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Gartner's 2011 Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring (APM) and the Five Functional Dimensions of APM

This week saw the release of the Gartner 2011 Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring* (APM). In February 2010, Gartner issued its first Magic Quadrant for the APM industry in which it placed 19 vendors in its famous (or perhaps infamous) Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries, and Niche Players quadrants based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute. In addition, Gartner introduced five dimensions of functionality that are required for any comprehensive APM offering. The first four dimensions monitor end-to-end application performance, while the last dimension provides real-time and historic correlation and analysis of that data. In the latest 2011 Magic Quadrant, Gartner devotes 9 out of 40 pages to describing the five functional dimensions.

The APM space is changing rapidly, with lots of new entrants mixing with legacy vendors and other "800-lb gorillas," all seeking to address an as-of-yet unmet need—a better way to proactively manage application performance and fix problems quickly. Traditional approaches to APM, namely host-based instrumentation and polling, have trouble adapting to modular and distributed applications running in dynamic environments. The ExtraHop system was designed with an entirely new approach—called network-based application performance management (APM)—that provides IT organizations with a real-time, end-to-end view of their application performance.

At ExtraHop, we largely agree with the goals of the five functional dimensions, but we think they are narrowly framed in terms of the capabilities of legacy APM approaches. Here's how ExtraHop factors into our brief summary of Gartner's five functional dimensions for APM.

  1. End-user experience monitoring. The first dimension of a complete APM solution, according to Gartner, is a method of measuring application performance from an end-user perspective. This goal can be accomplished through synthetic transactions, desktop agents, or network packet analysis. The ExtraHop system analyzes real end-user transactions in real time—all the transactions, all the time, as they happen.
  2. Runtime application architecture discovery, modeling, and display. Gartner's second functional dimension for APM is an ability to map application dependencies, specifically in terms of user-defined transactions. The ExtraHop system autodiscovers devices on the network, inferring device names and roles through traffic analysis. Our Application Activity Maps create a visual representation of application-level dependencies.
  3. User-defined transaction profiling. Gartner describes the third dimension of APM as a capability to trace specific transactions as they flow through the application environment. The ExtraHop system offers Application Inspection Triggers, a framework for real-time analysis based on scriptable event processing at the application-protocol level. This technology enables businesses to trace specifically defined transactions as they pass through multiple components of the environment, including web servers, application servers, database servers, and storage systems. Application Inspection Triggers enable cross-tier correlation through the use of custom transaction IDs defined in the environment.
  4. Component deep-dive monitoring in application context. The fourth dimension addresses troubleshooting capabilities. Gartner marks the need for visibility into the database, application servers, middleware, and the network, and goes on to note that byte-code instrumentation is a popular method of diagnosing problems on application servers. Through real-time L2–L7 analysis of network traffic, the ExtraHop system extracts health and performance metrics for the network, web, database, and storage tiers, including application-level details needed to isolate root causes.
  5. Application performance analytics. Traditional APM approaches generate a lot of data, which is useless without filtering, correlation, and analysis. For this reason, Gartner's fifth functional dimension specifies that a complete APM solution must come with a management database—ideally real-time, but more typically offline—for this purpose. While this approach is necessary to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio in legacy APM, it is not necessary with the ExtraHop system, which applies recent gains in processing power and storage capacity to analyze, extract, and record relevant health and performance metrics in a real-time, high-speed streaming datastore. Because this datastore runs on an appliance, it does not require tuning or management.
The problem and goal that Gartner posited in their initial Magic Quadrant for APM is clear—legacy APM is too complex and businesses still need a better way to manage application performance. That's simple enough. We couldn't agree more. However, the way legacy APM vendors meet these challenges only adds to the IT management burden. Two of the legacy APM vendors require 15 and 16 separate products, respectively, to meet the five functional dimensions, each one, a separate system to license, install, configure, maintain, and integrate.

Gartner acknowledges the complexity problem in its vendor analyses, citing integration and configuration challenges, not to mention cost. At ExtraHop, not only do we see growing IT complexity as a main challenge facing IT organizations—we see growing complexity in APM tools as an equally pernicious problem.

Going Beyond the Magic Quadrant: What and Your Organization Can Do

If you are tired of "check-the-box" mentality when it comes to APM, give us a call and we'll prove that there is a better way to get comprehensive performance monitoring in your environment.

Watch a 4-minute demo to see how quickly and easily ExtraHop solves APM issues.

Also, check out our APM vendor comparison for more insight into how the ExtraHop system provides an elegant and simple approach versus the competition.

*Gartner, Inc., Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring, Will Cappelli, Jonah Kowall, September 19, 2011. The Magic Quadrant is copyrighted 2011 by Gartner, Inc. and is reused with permission. The Magic Quadrant is a graphical representation of a marketplace at and for a specific time period. It depicts Gartner's analysis of how certain vendors measure against criteria for that marketplace, as defined by Gartner. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in the Magic Quadrant, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors placed in the "Leaders" quadrant. The Magic Quadrant is intended solely as a research tool, and is not meant to be a specific guide to action. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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