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Mobile Solutions

The best APM providers for awesome apps

Slow apps are anathema to users. But performance optimization is a difficult business, and bottlenecks lurk everywhere. Forrester put 13 APM providers to the test.

12 Oct. 2016 Michael Kurzidim
APM solutions help speed up sluggish business applications. (Photo: MP_P /

Application Performance Management

Application performance management (APM) has to adjust many different screws to make sure business applications run at their best. Because there are bottlenecks everywhere: the database, the network, infrastructure components such as servers and storage, and the application source code. The top performer in the Forrester ranking is APM optimizer Dynatrace, thanks to its competition-busting strategy. AppDynamics offers the most convincing set of solutions to date.

HPE, CA Technologies and IBM have earned good positions among the leaders, while Microsoft just barely scrapes a spot in the runners-up ranking of "Strong Performers." Why? Microsoft focuses primarily on its own solutions and the Azure cloud.

The 13 APM providers in overview

In December 2014, Dynatrace spun off from Compuware to position itself as a pure APM vendor. Dynatrace observes and analyzes the end user's journey from the first to the final click, and depicts it in so-called PurePaths. PurePaths measure the execution speed of individual business transactions down to the source code level. Software developers can then reprogram or reconfigure slow components, for example, to improve performance.

Dynatrace measures transaction details across all infrastructure components: on-premise, in the cloud, virtual, all the way down to microservice components. The Forrester analysts crowned this provider number one.

Close on the heels of the winner is APM vendor Appdynamics. When performance falls short, AppDynamics takes a "snapshot" for later analysis. The combined analysis of bottlenecks includes application data, logfiles and infrastructure data (server, storage, network traffic), and calculates the expected future capacity need. Responses to specific events, which are then automatically executed, are registered by the user in "run books."

Forrester rates their performance monitoring of cloud applications as sound. AppDynamics plans to focus in the future on the management of both execution critical and business critical applications.

Runners-up HPE, Riverbed , CA and Microsoft

HPE's vision for the future is good, according to the analysts. HPE's APM and mobile APM solution measures real user transactions, including for mobile devices. The relatively new AppPulse components even register user gestures, interactions, device details and last-mile carrier data.

The older solutions check infrastructure components in data centers and applications, as well as virtual machines and microservices. HPE announced on September 7 its intention of selling its software division to Micro Fokus, so some uncertainty currently characterizes its future.

Riverbed first became known for its patented algorithms for performance optimization in Wide Area Networks (WAN). Today Riverbed offers a comprehensive performance monitoring package covering end users, applications, networks and infrastructure components.

A combination of its Mobile Application Instrumentation Telemetry Interface (for mobile apps) and JavaScript (for mobile browsers) enables in Forrester's view a complete analysis of mobile devices, crashes, errors, user attributes, network topologies and performance. Its acquisition of end user specialist Aternity would indicate that Riverbed is continuing to expand its strengths in user analysis.

Microsoft interweaves its APM solution with Azure

Microsoft's APM solution is called Visual Studio Application Insights. HockeyApp, acquired in 2014, takes care of monitoring mobile apps and users. However, Microsoft has closely enmeshed its APM portfolio with the Azure cloud and directs its strengths towards Microsoft environments. Its excellent data export does enable the integration of third party tools.

CA Technologies measures end user transactions using "JavaScript Injection," analyzes network packets (Deep Packet Analysis) and checks microservices and containers. Forrester notes the impressive variety of data sources. CA Technologies offers more than 140 out-of-the-box modules for monitoring infrastructure components. The new App Experience Analytics module's strengths lie in prescriptive analytics of future resource requirements and in its focus on business outcomes.