AppNeta: SaaS-based APM Focused on End-User Experience

By Jane Clabby, Clabby Analytics

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Damian Roskill, Chief Marketing Officer at AppNeta, founded in 2011 and headquartered in Boston, MA. In my briefing/demo, I learned that AppNeta has an Application Performance Management (APM) suite, available in SaaS-only delivery model, focused on monitoring end-user experience by “looking through” the full stack, including the network—using application-aware network performance monitoring and hop-by-hop network path analysis. Transaction tracing provides agent-based code visibility across distributed applications, infrastructure and third-party services to identify the source of problems in applications or infrastructure.

This makes their solution ideal for businesses that want an easy-to-deploy, cost-effective solution for monitoring applications that extend across geographically dispersed distributed and cloud environments—cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-data-center. In fewer than 5 years, AppNeta has gained more than 600 direct customers in a range of industries across greater than 100 countries, including Red Hat, Fidelity, Marriott, Netflix, Beth Israel Medical Center, Fox, Under Armour and others.

AppNeta Performance Manager – A Closer Look

AppNeta Performance Manager provides complete visibility from the end-user through the network to web applications.

The solution is comprised of 4 integrated modules:

  1. TraceView – Provides agent-based code visibility (Java, Scala, .NET, PHP, Python, Ruby, Node.js), distributed transaction tracing across multiple languages and hosts, and Real User Monitoring. Measures application latency, database and cache performance, 3rd party APIs and host and JMX metrics.
  2. AppView – Synthetic end-user experience monitoring uses a real browser to execute transactions at various locations—measuring performance, functionality and availability 24 x 7 for analysis of usage trends in various locations and to determine the impact of web, third-party and cloud-based services on end-user experience. AppView includes pre-defined workflows for common applications such as Salesforce, Office 365, Google Apps and others.
  3. FlowView- Application –aware traffic analysis identifies usage patterns, application performance and impact to more than 1500 SaaS and non-SaaS applications. Visualization by location, application classes and categories enables analysis of traffic volume and rates by application, location, users and hosts.
  4. PathView – Network health and performance information including end-to-end SLA tracking is provided on any network (without impacting production) for hosted services, IaaS, PaaS and Web applications. PathView is designed to continuously monitor the various path metrics that impact application delivery. PathView also has diagnostic capabilities that help identify the source of performance issues and resolve them. PathView can identify the locations and cause of greater than 80 network faults, even on third-party services and devices.

Role –based Views

AppNeta Performance Manager is designed to serve two organizational roles: DevOps and IT Ops. TraceView and AppView are geared toward DevOps while IT Ops is served by AppView, FlowView and PathView. To date, AppNeta has seen little demand for a line-of-business oriented tool, but anticipates greater need as the solution evolves to collect more business-oriented metrics.

  • DevOps users can see total user experience across applications comprised of micro-services that span many layers, tiers and locations. Regardless of what language applications are written in, distributed transaction tracing is able to correlate events and traces to provide a single complete view of the transaction as it travels through application, infrastructure (for example, AWS public cloud) or platform layers correlating code and infrastructure metrics with database, service, and cache calls Performance can be monitored from version to version to identify performance issues before a new release is issued.
  • IT Operations can monitor end-to-end user experience and performance for both applications and networks across the WAN – across customers, employees, remote offices, datacenter to cloud or cloud-to-cloud. Application-aware traffic analysis can pinpoint performance issues to a location or even a specific user. AppNeta’s hop-by-hop analysis spans beyond the last mile to the last end-point for true-end-to-end visibility.

What makes AppNeta Unique

  1. Optimization: Rather than looking strictly at “outlier data” — that is, data that falls outside a certain range or above a specific threshold— and track that data back to identify the source of a problem, AppNeta collects both normal and abnormal transaction data. This comprehensive data can be analyzed and used to optimize network performance— providing up to a 25% improvement in speed, according to AppNeta.
  2. Minimizes overhead: AppNeta Smart Tracing uses an algorithm to determine whether an inbound request is traced or not. Smart Tracing dynamically adjusts the number of requests that are traced based on network traffic. For applications with low traffic volume and good system capacity, smart tracing will examine every request. As application load increases, smart tracing adjusts the fraction of requests traced to the minimum required to accurately represent the actual call volume. As a result, overhead is less than 1% but the data collected is statistically significant. As a result, application performance data is collected without impacting the application itself— a situation that is quite common with agent-based APM tools. Not only that, it enables the system to automatically respond to big bursts in traffic.
  3. Measures network impact: AppNeta’s TruPath patented packet train dispersion technology measures network bandwidth to provide visibility across complex, multi-layer LAN, WAN, MPLS and other networks. Packet dispersion sends a sequence of small packets of varying sizes and configurations to a test server and back again to determine latency, available bandwidth, actual bandwidth used, and how well certain protocols (such as VoIP) perform. Many network performance solutions provide basic latency and round trip time metrics at a point in time, but TruPath provides continuous monitoring as well as capacity throughput measurements that provide a more accurate measure of network performance. Capacity measures the network resources available to the application and is a more effective method in multi-network environments. Packet dispersion is a lightweight technique that can be used continuously without impacting network performance (unlike conventional bandwidth testing).
  4. End-to –end visibility: AppNeta’s AppMap is an out-of-the-box, high-level visualization of applications that automatically discovers components and updates dynamically— combining infrastructure, networks and applications in a single view that can be used for both continuous monitoring and incident response. Developers, operations and IT teams have an accurate and up-to-date picture of what code is running where and how that code is interacting with other parts of the distributed infrastructure—particularly useful when applications span multiple data centers or cloud-based infrastructure.

Summary Observations

With so many businesses moving to cloud-based infrastructure where applications are distributed across locations, third-party services and layers of infrastructure—network performance is becoming an even more important element of application performance and user experience.   AppNeta looks at user experience through the eyes of the network and employs application-aware network monitoring to provide an end-to-end comprehensive view of transactions from the data center, to the public cloud (AWS, for example), to the end point. TruPath measures bandwidth, latency and network capacity— arming businesses with the information needed to optimize ongoing application performance. TraceView’s deep-dive code visibility isolates problems across layered applications and infrastructure.

While in years past, the absence of an on-premise solution might have limited growth potential for AppNeta—that is no longer the case. According to an August 2015 IDC Report on Worldwide SaaS and Cloud Software, the growth of cloud software will significantly outpace traditional software product delivery,” growing nearly five times faster than the traditional software market.” AppNeta’s SaaS delivery model enables customers both large and small to deploy AppNeta across multiple sites quickly and scale easily without a large up-front investment. For businesses that are cloud-based or moving to cloud-based infrastructure and/or a SaaS application model, AppNeta should be definitely be on the short list.


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