM tools, but greater skills development is needed in establishing KPIs and communicating IT performance to the business.

The top three business insights tech pros gain from APM tools include:

■ Ability to prevent applications outages (73%).

■ Ability to prevent app slowdown related to performance and/or capacity (63%).

■ Ability to improve user/customer experience (62%).

Tech pros are collecting these business metrics, but there's a need to bridge the gap between business metrics collected and tech pros' confidence in their ability to communicate performance to the business.

■ 34% of tech pros feel they need to improve their current skillset/ability to track impact across key business metrics in order to more confidently manage their organization's IT environment.

■ 30% of tech pros who feel they need to improve their current skillset/ability to troubleshoot application issues, improve the performance of application code (29%), and manage/ensure/improve end-user performance (29%) (respectively).

Methodology: The findings of this report are based on a survey fielded in November 2019, which yielded responses from 317 application owners, developers, and support team professionals (practitioner, manager, and director roles) in the U.S. and Canada from public- and private-sector small, mid-size, and enterprise organizations. Respondents include 101 application owners, 108 developers, and 108 support team technology professionals.

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