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Wednesday, 05 August 2020 13:54

SolarWinds AppOptics Brings Application and Infrastructure Performance to Light


REVIEW PROMOTION It's imperative in today's complex interconnected world of software and infrastructure to have proactive, efficient, insightful monitoring in place. SolarWinds® AppOptics is a SaaS-based application performance management (APM) tool that’s simple and powerful at the same time, and one which your team is sure to love.

There are other tools, sure—for example, the simple ping command will let you know if a server is there, provided your network connection can send it ICMP packets. You can poll a website every so often to make sure it’s still there and responding to HTTP.

While such capabilities exist, the reality is validating that the server or website is there and can communicate, doesn’t mean it’s up and available to your users. Today’s applications are much more complex than that, so at best, if they aren’t responding, you know there’s an issue, but you can’t stop there. There are many ways for today’s modern applications to appear up, yet they are not performant or have errors beyond a simple ping that won’t be detected without a tool like an APM. When you do confirm there’s an issue, you need to quickly pinpoint precisely where it is and what’s causing it.

It's here where AppOptics comes in, and a suite of well-established alternatives including AppDynamics, Dynatrace, New Relic, and Datadog. All these products will map your applications and provide instant tracing and stack details down to the faulty piece of source code when your code crashes or performs poorly. However, AppOptics stands out because of its simple, transparent, and straightforward pricing whether for small environments or at scale. Additionally, AppOptics is a well-documented tool, which has powerful integrations with other SolarWinds APM tools for simplifying and accelerating getting to the root cause of performance issues for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid monitoring. 

Root cause analysis becomes trivial with AppOptics helpfully presenting application performance issues, working equally well with legacy monolithic apps or the most modern container-based apps. There’s a pretty interesting write-up how SolarWinds itself used AppOptics to visualise 2018’s Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws.

Embracing AppOptics to help you manage your application farm is pretty simple. Sign up with annual or monthly pricing based on hosts and container quantities with cost-effective plans for infrastructure monitoring or both infrastructure and application monitoring. Use any number of 150+ out-of-the-box integrations and plugins with pre-populated interactive dashboards, like Apache, AWS, Azure, IIS, Java, Kubernetes, MySQL, .NET, Node.js, PHP, Progress, Python, Ruby, Slack, Syslog, VictorOps, Zapier, and many more. If an infrastructure or application you need to monitor is not included in this expansive list of out-of-the-box integrations, AppOptics has a very powerful capability to create custom metrics, including business, IoT devices, other systems, etc. Events will flow in, and AppOptics dashboards will reveal what’s happening at any time along with performance metrics.

One click is all it then takes to get you from the transactions you see on screen, drilling down to the underlying events.

We took AppOptics for a drive here at iTWire and found it elegantly simple in its setup and use, yet exposing immense power in the visibility it gave on the applications and environments we tested it with. For me, I was especially impressed by having full-stack visibility in one product, which surely gives many an IT manager a relief knowing they can use a single pane of glass for infrastructure and application monitoring. Imagine how more responsive and efficient you can be without having to consult a bunch of products that give only a piece of the puzzle individually. I also truly appreciated its support for both modern and legacy infrastructure and application monitoring—no matter if I was using on-premises servers, public cloud, or hybrid multi-cloud. I gained insights equally well on an Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Services (EKS) as I did on an internal Microsoft IIS website with an ASP.NET application.

Exception tracking is another feature standing AppOptics apart from competitors. Unlike crash-dump reporting tools like RayGun, there’s no limitation imposed on how many events can be handled, allowing you to rest comfortably knowing you won’t lose history or new events in the midst of a storm of exceptions, ironically, the time you need such a utility the most. We found AppOptics performed an admirable job of swiftly reporting our applications had crashed and revealed the pertinent details.

Some of the other AppOptics features include distributed transaction tracing, live code profiling, and host and container detailed drill-downs.

Mercifully, for hapless IT managers who have to make a budgetary case, AppOptics comes with pricing based only on the number of hosts and containers, and if you need infrastructure monitoring only, or application and infrastructure monitoring. The pricing is online and lists the features included in either pricing plan. This truly cannot be understated in the world of enterprise software. Out of competing products, only New Relic offers similarly simple pricing with a free tier, then a fee per additional user and additional gigabyte. However, Datadog offers no less than eight individually priced modules spanning network, log management, and application monitoring, each of which can have multiple pricing plans, and putting this together can result in a combination of frustration and compromise. Dynatrace only gives any pricing at all after you speak with a salesperson. Yet, technology people don’t often want to actually talk to someone, they just want to know how much it costs and how well it works. Additionally, if we only compare the infrastructure and application monitoring products, SolarWinds AppOptics and its full-stack APM is less expensive than Datadog infrastructure and APM products together. Datadog also requires you to purchase the infrastructure if you want to use their APM product.

On that point—how well it works—we found AppOptics superbly informative and efficient. The dashboards illuminate problems we may have otherwise not noticed or struggled to identify. For instance, database tables growing out-of-control, or virtual machines hitting their RAM limitations, or an SQL query consuming all the CPU.

No website uptime monitor, or even the venerable ping command, can help with you these issues. Here's where you need a solid, an enterprise-grade APM tool to accurately portray the health of your applications and illustrate how well and how fast their individual transactions are making their way through the system.

Even so, the greatest performance might not be the result you want either. If you have literally zero performance issues, maybe you’re way over-allocating resources and hence costs. Here, AppOptics also comes in—not only finding performance problems but helping you right-size your architecture, too.

You’d do well to consider AppOptics in your environment. It brings a wealth of on-premises and cloud platforms, programming languages, and tools together in one environment, allowing you to monitor your infrastructure and applications equally well on a single site. You can proactively identify application issues, you can right-size—and re-price—your resources, you can review application crashes, you can trace distribution transactions, and ultimately you can troubleshoot databases, containers, servers, and software. There’s an old adage “you want good, cheap, fast—pick two.” Well, with AppOptics you get all three. You can try it out for a free trial too. Any new SolarWinds AppOptics customer can enjoy an exciting 40% discount until September 30, 2020, which applies to annual plans only*.

*As of August 3. 2020. Terms apply.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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