Application Monitor: Checking Everything that Matters

Stackify Developer Tips, Tricks & Resources

Application monitor solutions are not novel but rather an evolutionary technology. These types of solutions answer the problems that most developers and DevOps teams encounter when building an application. Application monitor solutions help determine potential defects so developers can take corrective actions quickly. Hence, building an application is no longer complete without application performance monitoring (APM) solutions. 

Software development is a complex process. It continues to face many types of problems and risks that can jeopardize success if left undetected. For that reason, application monitor reports play an important role in application monitoring. Reports are intrinsic to all kinds of application monitoring and are essential to identifying what type of artifacts to monitor and the specific reports to display.

To leverage the use of APM solutions, developers opt for tools that provide reliable performance reports—the type of reports that truly reflect the system’s current state and give accurate corrective actions. In effect, APM providers now promote customized reports mapped for specific processes to aid in making sound decisions accordingly.

But before delving into how application monitors work, let’s first examine what software artifacts are.


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Application Artifacts for Optimal Performance

Software artifacts are just like historical artifacts and are the material by-products of software produced by the software development team. 

Artifacts are as important as the people who created them. Software development teams depend on artifacts to create templates and prototypes. Artifacts also improve the template design, help with the development process, provide insights, and differentiate work from other developers.

There are three main groups of software artifacts:

  • Project management artifacts – Used to test run the functionality of the codes by performing random checks for bugs and glitches during the development and deployment process.
  • Code artifacts – In application development, every feature is developed using codes that serve as the foundation for the software.
  • Documentation artifacts – Serve as the bible of the process. Technical writers keep records of all the relevant documents. These artifacts are important because they help developers replicate the process seamlessly using the documented procedures.

Artifacts review, also known as software inspections, are considered the most formal type of review. Today, enterprises consider AIOps compared to traditional analysis for reviewing artifacts and attaining optimal performance.

What is an Application Monitor?

Application monitors transform complex artifacts into information that is easy to read and understand. A monitoring system is a complex process of tracing, tracking, and logging numerous artifacts. Hence, monitoring tools help convert encrypted data into clear and legible reports. The software development team can gain insights on what specific corrective action to plan and execute.

Most APM solutions have an application monitor feature that helps identify and resolve design flaws. Agile development teams use APM solutions to monitor the constant addition of members, lines of codes, and other artifacts. Furthermore, to cope with the demand from the end-users, business owners and developers use this technology to evaluate the following:

  • Overall health and well-being of the application
  • Different types of artifacts such as forms and approval units
  • Individual “cherry picked” artifacts that are crucial to the system

Application monitors are generic or specific. Generic monitors provide general health information at design time to resolve artifacts with design flaws. Also, generic monitors cater to basic monitoring activities like server monitoring or network monitoring. 

Specific monitors identify measurable points presented in a graph or chart. For example, let’s look at memory management monitoring. It has a roadmap to prove progress and eliminate the guessing games that come with generic monitoring data. There are sophisticated features that let developers arrive at a resolution point quickly. Although while fixing issues, developers are often interrupted with additional symptoms. But, robust APM solutions provide information that will let you focus and refrain from wasting time resolving unrelated issues.

How to administer an Application Monitoring process

Tech leaders often concentrate on the process of monitoring, meaning, they think incorporating an APM or any monitoring tools in the development process is already enough. For example, tech leaders want to use monitoring metrics to cover generic information and not delve into the expected errors and exceptions. Another thing to consider is that tech leaders often fail to establish anticipated events that may occur in the application’s lifecycle.

One reason tech leaders are not more aggressive is that anticipating problems or errors is a tedious task. Also, problems that do not have a precedent are difficult to predict. Although application monitoring is an intrinsic part of performance management, an application monitor can’t prevent issues alone. It may, however, help raise timely alerts and provide corrective measures accordingly.

So, to leverage its full potential, it is important to administer an application monitoring process properly. Let’s dive deeper.

Finding the APM solution that suits your needs

There are elements to consider when managing application performance. For starters, find an APM solution that will help you achieve your end-user expectations. Remember, application monitoring deployments will work best when they go hand-in-hand with end-users in mind.

Outline your monitoring agenda

Understanding user expectations will help you outline a monitoring plan. This way, you can create a plan to take special care of the most critical areas within the application. Also, a monitoring agenda ensures that you have all the tools in place for optimizing the application performance monitoring process itself.

Determine the ideal time for application monitoring

Is there an ideal time to start application monitoring? In reality, there is no fixed way to determine the right time. However, it would be best if you implemented monitoring as part of your development process. Here are some pointers to consider:

  • Restrain your application from being utilized above its core capabilities. Memory leaks are a good example that require monitoring to pinpoint specific problems.
  • Prevent your system from crashing with an application monitor that helps you catch a potential error before it brings about a fatal system breakdown.
  • Monitor software failures to raise timely alerts and allow you to take corrective actions before the software fails.
  • Manage regular updates through monitoring tools that can help determine critical updates needed and raise timely alerts.

All About Application Monitor Graphs

While there are many log monitoring tools out there, it is vital to learn how their UI dashboards work. The best feature of most APM tools today are their App Dashboards. Most developers rely on App Dashboards to perform troubleshooting. For instance, do you want to monitor log files on both staging and production environments? Or do you want to monitor specific logs with a defined frequency of occurrence within a specified time? These are pretty easy with user-friendly dashboards.  

Monitor graphs provide a perspective of the overall application health across one or more environments. With Stackify by Netreo, the dashboard is user-friendly and is divided into major sections:

  • Dashboard
  • Monitoring
  • Performance (APM)
  • Errors
  • Logs

Dashboard Tab 

The Dashboard tab presents key health metrics of the application across the selected environments and time range. Here, you will see information related to Health, Performance, and Errors.  

Monitoring

Inside the Monitoring tab is the capability to configure your app instances and resources. Also, using selected environments creates application-specific monitors that only apply to the chosen app within the selected environment. 

Performance (APM)

The performance section presents reports on the overall app performance, as perceived by your users. A graph will display all created requests using the Satisfaction metric. You can view and get the numbers on how many “Fast,” “Sluggish,” “Too Slow,” or “Failed” requests your system receives.  

This section also displays the graphs related to HTTP Error%, Satisfaction Score%, and Page Load Time. Here, developers can sort each page request by different categories: satisfaction percentage, numbers of slow and failed pages, overall page hits, and total load time. Each page provides additional information such as other performance metrics, errors, and more. 

Errors 

The Error tab provides the overall error rate as reported by your application’s exception logging and presents a list of all the errors encountered categorized as New, Regressed, or All errors. Also, the Errors Details page provides additional information on a specific error.

Logs

Capture all your app logging messages with Retrace’s logging aggregation capabilities. You can configure your logs the way you want, and you’ll be able to see logs in the App Dashboard.

Setting the limits for Warning and Error Thresholds

The good thing with app monitoring is to prevent fatal breakdowns that may affect your business. In setting the limits for warning and error thresholds, there is a hierarchy of notification recipients. Yes, you can set warning and error thresholds for every artifact. However, it is essential to establish who will receive what. For example, the system should only notify developers with basic exceptions. But, what if a critical process or an error threshold exceeds its limit and yields catastrophic results? It is vital to notify the chief architect or the business owner at this point.  

Most APM tools add application properties so the application monitor can effectively analyze them. For example, Warning and Error Threshold alerts are color-coded, and when a warning is issued, the artifacts will turn yellow. If memory leak thresholds reach their limits, the artifacts will turn red, and the system requests will be denied at runtime. These practices are generally the same as other forms of development, but this makes application monitoring easy and reliable.

Launching an Application Monitor

“Usually, within 5-10 minutes, we know what’s happening. It made our DevOps guy so fast. Now, there’s way less time spent diagnosing an issue than without Retrace.” A statement from MyRacePass co-founder Zach Calmus as his company goes full throttle with Retrace

Launching an application monitor can be daunting. There are even times you may think you don’t need it. For instance, you launch an e-commerce website, it’s a moment of pride that you saw the things that you envisioned, and everything goes smoothly.

You think your job is done, but as traffic and transactions increase, your website starts to fail. Visitors and potential customers are unable to access the site — a common problem among business website owners. 

The best solution is to find a monitoring tool to identify what causes this problem. There are specific criteria you can refer to since this is a challenging process. When you want to monitor your application or website, the process is called profiling. Hence, you need to choose the best performance profiling tools in the market. 

Although the web has numerous providers, do your homework and study their features. For instance, Retrace offers website availability monitoring to determine your uptime results. Not only that, Retrace offers a bouquet of services like Real User Monitoring (RUM), error tracking, centralized logging, and others.

For a new website, the most common problem is downtime, so finding the right partner in monitoring is essential to make you confident in building an online presence. 

That is what happened with Crelate that uses Stackify by Netreo to solve its speed problem. Crelate is a SaaS-based consulting platform focused on recruiting and staffing. Its target market is recruiters all over the globe that connect to hundreds of candidates and clients. Time is crucial, but Crelate empowers recruiters with the help of Retrace and continues to gain momentum in the market.

Before using Retrace, Crelate had a big problem with measuring code performance and identifying regression – a significant challenge, especially in production. Crelate failed to detect regression until a bunch of customers were impacted. The issue was fatal because it had already affected multiple customers while reporting the error was still ongoing.

Whether you have a simple e-commerce website or a complex SaaS-based application, the time to launch your monitoring is the day you start your development. Most monitoring systems are highly advanced and provide excellent features that will help you kickstart a successful implementation. 

Keep in mind, always measure the impact of application monitoring tools on the application’s performance versus the results if there is no monitoring in place.

Monitor your application using Retrace

Application monitor solutions should cover everything, from server downtime to processes, services and hardware. An excellent application performance monitor also includes configuration changes. Today, application monitoring is no longer an option but a necessity. Hence, tech leaders should keep in mind that monitoring costs are already a part of development costs. 

Retrace provides Service Level Agreement (SLA) monitoring and end-to-end performance monitoring without draining your bank account. Stackify by Netreo has also successfully implemented the Prefix profiler, a free transaction tracing tool. Both products support IT enterprise applications that cater to hundreds of customers across the globe. Overall, Retrace and Prefix help developers in diverse environments, business processes, and service-oriented management applications.

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