Dev

The increasing importance of the developer in application performance management

Modern Software
Image Credit: ryantron, flickr

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It used to be that troubleshooting your application simply involved tracking down that syntax error or looking at the server logs. Was the app slowing down whenever it went to retrieve something from the database? Simple enough to diagnose and fix.

Nowadays, however, the lag might be coming from a piece of code on a far-away server or an API call that’s slow on the other end. Finding the cause of the problem and fixing it can mean life or death for your burgeoning business.

The solution lies within the modern realm of application performance management (APM).

The state of the modern application means that it’s not just the job of a software tester or user experience expert to find bugs, issue a report and wait for a solution. The developer is key to the process of both finding and fixing problems. Having developers who are familiar with APM can mean just one thing: a faster solution to problems.

As Mobile Lead for platform-as-a-service (PaaS) company Heroku, Mattt Thompson knows something about dealing with the troubles of the modern application. Thompson explains that software has become increasingly complex and so our way of monitoring and managing software has had to change. APM, he says, has had to grow alongside the modern app.

“When we talk about the increasing importance of APM in software applications, we have to acknowledge that a major factor is that ‘application’ has come to mean something very different in recent years,” explains Thompson. “In this age of cloud infrastructure, web software is no longer one monolithic application running on mainframes, but a constellation of inter-dependent services that can each be scaled according to their particular performance requirements.”

In addition to the fragmentation of the application, the modern development cycle leaves developers on the front lines of not only fixing but detecting problems as they arise. Gone are the days of yearly software cycles, replaced by apps that get updated monthly, weekly and at times daily.

Eric Simone, CEO of mobile backend platform ClearBlade, says that having developers who understand and attend to APM is critical not only to keep apps running, but retaining customers.

“Technology and market shifts require a fundamental change to the way businesses approach the development lifecycle,” says Simone. “We need to predict how our applications will scale, before they reach critical mass, because we will lose users due to a poor performing app. Once that happens, they may never come back. We can’t take that risk.”

For Thompson, APM doesn’t preempt the need to scale, but rather becomes a fluid part of the cycle. He points to the flexibility of modern PaaS solutions such as Heroku.

“With this change, performance management becomes part of the feedback loop, able to dynamically scale processes in real-time, whether that’s your database, web server, or even the analytics aggregator feeding into the APM system itself,” says Thompson. “Agility is especially important in the world of mobile applications, where it’s not uncommon for popular apps to gain millions of users in a matter of days. A traditional IT provisioning scheme would buckle immediately under that kind of velocity. However, with IaaS and PaaS providers especially, every aspect of your business can be scaled effortlessly, allowing developers to focus on delivering the next great feature, rather than scrambling to keep up with their success.”

When you’re running a business, you can speak in terms of users, click-thrus or any other number of metrics, but we know it all boils down to two things, which Simone says APM helps to save.

“Prior to APM, we knew there were some bottlenecks in our code but didn’t want to do any intensive profiling. With APM, it told us exactly where to focus our optimization efforts,” says Simone. “Ultimately, APM saves a significant amount of time and money. Our developers are more efficient at attacking performance bottlenecks and our apps perform better for the end users.”

Thompson takes the importance of APM to another level, stating that it even helps to transform how businesses function at a more base level.

“What’s really encouraging is that enterprise customers are also beginning to understand how these new strategies can transform their business,” says Thompson. “With a set of well-designed, responsive APM policies in place, companies can define and automate SLAs with a high degree of confidence. This totally inverts the conventional wisdom of innovation, that the majority of energy is spent sustaining existing processes rather moving forward with new ideas.”


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