A Comparison of Top Application Performance Monitoring Tools
A Comparison of the Top 9 Application Performance Monitoring Tools
In the competitive business world, building a robust software application becomes a vital part of the business. Ensured application performance requires consistent monitoring across several aspects. However, building dedicated tools from scratch is time-consuming and likely unviable.
Several application performance monitoring (APM) tools are available to make it easier for development and operation teams. But before diving into that – what does an APM tool essentially do? Well, as the name suggests, it monitors the performance of your application – primarily by detecting issues, recognizing patterns, and providing insights that enable developers to focus on the most important aspects of their application. This makes sure that performance issues in your application don’t go unnoticed and can be worked upon to improve the overall customer experience.
This post will go through some of the top APM tools and compare them based on specific criteria. Here’s an outline of what we’ll be covering so you can easily navigate the guide:
- Important Criteria for Evaluating APM tools
- Top 9 APM tools out there
Important Criteria for Evaluating APM tools
Each software application has a different kind of requirement and business problem to solve. For example, one application would want to focus on high availability, whereas another would like to scale well. Based on the application’s requirements, your monitoring preferences may vary.
When choosing or evaluating an APM tool, it is essential to consider multiple factors based on what you want to achieve. Below is a list of some of the most important aspects to consider for evaluating APM tools:
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis.
- Data Granularity
- Ease of Use and Implementation
- Programming Language Support
- Tool Integrations
Let’s look at them in detail.
Traceability & Root cause Analysis
When an error occurs, the APM tool is supposed to effectively trace the location and cause of the error and send out corresponding alerts. Traceability is a crucial aspect of monitoring tools that can save a lot of time in debugging issues.
Quantitative metrics that allow developers to benchmark their application’s performance play a key role in evaluating performance over time. Therefore, it is vital to look out for the most important metrics to our application before choosing an APM tool.
Here are some common yet essential metrics that APM tools can provide:
- Transaction rate
- Response time
- Page load time
- Load on the host machine
Data security is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing an APM (or, for that matter, any software) tool. Monitoring tools should not only follow proper security standards and protocols to make sure that your application data is safe but also be able to effectively detect and alert about potential security anomalies or breaches in your application.
Ease of Use / Implementation
APM tools, like any other software application, should be user-friendly and easy to set up. The easier it is for teams to work their way around these tools (for example, through neat dashboard UI and UX, clean visualizations, graphs, data representations, etc.), the better their overall experience.
Programming Language Support
Another criterion by which we can evaluate APM tools is the number of programming languages that it supports. More language support allows developers to rest assured that if they were to switch to (or incorporate) another programming language in their stack, they could do it without worrying about setting up another APM tool from scratch.
Technical support is an important aspect while choosing an APM tool. Depending on your APM tool, support is offered through chat, email, or phone. The more technical support developers have, the easier it is for them to navigate issues and challenges that might otherwise hinder action.
As the name suggests, this criterion represents how well the tool integrates with other applications and services. Easier integration with third-party tools can make the overall monitoring process much more flexible and effective. For example, think about integrating the APM tool with a messaging platform like Slack and configuring it, so your team receives a notification each time there is a performance bottleneck.
Top 9 APM tools out there
Now let's look at some of the best APM tools in the market and discuss them based on the criteria discussed above.
ScoutAPM is a leading-edge APM tool that focuses on helping developers identify and resolve performance issues with minimum effort. It provides an in-depth analysis of your application’s performance and highlights potential performance bottlenecks. Scout APM performance insights can identify problems such as N+1 queries, memory bloat, slow database queries, and many more.
Monitoring performance anomalies is made super easy with ScoutAPM. It provides an intuitive dashboard that helps in analyzing response times and identifying endpoints that are causing performance bottlenecks. Scout APM offers real-time alerting via email support, along with a Slack channel for its users to discuss performance issues. Additionally, Scout recently launched its error monitoring feature add-on that provides all the observability insights you need without paying for the ones you don’t and connects all that data within one platform.
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: It excels in these features and provides in-depth traceability for your application’s codebase. It makes it easy to identify bottlenecks in your source code without adding any instrumentation.
- Performance monitoring: Scout provides granular data about response time, throughput and N+1 queries, memory bloat insights, and much more.
- Security: Scout is safely installed in your application under HIPAA compliant agreement and collects the application data only from the user configuration of the requests.
- Ease of Use: Scout’s dashboard provides a neat, developer-centric UI needed for analyzing application performance.
- Programming Language Support: It provides support for Ruby, Python, Elixir, PHP, and Node.js.
- Integrations: Supports integrations with many important tools such as GitHub, Sentry, and Rollbar. Scout also provides integrations with slack and email to provide real-time alerting for both performance issues and errors.
New Relic APM
New Relic APM is an alternative to Scout APM that provides analysis on web and non-web applications performance. It gives a big-picture view of your application and several insights about its performance – throughput, CPU usage, database loads, query performance, etc. For developers and teams who want to master the tool, they also provide certification training, courses, and webinars, along with 24x7 live technical support.
Among many other things, it helps:
- Analyze the performance of database queries and tracking slower database transactions, and
- To identify CPU and transaction-level errors along with memory leaks in your applications.
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: New Relic scores well in this criterion because of its full-stack observability, i.e., you can visualize, analyze, and troubleshoot your entire software stack in one unified platform.
- Performance monitoring: It performs well on providing a granular view of the data, with metrics such as transaction time within the application, latency, throughput, and Apdex score. It also includes response times, throughput metrics, and error rates both as figures and time-sampled graphs.
- Security: It provides an option to enable a high-security mode where users can configure what kind of data the APM tool can receive.
- Ease of Use: In our experience, we have found that it takes some time and effort to understand what all the data represents and how it can be useful for performance analysis.
- Programming Language Support: It supports many languages, including – C, Go, Java, .NET, Node.js, PHP, Python, and Ruby.
- Integrations: It provides integrations with a wide variety of applications and services.
Datadog is a platform for monitoring application analytics and security for developers, operation teams, security engineers, and business owners in the cloud space. It is used across different levels of enterprises for cloud performance monitoring.
Datadog is an all-in-one solution for enterprise applications. Some of the crucial functionalities it covers are:
- Providing tools for team integrations.
- Easy to apply custom functions (like average rates, ratios, integrals, etc.) on metrics.
- Log management for your entire application infrastructure.
- Full-stack observability for your entire technology stack.
- Application and infrastructure-level security, crucial for enterprise applications.
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: Datadog provides distributed tracing for the application, giving deep visibility into your application’s issue traces.
- Performance monitoring: Its dashboard cleanly provides data for monitoring requests, network latency, browser sessions, errors, and latency.
- Security: All data transactions between Datadog and its users are protected using Transport Layer Security (TLS) and HTTPS. Customer data is encrypted and is only accessible after a series of authentication and authorization.
- Ease of Use: Several users find Datadog’s setup, alert-rule configurations, and working with custom metrics to be a little complicated.
- Programming Language Support: Datadog provides support in almost all programming languages.
- Integrations: Datadog provides built-in integrations across all systems, apps, and services.
Raygun is a software intelligence platform. It is an all-inclusive package that combines features like crash reporting, user monitoring, deployment tracking, and user tracking. Raygun provides detailed diagnostics and actionable insights for developers to fix issues in their applications. It provides observability into server-side traces and mobile app support.
Here are some of its salient features:
- Traceability and crash reporting analytics
- Error grouping in crash reporting
- Inbound filtering for errors
- End-user experience monitoring
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: Raygun provides full transaction and root-cause diagnostics on your application.
- Performance monitoring: Raygun provides essential data to monitor transactions and root causes for the performance bottleneck and errors. It also offers notifications for client bugs and crashes in real-time.
- Security: Raygun provides an option to remove sensitive data from the error logs, which helps keep the data. It also offers two-factor authentication and more control over specifying user-level access and permissions.
- Ease of Use: Raygun’s dashboard metrics are easy to understand; it’s straightforward and easy to set up and configure.
- Integrations: Raygun provides integration for crash reporting with most of the essential tools and services.
Dynatrace is an all-in-one solution for application performance monitoring specializing in support for web enterprises and cloud-based systems. Among many of its features, it provides support for business transaction monitoring, user experience (UX) metrics, mobile monitoring breakdowns, user experience tracking, and infrastructure monitoring.
Dynatrace also includes support for synthetic monitoring, which is essentially a tool for emulating user actions and traffic on your application. This can provide information to developers about how their applications can scale and whether the computation infrastructure needs to be upscaled or not.
Here are some features:
- Traceability and root cause analysis to get in-depth insights on performance.
- AI engine for active incident management.
- Clean, customizable dashboard interface for your applications’ needs.
- Operational monitoring and options for managing cloud infrastructure
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: Dynatrace provides analysis of every error, including its root cause, multidimensional analysis, and a stack trace for developers to debug.
- Performance monitoring: It collects data and provides valuable insights through real user monitoring, synthetic monitoring, log monitoring, database Analysis, and lots more.
- Security: It provides options for managing groups and permissions, which can be crucial for enterprise applications.
- Ease of Use: Dynatrace provides a dashboard, but there’s some room for improvement in delivering actionable data insights and an overall user experience.
- Programming Language Support: It supports a vast number of programming languages and frameworks.
- Integrations: Dynatrace integrates well with some important tools and services such as Trello, Slack, Jira, and Bitbucket. It also supports webhooks for integrations.
AppDynamics is a tool for website and application performance monitoring that Cisco acquired in 2017. It provides business-focused analytics along with analytics reports, alert notifications for developers and operation teams.
Users can choose between two different plans, including a free trial – the Lite plan (limited units and data storage; free-forever) and the Pro plan (no limit on units and data storage).
Some of its features include:
- An application health dashboard
- Real-time business transaction monitoring
- Deep code-level diagnostics in production
- Detects business impact and spikes in performance
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: It provides in-depth root cause analysis with complete visibility and code diagnostics for isolating bottlenecks in your application.
- Performance monitoring: It does a good job at providing details about your application's, database, and infrastructure’s performance.
- Security: It provides configurations for hiding sensitive data by setting role-based access control, suppressing raw SQL capture, hiding query literals, and more.
- Ease of Use: The interface continues to improve; however, some people feel it involves a little bit of a steep learning curve and, therefore, a little complex.
- Programming Language Support: It supports various programming languages, frameworks, and cloud infrastructures.
- Integrations: It provides a lot of flexibility for users by supporting over 100 languages, frameworks, and technologies.
SolarWinds’ (AppOptics) APM is a simple, powerful, and affordable infrastructure and application performance monitoring tool that is easy to use and accelerates the identification of application performance issues. It is known for its out-of-the-box monitoring templates and easy customization options for effectively monitoring your applications.
Some of the features of SolarWinds are:
- Hardware health monitoring and capacity forecasting support.
- Custom templates for setting up monitoring easily
- Auto-instrumented application service topology map
- Infrastructure dependency mapping
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: It provides full-stack visibility into your application’s and infrastructure’s performance and health, along with root cause analysis of issues that are limiting performance.
- Performance monitoring: It allows you to bring a business context into your application’s performance monitoring–helping you know whether service level objectives are being met, along with an end-to-end view of all the interconnected components.
- Security: It receives only the data that customers have explicitly selected to forward and nothing more. Additionally, all data transactions take place through secure Transport Layer Security (TLS) encrypted connections.
- Ease of Use: The interface is quite user-friendly and straightforward, with most tasks being less than two clicks away.
- Programming Language Support and Integrations: It provides over 150 integrations with programming languages, frameworks, cloud services, and custom metrics.
Stackify Retrace is an APM suite that helps with performance management, centralized logging, code profiling, error tracking, server monitoring, and real user monitoring. Retrace enables developers to detect bugs and issues during development and quality assurance, and monitor app deployments. They also provide a sandbox environment that offers a glimpse of what the platform’s interface looks like, the insights, and all its features.
Some of those features are:
- SaaS-based APM tool designed primarily for developers.
- Transaction tracing – code level traces and detailed logs.
- Smart defaults as well as easily customizable (and shareable) dashboards with application health status.
- Lightweight code profiling and integrated, centralized logging.
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: It provides deep visibility into your application’s issues through detailed error logs and transaction traces and tracks errors that aren’t logged.
- Performance monitoring: Through easily customizable dashboards, it provides performance metrics for your servers, too, including server uptime, CPU, memory utilization, health, disk space, etc.
- Security: As far as security is concerned, all data transmitted to Retrace is SSL-encrypted except for logs and error messages.
- Ease of Use: The overall interface is quite user-friendly, easy to use, and navigate. Additionally, custom dashboards highlighting your applications’ most pertinent metrics provide great value.
- Programming Language Support: It is compatible with popular languages like JAVA, .NET, Node.js, Ruby, PHP, and Python.
- Integrations: It supports several tools and technologies for integrating with and expanding your ecosystem.
Some of its main features are:
- Lightweight and stable, built with Rust.
- Anomaly detection for configuring notification triggers when a metric value crosses a threshold value.
- Easy to add custom metrics/instrumentation to transactions.
- Traceability & Root Cause Analysis: With its fancy error tracker, AppSignal provides all the necessary error details for drilling down to the root cause. Additionally, it also tracks other similar error occurrences to discover patterns.
- Performance Monitoring: It captures various system metrics, allowing developers to correlate errors and performance issues to abnormal host metrics and gain insights into their applications’ performance.
- Security: Ideally, the tool only takes the least amount of metadata necessary for debugging an exception or performance issue. However, it does provide several configuration options for users to control the amount of information they want the tool to gather.
- Ease of Use: Aesthetic, user-friendly, customizable, and speedy dashboards and graphs (plus a visual builder tool) make the overall interface quite charming and easy to navigate.
- Integrations: Issue and alert notifications are enabled through integrations with several third-party services like Asana, Discord, Hangouts, Slack, and Trello. They also offer support for webhooks integration.
Choose an APM Solution for your Application
As mentioned before, choosing an APM tool that works best for you depends on the requirements of your application, audience, budget, team, among other factors. We hope this article gave you insight into the various popular APM tools out there and made it easier for you to make a decision.
If you are just starting out and haven’t finalized an APM tool to go with yet, we strongly recommend going ahead and giving Scout a try for free. With its easy installation and setup, streamlined interfaces, real-time insights, proactive alerting, a sensible price point, and always-on support, experienced developers know Scout is one of the best performance monitoring tools in the market!