Why I Joined The Leading APM Provider AppDynamics

A new year, a new iPhone and a new quarter. What else is new? How about a new company?

Last month I was fortunate enough to join a stellar marketing team at one of the fastest growing enterprise software startups in the bay area. The company you ask? AppDynamics, and did I mention we’re also the leading next generation Application Performance Management (APM) provider for modern architectures in distributed, cloud, virtualized and on-premise environments? We exceeded our targets for 2011 achieving an astonishing 400% growth in bookings. Not too shabby for being the new kid on the block in a competitive market already inundated with vendors. You have old school APM tools from megavendors like CA, HP and Compuware (was dynaTrace). Then you have the new school breed such as New Relic and AppDynamics. In fact, Gartner’s MQ lists over twenty vendors. So with such a crowded market why did I even consider such a move?

Well there’s a laundry list of reasons, but here are the top ones that come to mind.

1. Business Innovation. This is another kind of BI not just Business Intelligence. It’s really a breath of fresh air to be working with an organization that is not only obsessed with pumping out insanely great technology every few quarters or so, but also open to embracing innovative approaches to every discipline of the business including creative marketing and sales strategies. Often times enterprise software companies unabashedly attempt to cloak themselves in slideware selling a “vision” or an enterprise solution poles apart from reality. Unfortunately when it comes down to an actual evaluation, you end up having to attend a dozen meetings just to see an applicable demo, a one week to two month proof-of-concept followed by throwing millions of dollars at consulting and implementation services, which segues to my next point.

2. Ease-of-Use. This simple yet powerful concept has been repeatedly neglected or intentionally ignored by many enterprise software companies. Luckily, the Leaders of the New School such as Apple, Salesforce, Box, etc. (not Busta Rhymes group) have changed the way end users value an intuitive user interface and design. At AppDynamics, we’ve adopted a similar mindshare. “Easy” is the new world order in this industry because the managers, engineers and folks in IT operations are encountering enough complexity as it is with these modern architectures. I doubt the last thing that they want is another tool to further complicate their lives causing more frustration on the job. At the end of the day everyone is a consumer – the least common denominator – who wants to use software that helps us demystify our lives and makes us successful at our jobs (unless you’re a sadist).

Software that is easy to install, implement and use can have a tremendous impact on the bottom-line of a business. Suppose you end up rolling out a new system but end up having to spend a chunk of company change on implementation and training costs. What impact does that have on your productivity and ultimately your company’s bottom-line? Here’s an example from Avon’s Q3, 2011 earnings transcript,

“Despite extensive pre-implementation testing, we had greater than anticipated implementation challenges in the go-live. Significantly higher business complexity in this market contributed to a greater than expected level of disruption, as I said, when we went to the go-live environment.”

Many vendors make enterprise deployments akin to embarking on an IT version of manifest destiny. I’m sure you can think of a few applications in your own IT toolbox that fit the bill where at some point you ended up asking yourself, “Why can’t this be as easy as [fill in the blank with some consumer app]?”  Fig. 2. See empathetic frustrated user to your left.

That was compelling enough for me to join AppDynamics. We truly understand the business significance as to why software ought to be easy 360 degrees around especially in production. I’m not saying that the work designers and developers have to do to achieve this “Easy” goal is easy in itself. I have an unrequited love for the folks in engineering who possess the talent and perseverance in coding applications, but that doesn’t excuse a vendor from selling you a dream and then leaving you stranded to implement a nightmare all because there wasn’t enough emphasis on ease-of-use.

3. Application Performance. This one is near and dear to my heart and arguably the main reason for me to join AppDynamics. It takes me back to the challenging days and sleepless nights I endured while working on a massive global PDM implementation at LG Electronics jointly with Dassault Systemes. The year was 2008. Skynet hadn’t become self-aware yet. App Man was just A Man in the throes and woes of IT operations, and half way around the world over in Seoul, Korea I was managing juggling recurring performance issues on a weekly basis with our PMO having to answer to the beck and call of the LGE CIO. The project’s launch date had been delayed due to various complications with the implementation (that’s a whole other story). Any ideas what one of those might have entailed? If you guessed “performance”, congratulations! You’ve won! Download your free copy AppDynamics Lite.

Every week new customizations were being released from R&D back in the states, PS in Korea and SI’s sitting on the other side of the room. You could call it Agile development’s nemesis, frAgile development. The dynamic nature of our java-based environment only introduced more challenges to the performance team who were heads-down trying to reverse engineer someone else’s code and refactor it using APM tools that just didn’t provide us with the full visibility we needed to comprehensively profile and diagnose application performance issues (using JenniferSoft). In fact, one of the consultants on our team ended up creating his own profiler to expose these blind spots, but what we really needed was a next-generation APM tool that would visually map and connect the dots for us like the one below.

Then we ran into another stumbling block after we completed migrating legacy data to a new “production” environment. When the time came to retest the entire set of performance use cases in this new environment we experienced all kinds of performance regressions. Since everyone was collaborating so well with each other for over the past two years, we all cheerfully marched forward without any finger pointing as to what the root cause was. Ok, so it wasn’t that utopian. Fortunately, because of everyone’s undying commitment and personal sacrifices, the project went live successfully in mid 2010 with over 2,000 users visiting the system per day. In hindsight, we could have easily saved a month’s worth had we used a better tool thereby eliminating the usual suspects.

From that experience I’ve come to appreciate and understand how business-critical managing application performance is for any company. Now I am on a mission to spread the word of AppDynamics to help companies manage rapidly evolving, distributed environments.

Buckle up 2012, we’re just getting started.

AppDynamics Secures $20 Million in Series C Funding Led by Kleiner Perkins

When I joined AppDynamics less than a year ago, we were situated in a 6,000 sq ft “cozy” office on 2nd and Brannan. On my first day I was greeted with a MacBook Pro and was asked to find a spare desk amongst the boxes and carnage of a typical startup environment. To my left was a relentless engineering and UI team, and to my right was a fired up sales and marketing team, and a quietly confident Founder and CEO, Jyoti Bansal who made all of this happen. Across the office was a shiny gold bell mounted on the wall, which rang every time AppDynamics closed a new customer. In the last year I can honestly say that shiny bell hasn’t stopped ringing, and is the biggest adrenaline boost one can get while working.

Online media company gets proactive with application monitoring in production

On Wednesday I delivered a keynote at WJAX in Munich. Everything went really well, but I was a little shocked at the response I got when I asked the audience “How many of you monitor the performance of your apps in production?” As I scanned the audience, I counted 9 out of ~950 developers had put their hands up, meaning about 1% had visibility of how their applications actually performed in production. I know what you’re thinking: “But isn’t application performance in production the responsibility of Operations?”  Well, it is and it isn’t. Most organizations think that when an application has an issue, it’s related to the infrastructure it runs on. That’s like saying when a car crashes, it’s because a part failed on the car whereas in actual fact most accidents are caused by the driver. Yes, hardware fails occasionally, but application logic and configuration drives how infrastructure resource is used, which is why most issues today occur when new code is deployed in production.

Application Monitoring with JConsole, VisualVM and AppDynamics Lite

What happens when mission critical Java applications slow down or keep crashing in production? The vast majority of IT Operations (Ops) today bury their heads in log files. Why? because thats what they’ve been doing since IBM invented the mainframe. Diving into the weeds feels good, everyone feels productive looking at log entries, hoping that one will eventually explain the unexplainable. IT Ops may also look at system and network metrics which tell them how server resource and network bandwidth is being consumed. Again, looking at lots of metrics feels good but what is causing those server and network metrics to change in the first place? Answer: the application.

IT Ops monitor the infrastructure that applications run on, but they lack visibility of how applications actually work and utilize the infrastructure. To get this visibility, Ops must monitor the application run-time. A quick way to get started is to use the free tools that come with the application run-time. In the case of Java applications, both JConsole and VisualVM ship with the standard SDK and have proved popular choices for monitoring Java applications. When we built AppDynamics Lite we felt their was a void of free application monitoring solutions for IT Ops, the market had plenty of tools aimed at developers but many were just too verbose and intrusive for IT Ops to use in production. If we take a look at how JConsole, VisualVM and AppDynamics Lite compare, we’ll see just how different free application monitoring solutions can be.

Free your Application Performance Management with AppDynamics Lite 2.0

In May last year we launched AppDynamics Lite 1.0, the first free application performance management (APM) solution to monitor and troubleshoot a production JVM. 18 Months and 50,000+ users later I’m pleased to announce version 2 of AppDynamics Lite is here and the innovation hasn’t stopped. In fact, I would say Lite 2.0 gives many legacy (or vintage) APM vendors a run for their money. Five years ago the standard for any APM solution was the ability to perform Byte Code Instrumentation for logging application response times along with some JMX metric collection to monitor JVM and container resource. Lite 2.0 does all this, albeit it’s limited to a single JVM, which is one more JVM than any other APM vendor will give you for free.

Here is an example of what AppDynamics Lite 2.0 looks like today when you monitor a single JVM.

AppDynamics Lite: Free Just Got Even Better

A new version of AppDynamics Lite is available for download. One thing that makes AppDynamics unique is our 10-30 promise.  Users should be able to self-install Lite in 10 minutes and start getting value in 30.  We do this by auto-discovering your application dependencies and automatically instrumenting the app, with no manual code changes.

15,000 Downloaders Can’t Be Wrong

It’s 2011, and AppDynamics got what we wanted as a holiday gift—15,000 downloads of our free java troubleshooting tool, AppDynamics Lite.

To commemorate the 15,000th downloader, we emailed all of our Lite users and offered to send one of our patented “I Take No Crap From My App” T-shirts in exchange for a public screenshot of their installation in action.

AppDynamics Lite Turns 5000!

It’s a big day for us here at AppDynamics as we mark (and pass!) the 5000th download of AppDynamics Lite! Released just a few months ago, AppDynamics Lite is our free APM tool for troubleshooting Java performance in production.  We hear every day from companies who have deployed Lite in production environments and are using it to solve real problems.  That’s why we built it, and it’s very rewarding to hear about IT Operations professionals and developers getting real value.

We’re very pleased with the wave of enthusiasm that the tool has been able to generate in such a short time.   Here’s just one example: one of our sales reps was speaking to a company this morning, and he asked how they had heard of us.  The prospect said, “I downloaded and used your Lite tool, which my team thought was phenomenal. One of our business requirements was that our potential vendors could give us immediate access to their product and demonstrate their unique approach to application performance management.  You met this requirement–no one else we talked to did. And therefore, you immediately made our short list.”

This conversation represents another goal of ours: removing the friction that typically exists between software companies and evaluators. With Lite, companies can download it whenever they want and put it immediately into action.  No waiting, no negotiating…just instant access.  This strategy works for us because, as a startup, we believe that if someone becomes familiar with our solution, they’ll see that it’s considerably better than the legacy offerings on the market.

The success of the tool continues to demonstrate that there’s unquestionably a need from both dev and ops teams to have greater insight and understanding of performance as they deploy applications across cloud, virtual and physical environments. Companies big and small are taking advantage of AppDynamics Lite already; you might even recognize some of the names (Ikea, Nokia, MasterCard, Dell, FranklinCovey and Samsung among others).

The great thing about AppDynamics Lite (besides the fact that it takes two minutes to download and it’s free), is that with thousands of users worldwide we’ve been able to gather a lot of product feedback in just a few months. Lite has now been deployed on every conceivable combination of Java application servers and application stacks. This means our core agent technology has been battle-tested in many environments, and we’ve been able to incorporate all that feedback into our commercial product. This is quite different than the usual slow feedback loop that exists in traditional enterprise software go-to-market approach. The benefit to our customers and partners is that our technology is mature beyond its years.

As we’ve always promised, we’ll continue to offer AppDynamics Lite for free. Our goal is to empower developers and IT operations teams to combat one-off performance issues as they occur, while giving them a first-hand look at the AppDynamics approach to application performance management.

2001: A Download Odyssey

Over the past few days, we’ve shot past 2001 downloads of our free java performance tool, AppDynamics Lite. What does that mean? Well, first and foremost, it’s an excuse to post a picture of the monolith from the movie 2001:Equally as important, perhaps, is that the milestone of 2K downloads in only a matter of weeks indicates just how much the market wanted a tool like AppDynamics Lite. We’re finding that our users are resonating with its simple message: “the first java performance tool designed for production.” There are profilers aplenty, but until now there’s been nothing that can work in production–digging down into code-level details–without creating excessive overhead.Who are these users? They represent quite a range. We’ve seen Fortune 500 companies, up-and-coming SaaS shops, mid-sized companies, students, consultants…and, of course, our competitors. We’re continuing to refine and improve the tool based on user feedback in our forums, so it’s worth noting that the version of AppDynamics Lite now available for download is a new version. It includes an improved ability to take diagnostic snapshots of performance problems, as well as a feature that alerts the user when new updates and fixes are available.AppDynamics Lite will always run in tandem with our commercial product. It will never carry a price tag, and we will continue to update and refine it. It’s a great way to introduce new users to the way we see the world of application performance management.Download the new version of AppDynamics Lite here.