|Application Performance Management – The Journey of a Technology Label|
|Written by Bojan Simic|
|November 29, 2010|
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Industry analysts tend to classify vendors into technology "buckets" and create "labels" for each of them, as that makes it easier to compare products, capture key trends and provide context around problems that these products are addressing. This method also resonates with some technology marketers, as it allows them to partially benefit from promotions that other vendors and media are conducting around a label of a technology bucket their product was put into.
The term "application performance management" (APM) has been one of the hottest technology "labels" over the last few years. Performance of enterprise applications impacts nearly all of the key business goals, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that technology solutions for managing performance of these applications has been very high on IT agendas. With that said, it should be even less of a surprise that technology vendors, who are involved in managing the delivery of applications to business users in any way, realized this opportunity and started calling themselves "APM vendors". However, every "hot" industry term has an expiration date attached to it and sometimes it doesn't take long for a company to go from being one of the biggest promoters of an industry term to getting to the point where it doesn't even want to be associated with it.
Back in 2008, there were more than 50 technology vendors that used the term APM to position products that they provide and that number is now down to less than 30. So, had these 20+ companies gone out of business or completely changed their product portfolios? No, but they had realized that the term APM got diluted and that it is in their best interest to separate themselves from technologies that address the same problem as they do, only from a different perspective.
Emergence of new categories
Being thrown into the same technology bucket with companies that are addressing a similar problem from a different perspective could be a major challenge for many technology companies. Organizations that are in this position typically have two options: 1) wait until the market matures to the point when it becomes obvious that their solution is significantly different than other products in the same "bucket", or 2) coin a new term to describe a category in which their product belongs, promote the heck out of it and hope that it will become an industry accepted term. It took a combination of these two approaches to somewhat change the boundaries of the APM "bucket". That resulted in more market awareness about the differences between two groups of products that are also addressing challenges of managing application performance, but doing it from different perspectives: end-user experience monitoring and business transaction management (BTM).
The increased interest of end-user organizations in having visibility into how their applications are performing, not only from the perspective of their IT departments but from the perspective of business users, resulted in more market awareness about the role that end-user experience monitoring solutions are playing in managing application performance. The market matured enough to become more aware of the fact that different flavors of technologies for monitoring the quality of end-user experience, such as those provided by Aternity, Knoa Software, Coradiant or AlertSite, do not compete against, but complement vendors such as OPNET, OpTier or Quest's Foglight.
On the other side, vendors that specialize in managing application performance from a business transaction perspective also found a way to raise awareness about the differences between their solutions and many other APM products. This resulted in an increased adoption of the term BTM when describing capabilities of these solutions. These solutions are taking a different approach when addressing issues with application performance, as compared to some other APM vendors, and enable organizations to monitor the performance of applications across an entire transaction flow. Some of the vendors that fall in this group include OpTier, Nastel, INETCO, Correlsense, Precise Software, dynaTrace and AmberPoint (acquired by Oracle).
It should be noted that because end-user experience monitoring and BTM products are addressing issues with application performance, this alone does not necessarily make these categories subsets of the APM. It is also important to mention that an end-user experience monitoring product category is not heterogeneous, as it includes products that provide different capabilities, are based on different underlining technologies or are being leveraged in different use cases.
Even though the emergence of new technology categories for managing application performance eliminated some of the confusion in the market, it did not make it much easier for end-users to sort through marketing messaging and find a product that is the best fit for their needs. If you look at messaging of APM vendors, many of them sound very similar, as the majority of them still rely on common themes such as "proactive management", "end-to-end visibility", "aligning IT with business" to describe their value propositions . But when you see how these products work, what they can do and listen to users talk about their experiences with deploying them, it becomes obvious why many vendors that fall into the APM category are almost never a part of the same RFP process.