Let me guess: you’re probably expecting AppDynamics to be “another monitoring solution” for Windows Azure. You’re expecting it to show you basic server metrics like CPU, memory and disk I/O, along with a few CLR counters thrown in for good measure. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you–but these metrics in isolation are about as useful as a chocolate teapot for monitoring your applications and business in the cloud.
When end users interact with your Windows Azure application, they don’t experience servers, Windows Azure roles, CPU, or CLR counters. Rather, they experience business transactions. Monitoring infrastructure metrics in the cloud is probably the worst KPI for managing Quality-of-Service (QoS) and application performance. Another problem in the cloud is application architectures, which have become virtual, dynamic and distributed. Applications are no longer just an app server and database. SOA design principles and cloud application services mean that business transaction logic now executes across many distributed application tiers and services.
For example, the Windows Azure Plaform-as-a-Service (PaaS) platform has several services that allow organizations to run their mission-critical applications in the cloud. Windows Azure Compute provides web and windows services; Windows Azure AppFabric provides messaging, security and caching; and Windows Azure SQL Database and Windows Azure Storage provide data management capabilities.
A major challenge for organizations is gaining end-to-end visibility of how their business (transactions) perform in the Windows Azure cloud. AppDynamics was founded in 2008 to address this problem, and it’s a key reason why Microsoft announced AppDynamics as a partner to help their customers manage application performance within Windows Azure. For AppDynamics, it’s an enormous privilege and responsibility to be selected by Microsoft, given Windows Azure is a huge strategic play as Microsoft looks to dominate the cloud computing market.
So what’s the big deal with AppDynamics in Windows Azure? Let’s take a look at what unique capabilities AppDynamics offers for Windows Azure customers:
Application Mapping for Windows Azure Roles and Services
AppDynamics is able to automatically discover, map, and visualize the living topology and performance of a production application running inside Windows Azure. This allows organizations to understand the application tiers, Windows Azure roles, and service dependencies inside the Windows Azure cloud so they can rapidly isolate which components are responsible for slow performance or poor QoS. For example, take a look at the following screenshot of an application hosted inside Windows Azure:
Business Transaction-centric Monitoring
What’s unique about AppDynamics production monitoring is that our key unit of measurement is business transactions–rather than, say, web pages, servers, or CLR metrics. AppDynamics can auto-discover the business transactions that end users are experiencing in the application. This gives IT Operations and development teams the context and visibility they need to monitor and manage the end user experience, along with understanding how transactions flow across and inside each application tier, Windows Azure Role, and Services.
For example, take a look at this screenshot, which shows what business transaction monitoring looks like in AppDynamics:
Deep Diagnostics for Rapid Root-Cause Analysis
For situations where end users experience poor QoS, slow downs, or outages, it’s possible for organizations to pinpoint the root cause of issues in minutes using AppDynamics. AppDynamics uses intelligent analytics to self-learn and baseline the normal performance of every business transaction in an application. When performance deviates, AppDynamics captures complete diagnostic snapshots of business transactions that breach their performance baseline. Snapshots represent the complete distributed flow and code execution of slow business transactions as they execute across and inside each application tier, Windows Azure role and service. This means IT Operations and developers see right down to the line of code responsible for issues in production that impact their end users and QoS. Root cause is therefore only minutes away.
Here is a screenshot of how a single user business transaction executes within Windows Azure:
Here is the code execution of that same user business transaction within the 2nd Application Tier “LowValueOrders” worker role:
Auto–Scaling for Provisioning Windows Azure Resource On-the-fly
A key benefit of cloud is resource elasticity – the ability for an application to leverage additional computing resource on-the-fly, so it’s able to scale up and down all by itself. For auto-scaling to happen in Windows Azure, the application needs to know when to scale up and when to scale down. AppDynamics provides a comprehensive policy wizard that can auto-scale an application in Windows Azure based on business transaction KPI-like end user response time or throughput. For example, if order throughput in your application were to drop due to increased load on your application, you might want to spin up more Windows Azure compute (web/worker roles) to compensate for the additional demand until throughput stabilizes or load reduces.
For example, here’s a screenshot of the AppDynamics Windows Azure auto-scaling policy wizard:
If you want to try AppDynamics for Windows Azure check out our How To document to register for an AppDynamics account and start monitoring your Windows Azure app in minutes.