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2024 Guide to Top Application Performance Monitoring (APM) Tools and Platforms

Application performance monitoring (APM) is the process of tracking and analyzing metrics on the performance of software applications. APM tools provide development and IT teams valuable insights to optimize applications, resolve issues, and improve user experience.

With digital transformation accelerating across every industry, application performance is more critical than ever. Even minor performance problems impact revenue, brand reputation, and customer loyalty. That’s why most engineering teams now use specialized monitoring tools for application performance management.

Key Takeaways

  • Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tools help track and analyze the performance of applications to find and fix issues.
  • Popular features of APM tools include accurate user monitoring, error tracking, application topology mapping, and more.
  • Top APM platforms for 2024 include Datadog, New Relic, Dynatrace, AppDynamics, and more open-source options.
  • Key factors in choosing an APM tool are data insights, flexibility, ease of use, integrations, and pricing.
  • This guide explores the top 10 APM tools for 2024 with summaries, pros/cons, pricing, and critical capabilities.
A woman is **pointing** to the phrase **application performance monitoring.**

This guide explores the top application performance monitoring tools and platforms available in 2024. It summarizes the core capabilities, strengths, and pricing for paid and open-source options. Use this guide to determine which solution best fits the needs of monitoring your web, mobile, or custom apps.

What is Application Performance Monitoring?

Application Performance Monitoring (APM) refers to software and methods for tracking, visualizing, analyzing, and improving application availability, speed, responsiveness, and stability.

APM emerged as complex modern applications, making it insufficient to monitor infrastructure health. APM tools go deeper to provide insight into the entire application stack – from backend databases to microservices to user experience.

Critical capabilities of Application Performance Monitoring platforms include:

  • Real User Monitoring: Tracks experience metrics like page load times, errors, etc, for real users in production across the web, mobile, etc.
  • Error Tracking: Detect and aggregate backend errors and exceptions.
  • App Topology Mapping: Visualize all components of distributed, cloud-native app architectures.
  • Transaction Tracing: Follows request flows across microservices, links spans, logs, etc.
  • Infrastructure Monitoring: Integrates related infrastructure metrics from servers, containers, etc.
  • Custom Metrics: Ingest, analyze, and visualize custom app-specific metrics.
  • Alerting: Set performance thresholds and get notifications.
  • Reporting: Share data insights through dashboards, analytics, and exports.

APM solutions help developers, SREs, and tech leaders understand, optimize, and communicate application performance using these and other features.

Why Application Performance Monitoring Matters

With users and customers increasingly digital-first, application performance is make-or-break for modern businesses. Consider that:

  • 79% of users with performance problems are less likely to buy again from that company.
  • A 100-millisecond delay in load time can reduce conversions by 7%.
  • 57% of IT leaders report missing business goals due to application issues.

Additionally, the growing complexity of microservices, distributed systems, APIs, cloud architectures, and custom code makes performance management ever more challenging.

Application performance monitoring platforms address these needs by providing actionable data, alerts, tools for troubleshooting, and integration across the software delivery lifecycle.

Using APM, teams can:

  • Resolve performance issues before users notice.
  • Continuously improve architecture and code efficiency.
  • Understand usage patterns and demand surges.
  • Link app metrics to key business metrics.
  • Justify the allocation of engineering resources.

The bottom line is that APM solutions lead to better-performing, more stable applications that meet business goals. They provide the visibility needed to delight customers in an on-demand world.

A businessman using a tablet computer to monitor application performance.

Top 10 Application Performance Monitoring Tools 2024

Over a hundred application monitoring tools are competing in the APM space. Paid solutions vary widely in breadth, data insights, ease-of-use, and pricing models. Open-source options offer flexibility for developers.

Here are ten leading options:

1. Datadog APM

Datadog is a monitoring and analytics platform for cloud infrastructure, applications, logs, and more. Their APM solution provides end-to-end visibility with distributed tracing, resource monitoring, custom metrics, and robust analytics.

Key Strengths: Powerful graphs and dashboards, infrastructure monitoring integration, broad capabilities for traces, logs, and metrics.

Pricing: Free up to 5 metrics, from $15 per host/month starter to enterprise quotes.

Modern APM.

2. New Relic

The New Relic platform offers a popular APM tool for performance monitoring and user experience management. It captures billions of data points to help engineers visualize and analyze complex systems.

Key Strengths: Real user monitoring, transaction tracing, error analytics, reporting, alerting, and SLA monitoring.

Pricing: Free limited tier, from $99 monthly starter to enterprise quotes.

3. Dynatrace

Dynatrace provides an AI-powered application and infrastructure monitoring solution. It auto-discovers topology and leverages pure-path tracing for smart alerting on performance issues.

Key Strengths: Advanced AIOps/ML capabilities, code-level visibility, seamless end-to-end observability.

A web page highlighting unlimited opportunities and security, featuring Application Performance Monitoring.

Pricing: Free 15-day trial, from $299 monthly for starter to enterprise quotes.

4. AppDynamics

Part of Cisco AppDynamics application performance management includes robust transaction tracing, code diagnostics, analytics, and machine learning.

Key Strengths: Business transaction perspectives, automated root cause analysis, focus on enterprise scale.

Pricing: Free trial, from $3,560 per year standard to custom enterprise quotes.

5. SolarWinds AppOptics

SolarWinds AppOptics delivers robust application performance monitoring capabilities alongside infrastructure, log, and custom metrics management.

Key Strengths: Flexible custom dashboards, Kubernetes integration, hosted or on-prem options.

Pricing: Free 14-day trial, from $7 per host per month shared tenant to $24 enterprise.

A screenshot of a website with Application Performance Monitoring.

6. Splunk

Known for its log management solutions, Splunk also offers an advanced application monitoring and diagnostics platform. It captures metrics and traces alongside infrastructure and other observability data.

Key Strengths: Powerful correlation of application data with logs and infrastructure. Integrates well with existing Splunk customers.

Pricing: Free limited version. Standard enterprise licensing starts at $150 per user per year.

7. Elastic APM

Based on their popular Elastic search engine, Elastic APM monitors application performance with accurate user tracking, distributed tracing, and related infrastructure metrics.

Key Strengths: Open source foundation, scalable data ingestion and analytics, fast queries.

Pricing: Free, open-source download. Paid cloud service starts at $84 per month.

8. Instana

Instana provides continuous automated application performance monitoring focusing on modern container and microservices environments. Their AUTO APM technology automatically maps all components.

Key Strengths: Automated APM requiring little configuration, ML-based alerts, seamless tracing.

Pricing: Free trial, then instance-based annual subscriptions starting around $30k.

9. Zabbix

Long famous for open-source infrastructure monitoring, Zabbix offers application performance monitoring capabilities via web monitoring tools.

Key Strengths: Open source flexibility, accurate user monitoring, availability monitoring, detailed graphs, and dashboards.

Pricing: 100% free and open source. Optional paid support services.

A computer on a desk using Application Performance Monitoring.

10. Scout APM

Scout provides an APM solution focused explicitly on monitoring web application performance. It offers tracing, N+1 detection, error analytics, and more performance insights.

Key Strengths: Specific focus on web application efficiency at code level, easy custom metrics, great for small teams.

Pricing: Free trial, from $26 per month starter up to $249 enterprise plan.

Disclaimer: This list focuses on widely used tools, but many other application monitoring platforms and vendors exist in this competitive space.

Critical Evaluation Criteria for APM Tools

With the application performance monitoring market flooded with options, here are vital factors teams should consider when evaluating tools:

Data Insights – At their core, APM platforms collect, analyze, and visualize performance data. Prioritize solutions that provide contextual insights you need while staying easy to interpret.

Flexible Architecture – Given shifting technology, the ideal APM tool works across web, mobile, microservices, cloud, containers, serverless, and custom applications.

Ease of Installation – Quick, low-friction onboarding ensures monitoring fits neatly into SDLC workflows. Seek APM with auto-discovery capabilities when possible.

Team Collaboration – Monitoring data stays more impactful when seamlessly shared between developers, SREs, product managers, and business leaders.

Enterprise Capabilities – Larger organizations require APM that scales to substantial data volumes, complex systems, compliance needs, robust access controls, and more.

Cloud Native Support – Most modern applications utilize cloud and containers, so choose an APM solution that integrates natively with these environments.

Pricing – Application monitoring costs can spiral out of control if not capped to actual usage volumes. Be wary of complex pricing models.

APM Integrations – Integration and correlation around related telemetry is hugely beneficial – for example error logging, infrastructure metrics, CI/CD pipelines, ticketing systems, and more.

No solution will check every box, so focus on aligning to current and future application monitoring needs. Test options with trials to confirm the right fit.

A businessman is **monitoring** a digital screen.

Frequently Asked Questions on Application Performance Monitoring

Here are answers to some common questions development and IT teams have around selection and use of APM tools:

What are the differences between APM and infrastructure monitoring?

Infrastructure monitoring focuses on health metrics of servers, networks and other IT components. APM goes deeper into the application itself – the code, databases, microservices, API calls etc. APM correlates infrastructure data for context.

Is open source APM as capable as commercial tools?

Leading open source APM options like Zabbix offer surprisingly robust application monitoring at 100% free ongoing usage. The trade-off is they require more configuration, offer less out-of-the-box dashboards and lack enterprise app support. For many teams though they do the job.

Does APM work for monitoring mobile app performance?

Most modern APM platforms offer SDKs and mobile app monitoring capabilities for native iOS, Android, hybrid and mobile web apps. This provides error tracking, performance data, usage analytics and more.

What typical metrics does an APM monitor and alert on?

Common metrics tracked by APM solutions include page load times, throughput, app crashes, API latency, error rates, availability, network traffic and more. Teams define thresholds for critical vitals to trigger alerts when unhealthy.

Can APM integrate with log management tools?

Robust application monitoring platforms ingest related log data to correlate traces, metrics, and logging for faster diagnostics. For example, pinpoint the error log generated from a specific slow API call. Integrated logging also reduces costs compared to separate tools.

Should APM solutions integrate with CI/CD pipelines?

APM tooling integration with CI/CD build pipelines brings huge benefits. Development teams can catch performance regressions earlier through automated testing while deployments stay safer via better monitoring.

How much data and metrics can an APM platform actually handle?

Enterprise-ready APM solutions easily scale to ingest, process and analyze millions of data points per second, while providing tools to filter and find signals in the noise. Architectural flexibility ensures this scales up without limits or surprises.

What does a typical APM implementation process look like?

The first step is instrumenting applications to enable collection of DevOps metrics. Next teams spend 1-2 weeks configuring dashboards, alerts, reports tailored to their KPIs. Ongoing, they fine-tune visibility and leverage insights to optimize applications.

Tips for Effectively Using Application Performance Monitoring Tools

Here are 5 key best practices for getting the most business value after choosing an APM solution:

Start Small, Think Big – Focus initial monitoring on 1-2 business critical applications. But choose an enterprise-ready APM that can ultimately scale to all apps.

Share Data Broadly – Make app metrics visible to devs, IT staff, product owners, and senior leadership through dashboards, reports, and automatic alerts.

Set Specific Goals – Agree on outcomes and key benchmarks for app experience rather than only looking to configure tools. Revisit these goals quarterly.

Integrate with Decision Data – Connect application data to business KPIs like conversion rates, customer satisfaction scores, revenue impact etc. Adding context accelerates fixes.

Keep Growing APM Maturity – Revisit coverage, metrics, alarming thresholds, reporting, and integrations on a quarterly basis as needs evolve. Application monitoring is an iterative process.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Application performance management remains mission critical, yet hugely challenging. Modern APM solutions provide the necessary visibility into the full application stack and related infrastructure to resolve issues, engineer better experiences, and align work to business impact.

This guide explored top paid and open source APM tools available in 2024 with summaries of strengths and capabilities. It also covered best practices to consider when evaluating and implementing application monitoring for your software delivery lifecycle.

Next steps are to complete free trials of APM platforms aligned to your technology stack. Hands-on experience based on your own apps provides the best sense for operational value delivered. Reach out to vendors for pricing details suited to your scale.

Lastly, remember application performance management is an evolving practice. Set goals around where you aim to take visibility, intelligence and app efficiency over time. With the right planning and platforms, APM can transition from overhead into a true accelerator of development velocity, reliability and business returns.

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