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January 11, 2017 Previous day Next day

Get to know your users with CA App Synthetic Monitor & App Experience Analytics

 

Dashing car games seem so retro these days. Nevertheless, I decided to have some retro style fun with my friends. At the arena, while I drove in a boring linear fashion, avoiding and escaping collisions as much possible, it was my friends who were having real fun on a platform like this! They were all over the place, swerving, colliding into each other, screaming and doing everything that you would generally associate as fun at a dashing car arena.

 

I confess I cannot get my product off my mind and it struck me that evening that I was behaving like a well-controlled, pre-configured synthetic transaction. My friends on the contrary were real users. Driving in all directions at variable speeds, taking every path and being unpredictable in their actions in general. Aren’t the real users of your application similar in nature? Don’t they come over to your application from various corners of the world, using any device, browser type and version they have access to, variable network speeds often slower if using mobile internet versus a Wi-Fi? How is it then you can cater to such a diverse group of your user base?

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to set your synthetic tests so that they represent as close a scenario to the actual users of your application? Here is how you could do it, and do it for free using a combination of App Synthetic Monitor (ASM) and App Experience Analytics trial accounts.

 

Month 1 - Synthetic Monitoring:

 

  •  You could get started by accessing this URL and have a look at the capabilities of CA ASM
  •  Without signing up for an account, you may want to check the status of your web page.
  • You may then want to sign up for a free 30-day trial available on the CA ASM home page. We don’t need to provide any credit card details to sign up for a free trial account
  • Using the password that is emailed to you on the email address provided by you during your trial registration, login into your ASM account
  • By clicking on Settings->Monitors->New Monitors you are able to get started setting up synthetic tests against your web application.
  • Observe the results of your tests over a period of three weeks.
  • If you would like to extend your trial period by another 30 days, please drop me an email at Chaitan.Shet@ca.com and I would be really excited to talk to you and help.

 

Month 2- Application Experience Analytics:

 

  • Should you be satisfied with the value provided by ASM, you may now want to move on to the next stage, which is compare how your educated assumptions (synthetic tests) performs against real user behavior.
  • For this you may want to do a rapid two click sign up for a free 30-day CA App Experience Analytics trial account from your ASM Home page itself.
  • With a very simple configuration to the web pages you want to monitor, you are able to get started with App Experience Analytics and get value out of it within minutes as your live users start streaming into your web application.
  • Over a period of a couple of weeks reflect back on how your actual users have been using your application and compare it with the way you setup your synthetic tests.

 

So we actually have a total of 60 days of free monitoring (Synthetic and Real user monitoring respectively).

Why Upgrade Your EM/Cluster Side First

Frequent new releases with compelling new features can often present a double-edged sword. The adoption of Agile methodologies by our engineering teams has significantly sped the APM software release cadence down to as little as 4 months. Even though the significant reduction in release times puts new and compelling features in the hands of our customers faster, it also introduces a frequent upgrade challenge for some.

 

CA APM Assisted TriageThe APM product team is aware of these challenges and has made a conscious effort to make 80-90% of the new features server side, which means you can take advantage of a majority of the new APM features with low impact Enterprise Manager upgrades. CA Enterprise Manager (EM) upgrades are well documented and automated when using the CA APM installer. A single EM can be upgraded in less than half an hour and an entire cluster can be upgraded in a few hours. CA recommends starting with an EM upgrade before committing to an agent upgrade, thereby eliminating any impact to production environments and the need for performance testing of new agents.

 

Upgrade Recommendations

Based on best practices, we recommend the following strategy when doing CA APM upgrades:

  1. Prior to doing an upgrade, perform a health check to assess the health of the system. This must be done first to ensure that the APM cluster is healthy prior to doing the upgrade. You will want to check sustainability metrics like Harvest, SmartStor and GC duration to monitor CPU, disk IO and memory consumption. As a rule of thumb, Harvest and SmartStor on average should not take more than 3.5 seconds each.
  2. For phase 1, plan on doing an APM EM/Cluster only upgrade. The APM EM’s are backward compatible to older APM agent versions and users can take advantage of 80-90% of new features with just an APM EM/cluster upgrade. Preproduction and production EM/Cluster upgrades with preparation, planning and execution can be done in a matter of days. At the same time if you are on boarding new applications and wish to monitor them, then use the latest APM Agent versions. The best practice to upgrade EM’s to the latest release from CA.
  3. For phase 2 strategically identify mission critical applications that will benefit from new agent features and only target those applications for agent side upgrades. In other words, only upgrade agents for those apps that would specifically benefit from features in the newer agent version. This process can take longer because APM administrators will need to work with the application, testing and operations teams to plan, test and then deploy new agent versions to production.
  4. Other applications can be evaluated over time for agent side upgrades based on new feature benefits and agent end of life (EOL).

 

Benefits of Upgrading Your EM

CA APM Assisted TriageAs I mentioned earlier, EM/Cluster side upgrades for preproduction and production can be done in days. Here are some of the big benefits of keeping up with the latest APM EM versions:

  • The majority of new APM features are on the EM side (https://communities.ca.com/community/ca-apm/blog/2016/12/16/whats-new-in-ca-apm-105)
  • The new Experience View and Analysis Notebook is an all-new workflow to help non-expert users identify and triage problems in less than 10 seconds by tying together the user experience with the problems that cause the experience to be poor
  • Assisted Triage automatically detects application problems and provides contextual filtered drill down to problematic perspectives. Assisted Triage powers the Experience View and uses Differential Analysis, errors and alerts to determine suggested causes of common problems.
  • Differential analysis uses advanced analytics to detect abnormal application behavior eliminating false alerts
  • Persona driven perspectives with the power of attributes. Users can group and filter the relationship map based different perspectives like build numbers, location, owners, cloud vs on premise etc.
  • Historical timeline maps and focuses on specific perspectives/components that are impacted by alert status, topology and attribute changes over time
  • Enterprise team center and universes that spans across EM’s and clusters so administrators can get a cross cluster view
  • SmartStor metadata architecture enhancements provide improved performance and reliability of SmartStor, particularly in agile environments where agent data changes rapidly

 

EM upgrades are automatic, easy, fast and low risk when using the EM installer. Some of the enhancements to the installer include:

  • Automatic Backup of the complete EM and DB folders and script assisted rollback if required
  • Pre and post upgrade report on changed EM properties
  • Zero impact on monitored production applications

 

Upgrading Your Agents

While there are many benefits to an EM only upgrade, please also consider the benefits of upgrading your agents if and when necessary:

  • HTTP correlation for REST calls over HTTP in 10.0. Automatic monitoring of the common HTTP libraries
  • Enhanced JMS correlation in 10.3 and improved in 10.5
  • Differential Analysis based automatic Transaction Trace triggering in 10.0. When Differential Analysis identifies abnormal application behavior, the agent automatically starts collecting traces for the problematic transactions
  • Automatic front end detection in 10.0 and backend detection in 10.5. Automatically detect and monitor the performance of entry/exit points in a transaction without requiring any agent configuration changes or manual instrumentation
  • Smart Instrumentation from 9.7. Automatically instrument classes of interest based on business logic complexity
  • .Net MVC support in 10.5
  • APM Command Center (ACC) and the 10.5 agent allows for remote agent configuration and extension deployment

 

For more information about the EM Upgrade and how to get started, please watch the following CA Education video: CA APM: Enterprise Manager Only Upgrade.

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