For as long as there have been important applications, there have been Application Performance Management tools for monitoring these applications. APM tools have gone through two very distinct paths of evolution. The first path involved tools that really monitored the operating system that the applications ran on, and looked at interactions between the application and the OS in the form of abnormal resource utilization platters to find problems with the operation of the application. These tools were typically application agnostic, and supported every application that ran on the operating system that the tool supported. They therefore offered a great deal of breadth, but were not able to look deeply into applications to find problems within the applications themselves.
The second path of evolution involved tools that got much closer to the applications themselves. This idea really got going when enterprises started putting the business logic tier of performance critical web applications on J2EE applications servers like BEA WebLogic (now part of Oracle), IBM WebSphere, and Red Hat JBOSS. Several start-ups entered the market using byte code instrumentation techniques. The leader in this generation of this type of tools was Wily Technology which was ultimately acquired by CA. IBM (ITCAM), HP (HP Diagnostics), Quest (Foglight), and Compuware (Vantage) all entered this market via acquisitions of start-ups as well. While these Java oriented APM tools provided the teams supporting these applications in production with granular data about how these applications were working (down to the performance of individual objects and methods), these tools had two very significant downsides. The first downside is that implementing these tools took a lot of effort by some very talented and expensive consultants, and the second was that they only worked for Java and later .Net based applications.
When Lew Cirne (the founder of Wily Technology) set out to reinvent the APM word once again, the first problem that he attacked was the complexities of installation, configuration, and maintenance of these solutions. Lew started New Relic, and offered APM as service (Monitoring as a Service or MaaS) which means that New Relic hosts the entire back end part of the APM system. All the customer has to do is put agents into his application, and then log into his web console to get APM functionality. By taking installation and configuration off of the table as things that needed to be done for the customer to get value from the New Relic APM solution, New Relic shortened what was a 6 month to one year process for an on-site monitoring solution down to a couple of minutes or hours.
However, last week New Relic announced some new capabilities that have never before been brought to the market by a tool vendor that offers the depth of functionality that New Relic offers. Specifically New Relic announced that it now support four application types, Ruby-on-Rails, Java, .NET and PHP. New Relic has therefore broken new ground in the question of trade-offs between depth of monitoring into an application, and breadth of platform support. The prior generation of byte code instrumentation vendors never supported more than two platforms – J2EE and .NET. Products that monitor the OS still cannot see into an application the way that New Relic can – and now New Relic brings this depth of insight to more platforms than anyone else has ever addressed.
This move to address this many platforms brings two things to New Relic customers that they cannot get anywhere else. The first is the comfort of knowing that as developers choose different toolsets for different kinds of applications, that they can use one familiar easy to use and easy to set up monitoring solution for a broad range of platform choices. The second is that now it will be possible to monitor applications built with a mix of these platforms in one monitoring system. For example, it might easily be the case that the web server has some PHP code, but that the core of the business logic is in Java or .Net. New Relic is now able to monitor such a complex multi-tier applications system which is something that even the far larger legacy APM vendors were never able to archive.
This level of innovation on the part of New Relic proves once again that a new phase of the APM market is here lead by vendors like New Relic, AppDynamics and BlueStripe. Established systems management vendors like CA, BMC, HP, IBM (Tivoli), Quest, and Compuware now need to start paying attention to the new use cases being addressed by this new generation of vendors and start taking steps to address the legacy aspects of the offerings they acquired years ago.
For more information about this new version of New Relic RPM read the full announcement.