One year ago, I asked 12 of the leading providers of application performance monitoring (APM) and other SaaS-based monitoring services: what will the future of APM look like in 2020? They pointed to the rise of AIOps (Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations), Big Data, and Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) as the core advancements in this space.
Now a full year later, I’ve again asked the leading APM and observability companies a similar question. But this time, I’ve also inquired about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the future of APM. Although the impact varies, you will notice a common direction emerge that is now shaping the future of APM. However, before we get into this year’s predictions, lets review last year’s.
How accurate were last year’s APM predictions?
To date, APM solutions continue a rapid evolution and expansion to address the way applications are built, delivered, and interfaced. This rapid development is why, for the past six years I’ve maintained a list of 100 APM Solutions and monitoring tools.
As per the predictions, the APM giants and leaders have emerged to provide single-platform solutions for full-stack APM, infrastructure monitoring, serverless monitoring, log management, security monitoring, network monitoring, synthetic monitoring, DEM, and AIOps. For example, take some time out to look at the consolidated approach of the various pricing structures of the observability companies listed below.
Last year, AIops, DEM, and Big Data were a few of the standout predictions for 2020. This year, some analysts claim that “The Future of AIOps Is Here“, Gartner provided the report “Use DEM to Understand and Enhance Your Employees’ Work-From-Home Experience“, and several companies have expanded their Big Data platforms.
“We should not have to settle for solutions that only monitor performance. …with AI, you’ll get actionable recommendations and automation.” – last year’s article.
A growing number of companies listed below now offer AI-powered self-healing solutions that allow IT customers to optimize application performance and improve end-user satisfaction while mitigating risks and driving down costs.
The future of APM and COVID-19 as a catalyst
For most of 2020 and as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, IT teams have been under pressure due to the surge in demand for reliable apps and infrastructure, and also there’s now a rapid shift to a work-from-home workforce. As such, this year I’ve added a question regarding the future-altering global pandemic we now face.
Organizations looking to proactively improve the digital experience of customers and employees should examine the companies listed below.
As you will read below, not only has COVID-19 had an effect on most APM companies but it’s also accelerating the future of APM and observability in general. How so? Well, let’s allow the experts to explain this.
None of the companies were provided any followup communication regarding the answers. Also, except for errors, companies are not allowed to modify their answers once this article is live.
1. How has COVID-19 affected your business and what adjustments have you made to not only remain competitive but also to deliver even greater value?
2. What do you think APM and observability will look like in 2021 and beyond?
“COVID-19 has been a period of focusing for Instrumental. We’ve used it as an opportunity to drill down into what makes Instrumental users happy and where we can offer the most impact. Moving forward, we’re implementing a lot more automation and simplification to our setup processes and interface.“
“We don’t think coronavirus has directly changed application monitoring, but it has forced many businesses, especially small businesses, online. This trend will create a greater demand for infrastructure performance and scalability that will likely outpace available developer expertise. There’s an opportunity to offer easier setup and clearer visualizations to support a broader range of monitoring expertise.”
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Chief Strategy Officer – Instrumental.
“Covid-19 has impacted all industries and businesses around us. Survival itself has become a big question mark for some. Work from home has become the new norm. Companies that have adopted cloud and moved their businesses online are at an advantage rather than those companies that are still holding on to on-premise. At Site24x7, since we are already a SaaS solution, we continue to work as usual. We try our best to deliver great value to our existing and new customers by supporting them during this tough time.“
“Today’s modern applications are being built in distributed environments using microservice architecture. Existing applications are also adopting the latest technology and moving to the container orchestration. Though it may look simplified in smaller components, the complexity lies in monitoring the performance of the wholesome architecture, to deliver great digital experience. The future of APM, according to me, is in correlating and analyzing the 3 pillars of observability (metrics, distributed traces, and logs) in one console, along with AI capabilities to help in proactive and predictive analysis to prevent the occurrence of an issue, rather than being reactive after it has occurred. Further, one agent for all platforms with third-party integration capabilities and open tracing is an added feather in the cap, that APM vendors are trying to achieve. At Site24x7, while the one agent is under development, we have all the observability features in place and we try to make it a single consolidated platform for DevOps, SREs, and IT Admins to help them in their day to day activities in delivering a great end-user experience for their customers.”
“The challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic have amplified the need for partners like SolarWinds to help ensure their products are not only easy to use, but easy to buy, and can fit the needs of any budget. Over our 20-plus year history, SolarWinds has made this commitment to IT pros. Our product offerings have played a critical role in helping customers deliver on their objectives and remote work requirements, including providing more insight and answers around how applications are performing. For example, organizations now need to monitor more environments than ever before and new types of applications that previously weren’t considered “mission-critical.” We’ve also seen an uptick in users of our THWACK® community where IT pros can troubleshoot technology challenges and collaborate with peers – it’s a perfect resource for IT pros looking to navigate this new normal.”
“Even before the pandemic, we saw the majority of organizations shifting toward a hybrid model. Current trends are causing accelerated surges in demand for cloud solutions. Organizations will be turning more toward public cloud adoption and containerized solutions, so they can have dynamic and elastic capacity on-demand and meet the ever-shorter time-to-market requirements around rolling out new custom apps to meet surging, and all-new, market demand. … IT pros and business leaders are now tasked with generating as much ROI from existing tech investments as possible without negatively impacting their business, while also contending with how to get things done quickly—without breaking something for the apps they’re rolling out to generate the revenue. Monitoring the entire infrastructure from source to destination—and back—(end-user experience, networks, compute and storage—both on-premises and hybrid/cloud, to the datastores of business record) will be critical. With the increased demand in online application monitoring, IT will seek out monitoring solutions to help them execute from home using only what they have at home.”
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Senior Manager, Product Marketing – SolarWinds.
“We’ve seen customers rapidly moving towards more decentralized infrastructure solutions and adopting more cloud-based services (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS) to support multisite and remote user audiences. Making these shifts has caused a strain on their operational ability to monitor and support infrastructure and has demanded those same teams to have to be stretched even further. Therefore, they’re needing platforms that are easier to deploy/operate in hybrid scenarios, can monitor digital user experiences, and introduce more automated runbook and incident response functionality to become more efficient. We’ve doubled down on these features to ensure we’re solving the pain points of today.”
“Consumers of APM data and insights continue to expand outside of developer audiences. IT operations are being asked to incorporate application monitoring into their lens of infrastructure health so that they can more effectively correlate what’s occurring at every layer of the application service delivery model. It is critical to be able to correlate degraded digital experiences to network, storage, virtual infrastructure, systems, and application-level metrics. As complexity increases, less tools which can give conflicting answers and correlation becomes the biggest need.”
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COO – Panopta.com
“The shift to online customer experiences has been greatly accelerated by COVID-19 affecting all industries, from banking to insurance to retail. This significantly increases the importance companies put on observability of their cloud applications, affirming our commitment to APM & distributed tracing. In the years to come, APM will become even more mission-critical as more businesses migrate to the cloud and serve their customers through digital channels.”
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Senior Director, Product Management – Datadog
“Organizations everywhere were already digitally transforming, but the global pandemic has forced them to accelerate the scale and speed of those transformations dramatically. The sudden surge in demand for digital services in the last few months added new and intense pressure to application and cloud infrastructure environments. As a result, we’ve seen growing interest in our Software Intelligence Platform as organizations look to use AI and automation to optimize IT operations and business processes, and help their teams to respond faster to rapidly changing demands.”
“Organizations are increasingly seeing that APM is just one of several important capabilities they need to manage their modern cloud environments. In these environments, everything is software-driven, highly dynamic and runs in a complex ecosystem of microservices and containers, distributed across multiple clouds and data centers. As such, in 2021 and beyond, we’ll see more organizations moving away from traditional APM solutions and looking for an all-in-one platform with full-stack observability capabilities, advanced automation and explainable AI at the core. This will enable them to accelerate innovation, increase team collaboration and efficiency, and ultimately, achieve better business outcomes.”
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VP and EMEA CTO – Dynatrace
“Let’s start with what won’t be different in 2021: end-users will demand always-on, highly-performant applications – and those applications will change faster than ever. Smart developers are increasingly embracing autonomous platforms that can tune and optimize themselves without human intervention. Monitoring autonomous platforms is largely for reporting and compliance. For other platforms, modern monitoring solutions leverage a combination of machine learning and built-in domain knowledge to allow non-experts to quickly understand what’s going on and take action – not truly autonomous, but still highly-automated.”
“Ultimately, an application may span both types of environments, so monitoring solutions necessarily must be able to cope with applications that leverage a wide variety of platforms, across on-premises and multiple clouds, and increasingly with applications composed of ethereal technologies such as containers and microservices. Oracle is leading the evolution of application monitoring by providing the best of both worlds – autonomous platforms that eliminate human intervention and a portfolio of enterprise monitoring and observability solutions that can automate the management of whatever combination of platforms our customers ultimately choose to leverage.”
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Vice President, Product Management – Oracle Corporation
“The abrupt shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic has increased the urgency for companies to use digital experience monitoring (DEM) products to ensure the productivity of their remotely working employees. Our SaaS-based DEM platform has supported an acceleration of business from companies in all industries, as companies seek to ensure an excellent user experience for all of their business critical apps and employee devices.”
“With many vendors claiming APM and application monitoring, it’s difficult for companies to identify solutions to their particular problems. In 2021 we will start to see a bifurcation of products into “top-down” (centered around end-user experience) vs. “bottom-up” (focusing on infrastructure) monitoring. Products which were generally lumped together as “APM” will start to branch into DEM and AIOps to more effectively address the needs of their respective users. DEM will continue to evolve end-user-experience and distributed tracing to provide higher-level insight to application and business leaders, while AIOps will leverage ML/AI to help IT teams manage the ever-increasing complexity of modern technologies such as serverless, container platforms and the dependencies they rely on.”
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Principal Scientist – Aternity
“The social distancing that was caused by COVID-19 means that many organizations cannot rely on face-to-face interactions to provide amazing services for their customers, with the retail, entertainment, and financial services being just a few examples of the industries that were impacted. Under these circumstances, digital channels are the only way that organizations can continue to conduct business. Observability platforms have become critical for organizations to provide amazing digital experiences and continue to generate revenue, and their developers can spend less time on troubleshooting issues and more time innovating.”
“We see three main forces reshaping the APM landscape in 2021. First, the shift from monolithic applications on-premises to microservices-based applications in the cloud will continue. Second, the increasing amounts of data and its importance will require the evolution from simple monitoring tools that look only for known issues to Observability platforms that can analyze ALL data and derive insights in real-time. Finally, there will be increased adoption of open standards, such as OpenTelemetry, in order to give APM customers more flexibility and freedom than ever before. Splunk understands the importance of data, which is why our platform is the only one that can ingest all metrics, traces, and logs (the three pillars of Observability), and process them through a streaming AI engine that provides insights within seconds and not minutes.”
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Director of Product Marketing – Splunk
The COVID-19 pandemic is something that hardly anyone saw coming. Despite the current situation we all find ourselves in, we feel confident about our business because of the solutions that we are able to offer our customers. During this time of uncertainty, we also provide a few things that people are craving: flexibility and predictability. Our Cloudflex Credits subscription model will keep us competitive because it offers our customers the ability to choose how and when to consume important machine data. Gone are the days of on-demand charges, which means our customers can spend less time with their finance and procurement teams and more time focusing on their business objectives.
The silo-ed APM solution is on its deathbed. Long live Observability! COVID-19 has accelerated the move to cloud and microservices, which will also accelerate the adoption of a consolidated approach to monitoring, APM, and log management. We can expect that in the next year or so, siloed solutions for application management will be discarded as their licensing agreements expire and engineering teams are free to choose again.
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Director of Product Marketing – Sumo Logic
“As AdRem sales both to USA, EMEA, and APAC (mainly Japan and Australia), we benefit from various stages of pandemic and leverage slowdown in various markets with growth in others. The overall outlook is positive, as many companies understood that IT is not only important, it is simply a backbone and blood of a company in any industry. After the initial wait and see period, we see increased activity because companies that would usually delay and minimize IT upgrades realized that they need to invest to support an unusual number of remote workers and remote services. Overall sales volume has increased for the first half of 2020, and except for some new investments delayed because of lockdown, most orders are closing as planned.”
“We see an increased volume of IoT, sensor devices, and other data sources that are now part of IT networks and broaden the common performance metrics from standard network devices. As in other areas, we see blended environments that people expect to monitor seamlessly, network on-premises and cloud applications, office networks, but also IP cameras and environmental sensors, production status metrics, and security events from the access control system. So the goal that we have is to collect and process data from any possible source to offer extensive insight into the IT environment. Scalability to hundreds and thousands of metrics from single monitoring server and rule-based monitoring is key to detect anomalies and prevent service degradation. Our goal is to deliver just that without bothering IT teams with manual configuration of the monitoring system.”
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VP Partners & Alliances – AdRem
“A focus on how microservices (and the observability of them) is business-critical, enabling enhanced user experience and reduced costs incurred from application latency and downtime. During a time like this, the most successful companies position themselves and their products and “need to haves” rather than “nice to haves”, and deliver strong customer engagement and support to solidify themselves as key components of their customers’ day-to-day lives.”
“We are confident that more and more companies and teams will continue to move away from monolithic architectures in favor of more distributed, microservice-oriented ones. The 2010 decade was all about migration of infrastructure to the cloud, while the 2020 decade will be about optimization of those clouds and the applications that run on them. In this “cloud 2.0”, companies will invest in solutions that increase end user experience, efficiency and uptime of revenue-generating applications. However, the downside of moving to more distributed environments is the significantly increased data complexity that comes along with them, which traditional APM solutions are simply not built for. At Epsagon, we’ve built a lightweight, auto-instrumented tool for architectures running Kubernetes and serverless that offers trace-centric APM with granularity and correlation down to the payload level, which will cater to the companies building the most efficient applications in the “cloud 2.0” years to come.”
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CEO & Co-Founder – Epsagon
When our customers on IT teams had to alter their networks, processes and focus to accommodate working from home, they needed answers quickly as to the efficacy of their solutions and whether they would work for their end-users and the business. More and more customers and prospects came to Exoprise looking for answers in testing and monitoring their collaborative solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, and Slack.
Our customers are demanding more solutions that enable them to handle and understand the performance, availability and uptime when employees are working from home. Network administrators and support personnel need to ensure services and applications are meeting the needs of critical business functionality. For that they are turning to Exoprise Service Watch our Real User Monitoring and Digital Experience product that’s specifically designed for SaaS services, applications that the administrators don’t own, and Single Page Apps like Outlook Web App, Gmail, Salesforce, SharePoint and more. Exoprise Service Watch comprehensive proactive performance monitoring that can assist remote workers and an employee workforce that is mostly working from home.
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Founder and President – Exoprise
“COVID-19 has impacted different businesses in different ways, some positive and some negative. Instana was already well-positioned to succeed in a difficult business environment by having a transparent, all-inclusive, competitive pricing model as well as software that enjoys viral adoption across our customer base. The end result is that 50% of Instana’s customers realize a full ROI in 6 months or less. Instana continues to obsessively improve the overall customer experience to ensure the greatest possible customer value.”
“For years, APM solutions have been expanding their breadth of offerings to become expansive monitoring platforms. Many APM solutions have become giant data lakes with difficult user experiences relegating usage to a small set of experts. In 2021 and beyond we will see a significant focus on expanding the usability of APM platforms to a broader user base as well as investments in creating useful information from the data lakes. We will see the solutions with the most advanced automation and intelligence rise above solutions that require manual implementation and data analysis.“
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CEO, Co-Founder – Instana
“We benefit from IT monitoring being an oxygen product. What do I mean by that? Think about products being oxygen, a painkiller, or just a vitamin pill. Customers can’t live without oxygen, but they sure can skip on their vitamins for a while without suffering too much. Our product Checkmk is pretty close to oxygen for any IT department, thus we have not really been affected by COVID-19. With companies being more reliant on their remote desktop and VPN infrastructure, we have increased our already broad monitoring coverage of these areas even further to help our customers monitor any performance issues impacting remote work. You can read more about how to properly monitor your remote work infrastructure in our blog about ensuring problem-free connections from the home office.”
“Remote work will become the new normal for companies across the board. A smoothly working IT infrastructure is key for users to be able to access resources and applications. With the increased strain on networks, monitoring your network infrastructure, e.g. VPN gateways, firewalls and switches become key in solving issues before they impact your users. For any APM and application monitoring, it will thus be essential to fuse information from APM tools with information from IT infrastructure monitoring tools to uncover wherein the stack potential problems and bottlenecks lie. APM tools will thus need to offer this functionality or integrate with IT infrastructure monitoring tools and vice versa.”
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CEO, Tribe29 GmbH – Checkmk
“As on organization, Sematext has been 100% remote for over 10 years already, so there was virtually no impact of Covid-19 on how Sematext functions. Because of that Sematext kept delivering both new functionality and the service itself without any interruption. As a matter of fact, our productivity went up. Other than losing a handful or very small customers there was no impact on business or revenue. Furthermore, Sematext was built by engineers who work remotely, so sharing, collaboration, and other functionality that assumes teammates are not all physically collocated has been an integral part of Sematext Cloud from day one.“
“On the real user monitoring and synthetic monitoring side of APM we expect all APM vendors to catch up with Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics, and on the application and infrastructure monitoring side OpenTelemetry is a project to watch, which is why at Sematext we are ensuring there is good alignment with it.”
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CEO – Sematext Group, Inc.
“Today, applications are decoupled, multi-cloud and more complex. APM products have evolved to match the needs of architecture transformed by the rise of microservices, containers and the DevOps movement. In future, APM vendors will face fewer challenges storing and processing larger volumes of data due to cloud providers cutting costs. The way forward is to make monitoring part of life for all teams, not just the domain of engineers. This means communicating the value of fixing errors with the customer impact and dollar value associated with improvements. As a result, customer-centric software teams will be able to proactively improve software quality and prioritize the customer experience.”
“What we are experiencing now is not business as usual. While the next twelve months will be hard to predict, there will be an opportunity to fit the evolving requirements of customers in application monitoring for 2021. Making sure we have robust systems has been a major focus; cost-saving, optimizing resources, and upgrading our infrastructure will help us both remain competitive and allow us to deliver even greater value to our customers.”
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Product Specialist – Raygun
“One of the biggest challenges companies face related to COVID-19 is adapting to remote work. These challenges impact not only ways of working, but also the enabling systems. As a fully remote, globally distributed company, Netdata already has systems and processes in place to support remote work. Netdata’s products help IT professionals monitor and troubleshoot infrastructure, regardless of the location of the person or the system, through one easy, cloud-based platform. We’ve seen a steady increase in the adoption of the Netdata solution as more and more companies need to support new demands driven by COVID-19. The next twelve months will be hard to predict. However, this also creates a host of opportunities for those companies that can best develop on the right emerging technologies and also fit the evolving requirements of customers in application monitoring for 2021 and beyond.”
“We believe that APM and infrastructure monitoring will need to fundamentally change in response to the ever-increasing volume of data and operational complexity that comes with scaling environments. Whether driven by digitization initiatives, multi-cloud and/or hybrid-cloud deployments, edge computing, or adapting to IoT, organizations will face more challenges monitoring and troubleshooting their systems and applications. We believe that a radical rethinking will be required to democratize data and monitoring within the organization. Teams will need to be able to easily collaborate with each other and work in parallel without massive investments in preplanning, training, and maintenance. Monitoring today is expensive, complex, and isn’t suited to troubleshooting. It’s more about a bird’s-eye view than it is a tool for getting to the root cause of an anomaly quickly and easily. That’s precisely the problem that Netdata was founded to solve.”
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Senior Developer Advocate – Netdata
“In today’s cloud world you can get Anything as a Service. Tomorrow’s cloud is more of the same. The complexity of the infrastructure is now hidden behind APIs. This outsourcing of specialization has allowed application development teams to deploy and scale their own applications with minimal operational involvement. It also means developers themselves are increasingly responsible for their own application’s performance and what they control – their code. Simply put, APM is for developers. Scout APM will continue to focus on developers by providing clear, actionable performance metrics and insights in order to continually monitor, identify, and highlight performance issues quickly so developers can stay focused on coding.“
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CTO – Scout APM
“For the last 5 years or so, network architectures have been moving from centralized to fully distributed while cloud technologies are more and more present within our customers’ IT stack. COVID-19 accelerated some projects and with all the people working remotely, some network and application infrastructures came under stress like never before. It has been a great opportunity for the Obkio Team to demonstrate how fast and useful our solutions are to monitor end-to-end network performance, including core network devices, data centers and cloud connectivity.”
“APM is key when using cloud applications. However, it needs to be done the right way. APM for application operators is not the same APM that application users should deploy. The only performance that matters is the one that end-users experience. Being able to monitor network and application performance is key to pinpoint issues, react quickly and increase the end-user satisfaction. The next years are crucial and IT administrators must get the right tools to help them succeed with this task. The time when everything was centralized in the HQ or Datacenter is over and monitoring tools must follow that change.”
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Founder and CEO, Obkio
The Future of APM – In Summary
For the past several months, there’s been a sharp shift toward remote working and also a noticeable surge in online traffic as a direct result of the global pandemic. This change has made it mission-critical for companies to implement APM, observability, and more automation in managing software, infrastructure, network, logs, and user experience. Furthermore, there’s been a rush towards cloud, microservices, or serverless solutions.
In many cases, organizations are spread across traditional infrastructure and software solutions while making the transition to cloud computing and monitoring. This diversification means that in the future APM and observability leaders will have to focus on a consolidated approach in their service offerings. As well as ensuring that pricing will not only be all-inclusive but also, on the other hand, offer organizations a buffet-style selection of monitoring services and features.
The stand-out companies and visionaries of the future will be those able to offer the best balance of advanced technologies and unified solutions, that are flexible and of excellent value. Organizations looking to be more proactive and predictive in preventing issues and improving the digital experience for customers and employees, even during unexpected periods of increased demand, will do well to examine the above companies.