Most of us take SaaS availability and uptime for granted: we assume that our favorite cloud-based tools will always be available when we need them. For cloud service providers, however, meeting these expectations is a magnanimous effort, usually involving elaborate CI/CD toolchains and sophisticated frameworks for failover and continuity. Application performance monitoring (APM) solutions form part of these frameworks—in this comparison, we'll take a look at two such popular offerings, AppDynamics and Dynatrace.
For today's SaaS providers, web developers, and even organizations with homegrown apps, application performance management (APM) solutions are instrumental to reducing mean time to repair (MTTR). A lower MTTR enables firms to curb financial losses from downtime, reduce any security and/or compliance risk exposure due to outages, and better salvage customer satisfaction when disruptions occur. APMs monitor how applications perform and behave in production, enabling vigilant developers and operators to spot issues in the application stack before they spiral out of control.
AppDynamics was created in 2008 as a developer's tool for diagnosing application performance problems and IT infrastructure bottlenecks. The solution has since evolved into a platform for so-called "unified monitoring," or monitoring across the infrastructure and application stack.
The AppDynamics user interface. Source: blog.appdynamics.com.
The comprehensive offering from AppDynamics—its Application Intelligence Platform—rolls 4 modules into one platform: APM, end-user monitoring, infrastructure visibility, and application analytics.
Previously part of enterprise software dinosaur Compuware, Dynatrace was broken off as a separate entity when its almost four decade-old parent company was acquired by Thoma Bravo. Dynatrace continues to develop and sell its popular APM platform and is credited with establishing the digital performance management category—that is, taking APM one step further by measuring the correlations between customer experience, IT performance, and business outcomes.
The Dynatrace user interface. Source: Dynatrace.com.
The Dynatrace solution is a comprehensive website monitoring platform that features visibility across multiple channels—its so-called "Customer Experience Cockpit."
Side-by-Side Scoring: AppDynamics vs. Dynatrace
1. Capability Set
AppDynamics and Dynatrace are both competent platforms for application monitoring, but AppDynamics is the more comprehensive of the two, out-of-the-box. As mentioned previously, APM, end-user monitoring, infrastructure visibility, and application analytics come standard with the AppDynamics Application Intelligence Platform. For an additional cost, Dynatrace can be extended to perform standalone synthetic monitoring and datacenter real user monitoring.
2. Ease of Use
Both platforms offer straightforward dashboards and navigation elements; that said, Dynatrace's UI with its fully customizable, tile-based dashboards is more approachable than AppDynamic's list-based, monotone interface.
Ease of Use
3. Community Support
Dynatrace hosts several community-based support options including the community.dynatrace.com and support.dynatrace.com websites. A plethora of user groups and 3rd party online resources round out the platform's community support options. AppDynamics also hosts a community site and has many user groups dedicated to the platform.
4. Release Rate
Both platforms have been assembled over the years through various acquisitions, and in Dynatrace's case-- complete spunoff following Compuware's going private. Dynatrace is currently at version 6.3; AppDynamics is at version 4.2.
5. Pricing and Support
Dynatrace can cost upward of $10,000 for a one-year subscription, making it a non-option for organizations with limited budgets. AppDynamics is certainly the more affordable of the two, available for far less than half of Dynatrace's price tag.
Both vendors offer extended phone, web, and onsite support for an additional cost. AppDynamics offers professional services for more complex implementations, while Dynatrace works primarily through its partner and expert network to offer such services.
Pricing and Support
6. API and Extensibility
Dynatrace's uses the Apdex (Application Performance Index) open standard for reporting, benchmarking, and tracking application performance. Apdex was developed by an alliance of companies that include other vendors such as AlertSite Pro and Pingdom. AppDynamics, on the other hand, does not support the open standard—opting to use its own set of metrics. Despite going its own way for performance metrics, the vendor offers an open platform for developers to create their own plugins to add to the Exchange marketplace. Both platforms offer REST APIs for building custom integrations.
API and Extensibility
7. 3rd Party Integrations
The Dynatrace APM plugin page features a decent selection of ecosystem , big data, notification-related plugins, among others. These include plugins for Docker, Splunk, JIRA, PagerDuty, and more. AppDynamics possesses a more expansive library that features 140+ plugins. And—as mentioned previously—the open nature of the platform allows developers to easily create and share their own plugins.
3rd Party Integrations
8. Companies that Use It
AppDynamics and Dynatrace are both market leaders in their category; as such, they lay claim to many of the Fortune 500 on their customer lists. Pandora, Nordstrom, Intuit, Whirlpool, and Volkswagen are a few of Dynatrace's marquee customers; not to be outdone, AppDynamics cites Cisco, Hallmark, Expedia, DirecTV, Nasdaq, and Kraft as some of its satisifed customers.
Companies that Use It
9. Learning Curve
Both products are easy to get up-to-speed with, with clear documentation and an abundance of support materials to be had online.
10. CSTAR Score
Scoreboard and Summary
|Ease of Use|
|Pricing and Support|
|API and Extensibility|
|3rd Party Integrations|
|Companies that Use It|
|Total||4.6 out of 5||4.3 out of 5|
AppDynamics and Dynatrace are both competent, comprehensive APM platforms for monitoring and troubleshooting today's complex web applications and SaaS offerings. Based on cost alone, Dynatrace is certainly more feasible for enterprises—with AppDynamics being the preferred choice of software startups and mid-sized organizations. For developers interested in adding mobile testing to their APM suites, Dynatrace may be an attractive option: the firm's acquisition of cloud-based mobile app testing/monitoring company Keynote Systems last year will certainly give the Dynatrace platform more breadth and depth.
Monitoring tools have come a long way since the early days of Big Brother. Today's solutions have evolved into powerful software troubleshooting and performance analytics platforms capable of deconstructing and analyzing the entire application stack—infrastructure up—for bugs and issues.
As perimeter-based cyber protection falls to the wayside, a new breed of continuous security solutions are emerging that combine traditional endpoint protection with newer technologies like security information and event management (SIEM) and crowdsourced threat intelligence.