Legacy management software vendors like IBM, HP, BMC and CA are in deep trouble. They are in trouble across their entire portfolio of management solutions due to two simple facts. Their products are not suited for the new dynamic and distributed IT environment, and the way in which they sell and market those products is inconsistent with how the new buyers of management software want to buy those products. A great example of the trouble that legacy vendors are in is how CA and its APM solutions (Introscope) stack up against modern solutions like those from New Relic, AppDynamics, and Compuware/dynatrace.
New Requirements and Legacy Products
The problem with legacy APM vendors is that the world has changed and their products have not. Here are some changes that have occurred along with their impacts upon legacy APM solutions:
- Agile Development means that more applications are being put into production and then changed more frequently than ever before. This means that any APM solution that needs to be manually configured (by either vendor provided professional services or the customer) is dead. There is simply not enough time to reconfigure the instrumentation in the APM solution every time the application changes. So if you are doing Agile development it is time to move beyond CA’s APM solutions.
- Tool proliferation means that it is no longer just a Java and .NET world. Ruby, PHP, Python, Scala, Node-JS and various other things that have not been invented yet are increasing in popularity and importance. APM vendors that are stuck with just Java and .NET solutions like CA have missed the train.
- Scaled out deployment models on cheap hardware and cheap software (Tomcat on commodity Intel servers) makes the pricing for legacy APM products look completely out of step with the economic realities of the customer environment. You can buy dynaTrace (a world class, on premise, enterprise competent APM solution) for less than half of what CA will cost you. You can buy either AppDynamics or New Relic for less than a quarter of what CA will cost you. If the APM software required to manage an instance of the application in a JVM costs you more than the JVM, the supporting OS, and the actual server hardware, you are over-paying for the APM solution.
- Distribution of applications across data centers and across clouds means that APM solutions must work no matter where the components of the application are running. One back end needs to be able to manage an application spread across multiple data centers including public clouds. This requires that the APM solution be architected around a “phone home” approach where the agent makes an outbound call over 80/443 to the back end. Legacy APM solutions assume that the application is running on the same subnet as the management system which is no longer a valid assumption.
CA’s Attack on APM as a Service and New Relic
So what is CA’s reaction to the fact that its products and business model are outdated? One reaction was to commission a study that concluded that “enterprise are taking a cautious approach to APM as a Service“. This has to be one of the dumbest marketing moves of all time. The reason is very simple. While New Relic has managed to go from zero to 30,000 customers in four years, many enterprises have never heard of either New Relic or APM as a Service. So CA just did the entire category a huge favor by letting a bunch of enterprise customers know about a new way to do APM and to learn something about the new vendors (like New Relic and AppDynamics) that are pioneering this approach.
The second part of CA’s response is to sue New Relic for patent infringement. CA is claiming that the founder of New Relic, Lew Cirne, is violating patents that were granted to Wily Technology (which Lew Cirne also founded and ran) prior to CA’s acquisition of Wily in 2006. While the merits of the case will have to be settled upon a proper investigation of the intellectual property used both in the old Introscope product and the new New Relic product one thing is sure. CA has lost the ability to drive innovation it its solutions and has to resort to playing defense in the courts. On the other hand given what kind of trouble legacy management vendors like CA are in, becoming a patent troll might be one CA’s more attractive alternatives.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of APM as a Service
With CA’s posturing and patent trolling taken aside, let’s try to make a rational assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of APM as a Service. The advantages are:
- You (the customer) do not have to install and maintain an application system and its associated middleware and databases in order to manage your applications. There is only one back end and it is managed by the vendor. The agents in your application run times communicate to that back end over the Internet. Yes the communication is encrypted. Yes these solutions can be configured so that sensitive information like credit card numbers and social security numbers are not collected by the agents and shipped over the Internet to the hosted back end.
- One APM solution can manage application systems distributed across many data centers, ones you own, and ones that you do not. The APM solution simply follows your application around. If you use VMware vMotion to move a VM that contains a Java application, the APM solution simply adjusts. If migrate an application from your data center to a public cloud, the APM solution simply adjusts.
- You benefit from the combination of the hosted back end and the Agile development practices of the APM vendor. If the APM vendor only has to enhance and maintain one copy of the back end, that back end can be evolved much more quickly than if the vendor has to ship software to customers and then support multiple back releases. So with an APM as a Service offering, the value of the offering simply improves over time at a faster rate than with on premise software.
- You benefit from the ability of the APM vendor to compare your data to the data of others in your peer group. For an example of this, see the New Relic AppSpeed Index page. Note that your participation in this is entirely voluntary.
- While some on-premise solutions have web based consoles, all APM as Service solutions have web based consoles. This means that you can easily access your APM system from anywhere.
As with anything, along with those advantages come some disadvantages:
- The public Internet is between your agents and the back end, and again between your browser and the back end. If you need sub-second fidelity in an APM solution then APM as a Service is not for you.
- Yes the data about the performance of your application, the crashes in your application, and the bugs in your application is living in someone else’s database, hosted in someone else’s cloud. That might sound scary, but for example, in the case of both AppDynamics and New Relic, the back end is hosted in a SAS 70 Type II data center (not Amazon). If you are concerned about this then ask your potential APM as a Service vendor what their security technologies and processes are. If you are not satisfied with the answer then either that vendor or APM as a Service is not for you.
- If the environment where the back end runs has a problem, or the APM back end itself has a problem, you may lose access to the APM solution for the duration of the problem. This is only a disadvantage to the extent to which a hosted back end maintained by the vendor who built the software is more likely to have a problem than an on premise instance of the back end.
APM as a Service is Part of a Bigger Trend
The most important thing to realize here is that APM as a Service is part of a far larger trend. That trend is Software as a Service with SalesForce.com being the flagship promoter of that cause. CRM as a service is a very instructive thing to think about when considering APM as a Service. If thousands of companies are willing to trust SalesForce.com with their customer lists, then what is wrong with trusting an APM as a Service vendor (with proper due diligence) with response time, crash, throughput and bug data on your applications? Yes SaaS delivered CRM is not for everyone, just as APM as Service is not for everyone, but the success of New Relic and AppDynamics proves that the trend is in this direction.
Finally, AppDynamics and New Relic participate in just one segment of the APM space – the segment focused upon monitoring of custom developed applications in production. APM as a Service vendors like AppFirst and AppEnsure are focused upon a different segment of the APM space – the segment focused upon monitoring any application (purchased or custom developed) in production. Outside of the APM space, CloudPhysics has pioneered the first SaaS delivered Operations Management solution for VMware environments. Splunk offers its log analysis solution as a service, Splunk Storm.
APM as a Service from vendors like AppDynamics, New Relic, AppFirst, and AppEnsure is a viable option for most enterprises. While on premise solutions are not dead, legacy vendors who have not modernized their products for the new requirements at the application development, application deployment, and data center distribution are blind dinosaurs. They are dead – they just do not know the name of the asteroid that is going to kill them.