What is most valuable?
The flow map is very valuable to us. Before we installed APM, we had no idea how our application looked. If the developer who designed it decided to leave the company, we would be in dead waters. We had no idea what the application looked like. To understand the architecture, we would have to literally go back to the developers and ask them if they can at least put some blocks on paper. That was like, "okay, help me out, please. Let's go for dinner, let's go for lunch. You have to do something."
After installation of APM, we realized the value within five or ten minutes. We could see what our application looked like and this created value for upper management. They better understood that our single point of failure is a database connected to 10 or 15 servers. This is the only single point of failure. AppDynamics became our risk management tool. Now the senior management comes in, has a look, and says, "If you have a single point of failure, who is looking into this? Do we have a plan to make another database, a standby?" This is the key value that I see in this tool, and for which everyone is loving the company.
What needs improvement?
I would like to see more of a unified platform. They're very, very new on the server side, machine agents. I want them to be more mature in this area. The approach I understand they're taking is that we connect between an application and the server, but that's it.
That's the point where, if you have to describe the value of this tool in front of a super–techie Windows administrator, he will not appreciate the tool, because he's not getting the metrics that he wants to see. He wants to see message queue size. He wants to see how his virtual memory looks. He wants to see packets incoming, outgoing, what's the packet drop rate. He wants to see many, many technical details, which is not what we want.
Since I want to keep happy both sides of the board, I cannot live with just one application side being happy in the company.
For how long have I used the solution?
We have used APM for about a year.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
We have not encountered any stability issues.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We have not reached a stage where we can talk about scalability, so I'm not the right one who can answer.
How are customer service and technical support?
I have used technical support. They jump on right in. If the individual is not able to understand my question, or if he thinks that he is not the right technical fit for this case, he will not hesitate to say so. Whereas I've worked with so many vendors and nobody says that they don't know something. They all say that they’re the best. So, support is good. It's a very stable application, no issues so far.
We have other monitoring tools, so I can easily compare them.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We were not using anything previously. They were relying on custom scripts and manual actions.
How was the initial setup?
Unfortunately I was not involved in the initial setup, but I'm expanding AppDynamics to a larger audience now. I am implementing it in other parts of our office.
The implementation is very straightforward. They have done a good job understanding the difficult areas of installation and configuration. They have just one agent that you have to just use as a start option for a program. So when you start an application, you have to tell the application that when you start, use this agent. You don't have to make any changes in your application. You don't have to make any changes on the server. You don't have to make any changes on your web server. So they've done an intelligent job in not putting pressure on the application team to redesign. It's very simple, straightforward.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
They have to look into the money aspect. It becomes difficult on the people who are advocating for the tool in their organization. I have to go and literally convince my upper management to give me more funds because it's beyond my budget capacity. It becomes so difficult for me and my upper management to get convinced that, yes, this is the right tool.
As a technical person, and as an application development team, they all understand that this is the right tool for us. But when it comes to budget and financial matters, it takes days and weeks to convince upper management to buy this tool. So they should do something more on licensing costs.
What other advice do I have?
When choosing a vendor to work with, I want to know how truthful is he with me when he's talking. I don't want him to be a sales guy coming up and trying to sell me something. He should be honest in his opinion. He should be truthful when he says that, "yes this tool will solve your problem". I don't want a person who comes and says that AppDynamics is the gold and he will solve world hunger and poverty. I don't want to hear that. Tell me the benefits, tell me the drawbacks, and leave it up to me to decide whether these drawbacks are something that I can live with or not.
That's one. Second, I would like my partner to understand that he should understand our environment first. He should not come on day one and say, "here I am, I have 20 years of experience, I will solve your problem". 20 years, yes you do have, but you have an [outer world experience, not with my company. So come sit here for seven days and look into the environment. I will get you the meetings that you need, but first understand us and then give me a pitch. So I want him to be careful with what he wants to say; don't jump the gun.
Third, help with the technical aspects. I've faced a lot of problems with other tools. Everyone says that, "yes, I am the champion, I can solve the problem", and I don't want to hear that. Tell me how much you know, as simple as that. I'm learning, you are learning, everyone keeps on learning everyday. So just put how much you know on the table. I need that honest opinion, honest answer, from my vendor or my partner. If you keep bluffing me, or you keep making me a fool, that will last for a week, a month, or a year, but not more than that.
With the limited features that we have used so far, I would rate APM an 8/10. The reason I don't want to rate them a 10 is that I've not used the tool to full capacity. So far, I have no issues. It has all the features that I need. But, there are some areas that they are lacking. If I have to get into technical details, I would say more on the JBoss, web server side, they are lacking some functionality.
I will definitely recommend AppDynamics. Look into APM and see if it fits in your environment. We know there are many APM software competitors. Go for it and at least give a try. Set it up to use in your environment. If you don't have a server, AppDynamics has a SaaS portal, and they can immediately install one controller for you. I would recommend that you understand the difficult areas you have in your environment. Just because it's a fancy tool, don't go for it.
Understand the difficult areas. Where are the areas that you get the most hit from the customers? It can be customer service complaining that your websites are slow. But that's a very subjective statement. What does the slow mean? So try to understand those areas. If you have more clarity, you can talk more intelligently to the AppDynamics team. But give it a try.