Application Monitoring in a Modern Cloud World

Note: This post was originally written for the Cprime blog. You can check out the original here.

Applications are no longer simple two-tier architectures. Back then, application monitoring was easy compared with today. But as the shift to the cloud happened, applications became more efficient and effective. Application architectures now include many tiers across multiple locations and sometimes in multiple clouds.

Monitoring applications with this level of complexity is a challenge, to say the least. So, today’s application monitoring is completely different from just a few years ago. In this post, let’s get into some of the application monitoring changes and how it matters in the modern cloud world.

What Is Application Monitoring?

Application monitoring, also referred to as application performance monitoring (APM), is the process of collecting and analyzing data about an application. You do this to ensure expected application performance. Monitoring applications is a critical element in ensuring your users are happy. This need has existed since the early days of the internet. There’s always been a need to monitor your email applications, for example. The problem is that the capability wasn’t available because of technological limitations.

Tools and diagnostic protocols like the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), and tcpdump were useful in those early days. Monitoring solutions from vendors like CompuwareNetscout, and Wily packaged these within their products. But over time, new monitoring methods were needed as more complex applications were written in languages like Java and .NET. Installable agents that could collect relevant application metrics made application monitoring a little easier.

But IT needed even more help to solve performance problems faster as applications started to break up into services.

The Needed Change

As applications became even more complex, virtualization, microservices, and containers became part of normal IT life. The introduction of cloud computing from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the mid-2000s helped add flexibility to deploying applications. Now you have Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and many more as additional cloud options.

Monitoring applications in these cloud environments had to change. In the cloud, you lose the visibility you used to have with the application components in your private infrastructure. But cloud providers have outages, too, so you can’t rely on one cloud vendor. Because of this, monitoring tools had to collect data with installed agents and agentless scripts. In some cases, all this would mean different types of agents. One for application metrics, another for system metrics, and a third with some monitoring tools for event and log data.

This is not feasible with more hybrid cloud and multicloud environments, more security, and more data. You could not properly monitor your applications this way. Good luck keeping your mean time to repair (MTTR) low or staying within your service-level agreement (SLA) this way. So IT needed more change.

Application Monitoring Now

With all this data and infrastructure complexity in cloud environments, IT needed more than monitoring. When new instances are added, you need a tool that can be ready to collect data. You also now have more types of applications to monitor, like Node.js, Go, and others.

Monitoring tools also needed the ability to trace user transactions across the many components of your application in the cloud. Methods such as distributed tracing allow monitoring tools to follow user transactions and requests wherever they are within the cloud environment. This gives you visibility not just to where the user was when there was a problem but also to what the user was doing. This is helpful when trying to troubleshoot problems faster.

Add this capability to the metrics and logs being collected and you’re looking at doing observability. Monitoring tools such as AppDynamicsElasticDynatraceNew Relic, and Splunk have changed to observe applications in this way.

Go With the Change

As you’ve seen, IT is not without changes. Applications need technological advancements in order to meet increased user needs. And IT professionals need monitoring solutions to keep up. You’ve seen how application monitoring has changed to support the advancements in the modern cloud world.

For you to keep up, you need to stay up to date with all these changes. You need to train yourself to maximize your use of these advancements. If the monitoring tool you’re using hasn’t made any of the changes mentioned above, you should consider one that has.