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AppDynamics APM update reflects collaborative IT trend

Customers of AppDynamics say the Spring '17 release aligns with the trend to share tools and improve coordination between developers and IT operations.

Dueling monitoring tools for different teams in enterprise data centers may be a thing of the past, according to AppDynamics APM customers.

Full stack monitoring tools such as AppDynamics' Developer Toolkit and Enterprise iQ, released and updated this week, follow the new path IT operations and developers increasingly take to work together.

"Traditionally, it had been really difficult for the [operations and software engineering] teams to see what was really going on in production," said Nuno Pereira, CTO of iJET International, a risk management company in Annapolis, Md.

During the two years Pereira has been with the company, operations engineering and software engineering became a collaborative effort to move the company's 15-year-old legacy data center to the cloud and to split legacy apps into microservices, to which Enterprise iQ and Microservices iQ have contributed.

"Even with our classic legacy apps, the level of reliability has shot through the roof with the visibility we can get," Pereira said of the move to cloud-native apps.

Enterprise teams such as iJET's that seek more common ground is a growing trend that's important for IT ops pros. Tools such as the AppDynamics' Developer Toolkit release and Enterprise iQ software updates, the first product news for AppDynamics since its acquisition by Cisco in January, push further into both development and operations environments. Other dev-focused application performance monitoring (APM) vendors such as New Relic now seek to broaden their appeal into the ops audience with new support for infrastructure monitoring and integration with ops-focused tools such as Splunk.

"There is definitely an advantage to having development and operations use as many tools in common as possible," said Milan Hanson, an analyst at Forrester Research. "It's not just a ploy to open a new market; it really is in response to what customers need."

AppDynamics APM tweaks developer visibility, licensing flexibility

The new AppDynamics Developer Toolkit offers ways for developers to access production-level full stack monitoring data. A feature called Developer Mode Business Transactions allows devs to capture snapshots for every invocation of a business transaction, normal or abnormal. It's meant to be used in pre-production environments to understand the behavior of a business transaction, and help keep poor code out of the production environment. AppDynamics APM previously provided Development Mode at a very coarse-grained level.

Having development and operations use as many tools in common as possible. It's not just a ploy to open a new market; it really is in response to what customers need.
Milan Hansonanalyst, Forrester Research

The Developer Toolkit also includes new support for the Go language, Xamarin mobile development platform and an Android Studio plug-in. Pereira said the Go language support will be useful.

For IT ops, such updated support for new language types and third-party software will be easier to get now, through a new licensing program for Enterprise iQ that will let customers exchange previously purchased Java agents for new Go agents at no charge.

In the past, buying agents for products like AppDynamics APM in bulk could be a risky proposition, Pereira said: Enterprises that bought too many agents of a particular type were stuck with them.

The new AppDynamics APM licensing updates also introduce a dashboard and other management features that allow customers to assign and reassign license keys as IT environments change, as well as a universal agent that will allow those reassignments without redeploying the agents on application hosts.

"In a QA test environment you're running tests and you contaminate your environment, [and] then you have to reset it to a known state in order to run the next test," Hanson said. "In that situation you're creating and destroying environments on the fly -- that could become a licensing nightmare."

With this release, the universal agents support Java and Machine monitoring types, but support for Go environments will be added later.

Full stack monitoring integration with Cisco still on the agenda

The AppDynamics Spring '17 release was in the works before Cisco acquired the company earlier this year, but customers and industry watchers already envisioned the possibilities for integration with Cisco network management tools. Such integrations remain on the to-do list, and analysts expect to see some early efforts this year.

Combining AppDynamics' features with the data Cisco collects from networks is an obvious move for Cisco to make, said Nancy Gohring, analyst at 451 Research.

"It makes sense to pull network monitoring data into AppDynamics and correlate it with the other data that AppDynamics is already collecting," Gohring said. "That would also have more roles in the enterprise sharing the same tools."

It's no surprise that Cisco has allowed AppDynamics to operate completely independently so far as it ensures consistency for AppDynamics customers, although expectations of deeper integration with Cisco will necessitate a tighter relationship, said Forrester's Hanson.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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