Application Performance Management (APM) in the Era of Big Data

Big Data is a tremendous challenge for enterprise IT management in general, and especially for application performance management (APM). A few weeks ago Virtual-Strategy Magazine published an article in which I discuss the implications for managing application performance in the face of Big Data.

For enterprise IT managers, Big Data means they can expect exponential increases in traffic, transactions, and overall complexity. One quick data point: The recently published IDC 2011 Digital Universe study predicts that the number of physical and virtual server instances worldwide will grow by 10 times over the next decade. To put that in perspective, server instances grew roughly four times during the previous decade. With enterprise IT entering the hockey-stick segment of the scalability graph, are traditional APM solutions ready to scale?

When Raja Mukerji and I founded ExtraHop Networks, we realized that traditional APM tools, many of which use decades-old technology, were falling behind the needs of the market. Solutions that rely on packet capture, log-file analysis, and software agents distributed throughout the datacenter are making progress, but not fast enough to keep up with mega-trends in enterprise IT such as dynamic virtualized environments, server sprawl, intelligent network devices, agile development, service-oriented architecture, and Big Data.

We designed the ExtraHop Application Delivery Assurance system to overcome the limitations of traditional APM solutions. A network-based approach is completely passive, eliminating the overhead and management hassles of custom performance agents. The ExtraHop solution is self-contained with an extremely small IT footprint and is incredibly easy to deploy and manage. It is purpose-built for speed and enterprise scalability. Best of all, the ExtraHop system performs unmatched L2—L7 analysis of network traffic in real time, processing tens of thousands of transactions simultaneously to draw out application-specific health and performance metrics that span all tiers of the application infrastructure, from the webservers all the way back to storage.

Legacy APM technologies are not obsolete by any means—they have a variety of uses, including after-the-fact forensics, software test and development, and network simulation and modeling. In fact, most of our customers—enterprises spanning a wide variety of industry verticals including travel, financial services, telecommunications, retail, and consumer web—have other system and network monitoring tools deployed but depend on the ExtraHop system for critical real-time insight in the face of crushing IT scale and complexity.

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