Examining Application Performance in the Cloud Age – A Look at Observability

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Last updated on January 11th, 2024

Application performance suggests the operational capability of a deployed software application. It indicates in a calibrated manner how the application is responding to end users under conditions that the software application was designed for. 

Application performance and measurement is a crucial component of a business audit to ensure that software applications satisfy a particular business need as envisioned and expected. As such, application performance monitoring, measurement, and management become integral for all future optimization and design considerations in the application’s life cycle.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of application performance management in the cloud age, it’s essential to shed light on how application performance is evaluated.

Application Performance Management: Metrics Collection and Goals

For evaluating the performance of an application, the monitoring of key operative and telemetric data is done continuously. Performance data is collected under varying conditions of usage of the software application. The conditions could include performance metrics at peak and normal conditions. 

Response times based on the complexity of user actions and the path of navigation within the application are calculated and calibrated. The varying effect on the usage of infrastructure resources based on the volume of transactions by way of advanced telemetry is also measured. 

All in all, optimization is the key goal of application performance management. Optimization should cover usability, application availability, and response times. Application performance management is adopted to ensure that the design input and output of the application are as per acceptable performance standards and the ease of interactivity is as easy and conducive as possible. 

Application performance management is introduced to ensure that all possible indicators are addressed for business continuity. 

Application Performance Management and the Cloud

With the advent of the cloud and its associated services, application performance management with respect to cloud-centric operations has also evolved. Decisions on how to maintain a high level of performance of the application based on workloads, functions, infrastructure, and services offered specifically to the cloud are taken into consideration. 

Application performance management in the cloud also considers the complexities of the hybrid nature of the network bandwidth, latency, communication, and security infrastructure of the cloud environment.  

Application Performance Management and Observability

Maintaining and monitoring the state of an application in the cloud has become far more involved and complex. Using existing application performance management technologies and tools is insufficient. Just collecting predefined data and telemetrics of an application running in a cloud may not be accurate enough for continuously tweaking for optimal application performance.

Collecting application metrics and telemetric data of a cloud-based application might indicate a possible reason to visit an issue but not give the root cause of the issue. Tracing the root cause of a particular state of the application is challenging to accomplish using just performance data due to the complex environment of the cloud.

To that end, observability and application performance management are complementary technologies that can be used to monitor the visibility and state of any application in the cloud.

Observability – Taking Root Cause Analysis to the Next Level

The classic definition of observability comes from system control theory, where observability is a measure of how well the internal states of a system can be inferred from knowledge of its external outputs.

In observability, the data and telemetrics collected by application performance management tools are further analyzed to understand the state of the application and the environment it depends on. The overall behavior of the application within the system is taken into account, and then queries are built around that for root cause analysis for any system enhancements, errors, or upgrades.

Operational data collected is further mined and queried to get better visibility of the application’s state and whether business objectives are being met. Observability offers flexibility in querying monitored data available in dynamic ways. The more data points that are collected with their relationships, the more effective the adoption of observability. 

More observability means a clearer understanding of the system’s state, thus making decisions on application performance and interactivity more effective and accurate. In essence, observability also means the narrowing down of the root cause due to the availability of an increased number of data points.

Observability – 3 Pillars

Logs, metrics data, and traces are considered the pillars of observability of application performance. The data for these pillars are based on the application performance management tools installed within the system. This data is vital to observability. The focus or objective of observability is defined for that application, and then queries based on these objectives can be raised. 

Benefits of Observability

With observability, the application, the operating environment, the transmission network, and the endpoint are analyzed as a whole. The perceived complexity of the entire infrastructure is therefore reduced, and root cause analysis becomes easier and more accurate. 

Following the methodology of observability, the application and its performance could be optimized, thus improving end-user experience and business processes. Troubleshooting, challenging to trace error handling, and making sense of component responses are easier to address using the observability approach.

With intelligent query-based data mining ability of logs, traces, and other telemetry data, there is massive scope for asking varied questions about the state of the application and the operating environment.

Steps To Introduce Observability into Application Performance Management

To introduce observability into an enterprise, there has to be a relook into corporate strategy and whether an enterprise deployment is achieving the business goals. More profoundly:

  • An application’s observability has to be built around updated business processes to increase customer usability. 
  • There should be a focus on current metric collections, and gaps in data and analytic mechanisms must be unearthed.
  • A detailed study of how the introduction of observability into the enterprise can increase root cause discovery also needs to be done.
  • Existing application performance management tools and the data collected via the various dashboards must be updated and upgraded to take advantage of the visibility introduced by observability. 
  • Furthermore, IT teams must select appropriate observability platforms and vendors and ensure due diligence is done on their suitability to the enterprise.

Observability Is the Need of the Hour

Technology has evolved to collect a massive amount of data relating to the performance of an application and its environment. Unfortunately, just having colled vast amounts of data has not always addressed the issues of business processes, performance optimization, and better user experience. 

Favorably, with observability, a holistic view of the state of the system is possible, thus making it easier to ensure the objective of the business process itself is being met. 

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