Demand growing for application performance management tools, experts say

A combination of industry trends sent demand for APM tools skyrocketing in 2011.

The growing importance of reliable applications in the enterprise has opened a lucrative market opportunity for application performance management vendors, some of which have taken full advantage lately.

Two application performance vendors recently released gaudy, yet vague, growth numbers for 2011. AppDynamics claimed 400% growth in customer bookings, while rival BlueStripe boasted a 700% jump in revenues. And even though neither has released more detailed data behind these figures, analysts in the industry do not believe they are exaggerating, especially when considering the ongoing trends in the market.

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"With private companies, there is no way to know revenue numbers other than what they tell you," Julie Craig, research director for application management at Enterprise Management Associates, says. "However, many of the APM vendors I have spoken to recently do report triple-digit year-over-year growth, particularly this year. Budgets are freeing up somewhat, and part of the growth is a result of pent up demand. APM solutions are very hot right now."

Vic Nyman, co-founder and COO of BlueStripe, says his company, which he claims was in the "high-seven figures" for revenues in 2011 and will reach eight figures this year, has taken advantage of a market in which competitors have fallen flat.

Even as the CEO of a competitor himself, AppDynamics' Jyonti Bansal agrees with Nyman's assessment of the competitive landscape for APM tools. That's because many vendors trying to get in on the growing wave of customers in this space have marketed their broader network monitoring tools as those for APM, Bansal says. Customers, as a result, have gotten tripped up while trying to maintain an increasingly complex infrastructure without the right tools.

"It's kind of like operating a Boeing 757," Bansal says. "It's very powerful and very complex, but if you're operating without the right dashboard and cockpit or without auto-pilot, you can't really do it. It becomes very complex."

A survey of IT operations and support executives conducted by BlueStripe found that 64% of respondents manage applications that support seven or more technologies, as opposed to 20% whose applications support five to seven technologies and 16% with fewer than five. Resulting management issues appear to be dragging down efficiency, according to the survey. The top complaint, as cited by 64% of respondents, was that it takes too long to resolve business-impacting application outages. That was followed by a lack of support for the broad mix of technologies in their applications, claimed by 61%, and the need for too many subject-matter experts to resolve application incidents, cited by 60%.

Although 2011 was what many consider a turning point for the APM market, the trends pushing it to that level have been years in development. Mainstream acceptance of service-oriented architectures, cloud adoption and new approaches to application development have pushed many enterprise IT decision makers to incorporate APM tools alongside their network management arsenal, Craig says.

"Over the past year and a half, more companies have become aware of the need to move beyond infrastructure and network management to actual application management. The trend is being driven in part by cloud, and in part by new application architectures," she says. "These applications are way too complex to manage without application-specific management technologies. It simply takes too long to diagnose and fix performance issues manually."

Both executives pointed to these issues as top priorities for their companies, as well as the growing acceptance of e-commerce and adoption of the agile development life cycle for applications. Nyman says although the problems of monitoring and maintaining application performance in a complex environment are nothing new, what has changed is the recognition that APM can be simplified.

BlueStripe, AppDynamics and their customers, though, are hardly the only to have realized this, with competitors likely to catch up fast. Jonah Kowall, research director at Gartner, says the current marketplace is beneficial for innovators that have broken the mold, but as more light is shed on the opportunities, larger vendors that have so far remained idle will not be dormant for long.

"We are seeing a growing trend for SaaS delivery and other changes in the buying centers as well as the approaches that are being taken to capture end user experience, and deep-dive diagnostic capabilities," Kowall says. "These are shifting attention from many of the incumbent vendors to innovators in the market. Naturally the larger vendors are working to develop and acquire these capabilities to broaden their portfolios."

Colin Neagle covers Microsoft security and network management for Network World. Keep up with his blog: Rated Critical, follow him on Twitter: @ntwrkwrldneagle. Colin's email is

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