Application performance management, or APM, is an increasingly big deal, and the story of the “Healthcare.gov debacle” highlights it.
That’s pretty much the lead and main point of a TechTarget/SearchDataCenter article published this week called “Application Performance Management Vendors Emphasize User Experience.” Of course, that’s an analysis that we at New Relic have no problem getting behind.
Author Alex Barrett, editor in chief of TechTarget’s Modern Infrastructure (where the same article is called “Real User Experience, Real Performance Management”), explained that, “The first thing [Google site-reliability engineer Mikey] Dickerson’s tech surge team did was install an APM dashboard tool from New Relic to report on and troubleshoot website performance. APM was the reason HealthCare.gov was able to make strides” toward acceptable performance.
According to Barrett, in October 2013, it took the site 8 seconds to load a webpage, error rates hit 6%, and uptime was just 43%. But after the surge, which included the installation of New Relic, the team was able to cut Healthcare.gov’s error rates to less than 0.5%, with <1-second page load times, and 95% uptime.
The bottom line is that you can’t fix something if you don’t know what’s wrong.
A change in APM’s focus
“If nothing else, application performance management vendors have HealthCare.gov to thank for highlighting the finer points of contemporary APM issues,” Barrett wrote. Of particular importance, she noted, is the fact that for APM
Today’sfocus has shifted to the end-user experience rather than devices, as evidenced by HealthCare.gov… Whereas older APM tools insert instrumentation into the application code and monitor servers and networks, the next generation of APM products takes it one step further and displays application performance from the perspective of the users interacting with the application or website.
From developers to business users
We think that’s a pretty good description of how New Relic operates, but it’s only the beginning of the changes in APM, Barrett said:
Recently, application performance management vendors started exposing data stored in their systems to non-technical users. After all, if you’re going to collect reams of data about IT systems and their users, it makes sense to extend that data beyond the developer and operations teams and out to the business.
Basically, she’s describing products like New Relic Insights, as shown by her quote from Martin Reynolds, an application architect and development manager for UK software development house Advanced Computer Software. “Insight(s) adds a whole other level,” Reynolds told her, “It provides us with an extra tool to engage the customer to give them a better experience.”
While Barrett offered perspective from a number of APM vendors, Bill Hodak, New Relic’s senior director of product marketing, got the last word. “The majority of the information that you want already exists in the data somewhere,” Hodak said. The trick is to make that information useful to business users, which requires a better interface and a natural language query option so business people can find what they’re really looking for quickly, without having to engage pricey and scarce data scientists to help refine their queries.
That just happens to be exactly what Insights’ dashboards and the New Relic Query Language (NRQL) are designed to do.