Executive Viewpoint 2017 Prediction: Catchpoint Systems – Growth in Third Parties is Forcing APM to Evolve
In 2017, we predict the disciple of Application Performance Management (APM), as we know it, will evolve to Digital Experience Monitoring. Key components of this evolution will be the ability to ingest and analyze data on all the various factors impacting the digital experience, and quickly identify and fix the root causes of poor performance, ideally before end users are impacted.
As our reliance on external systems increases, so do consumers’ expectations for the performance (speed and reliability) of their digital experiences. Whether it’s a smartphone app, a mobile or desktop website, or a newer Internet of Things-connected appliance, end users’ patience for slow, sluggish, or even unavailable interactions has grown continually shorter. In the ecommerce field, for example, a recent Harris poll survey shows that 76 percent of respondents tend to avoid shopping at poorly performing sites and apps after having just one bad experience.
To meet these expectations, IT architects and developers often turn to third-party vendors to optimize their service delivery. Software features and modifications can be outsourced to avoid having to develop them in-house, while IaaS vendors, including cloud service providers and content delivery networks (CDNs), provide the ability to scale quickly, bridging the geographic distance between data centers and far-away customers.
However, all external third-party services represent a double-edged sword in attempts to provide the best quality performance. For every third party you engage, you’re also adding another potential obstacle to great user experiences. According to an EMA survey of IT professionals, 77 percent of respondents rank the ability to troubleshoot and analyze root causes of application performance problems down to the platform level as one of their highest concerns. They also said that the inability to directly see the performance data of cloud service providers and other third-party vendors presents a significant hindrance to ensuring excellent performance.
We saw the pitfalls of third-party services once again this year during the holiday shopping rush on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as major retailers including Walmart, Newegg, and Williams-Sonoma all experienced performance problems directly attributable to malfunctioning third-party software features on their sites.
The complexity that these third parties add to our architecture will only grow, as the tools needed to meet growing consumer expectations are becoming increasingly specialized. This means the ability to house all those services within one organization is exclusive to tech giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook; the rest of us will have to outsource. This leaves us in a bit of a bind. Forgoing those third-party services would simplify our architecture and give us a clearer view into the performance of our online systems, but we would lose the performance-boosting impact these services can provide, if they are properly managed.
What’s needed is a better way to monitor the performance of those systems and get a clear view of the customer’s experience. To do that, organizations will increasingly need digital experience monitoring tools that provide insight not only into one’s own systems and infrastructure, but those of outside vendors and potential vendors as well. A thorough vetting of any third-party service is needed before it can be deployed, and constant monitoring is needed thereafter to ensure they are meeting their SLA specifications.
However, collecting data is only half the battle when it comes to pinpointing and troubleshooting performance issues. A deluge of data that must be painstakingly analyzed is often just as bad as a lack of data. If the digital experience monitoring tool you deploy provides actionable data and the ability to filter out the noise, this can save IT operations teams countless hours of lost productivity searching for problems, as well as protect against revenue losses resulting from poor performance.
In summary, the complexity that IT teams currently face will only grow as digital systems – and consumers’ reliance on them – expand. Against this backdrop, traditional APM solutions will need to evolve significantly – extending well beyond monitoring customer or end-user interactions with discrete websites and applications. They will need to address the digital experience more comprehensively – ingesting and analyzing vast amounts of website component- and platform-specific performance data to determine how each of the various “pieces” impact performance as a whole, and pinpoint the root cause of issues, quickly and seamlessly. This will be the key to companies taking better advantage of the various third-party resources at their disposal, delivering exceptionally fast and reliable digital experiences while minimizing risk.