SolarWinds Joins The Cloud APM Game
The SolarWinds Application Performance Monitoring suite consists of AppOptics, Loggly, and Pingdom. All three products are the result of acquisitions, which is nothing new for SolarWinds as the company has regularly made acquisitions over the years. AppOptics is the result of merging AppNeta TraceView and Librato, both acquisitions, while Loggly and Pingdom are still the separate products that were acquired.
The acquisition strategy is tricky, because there's usually limited integration between products unless they've been part of the same ecosystem for a while and built strong cross-links due to customer demands for compatibility. If you want the products to work as a suite, it means building integrations and otherwise making them play well together. So far it seems the interoperability is limited.
The APM suite seems to be the beginnings of a cloud-oriented version of SolarWinds' Orion platform which focuses more on on-site infrastructure, particularly Windows-based infrastructure and applications.
For all of Microsoft's efforts with Azure, cloud-based developers tend to write their apps for linux servers, usually running as containers in some kind of virtualised environment, with an interface running in a cross-platform browser. Microsoft has chosen to embrace Linux rather than continuing to try to get cloud-native developers to choose Windows. Linux on Azure is better for Microsoft than Windows on AWS, and Microsoft stands to make more money providing the ecosystem developers use to create applications.
To appeal to the new crowd, it seems SolarWinds has decided that it'll be easier to buy than to build. There also doesn't seem to be huge appetite to make the new tools plug in to Orion at all, at least not that I can see. This makes sense, because a cloud-native developer working in Linux doesn't really have a lot of use for a Windows-based infrastructure monitoring system. It's just a completely different way of thinking. Similarly, coming from an on-site Windows infrastructure way of doing things into cloud is a big shift in thinking, so bringing your old tools along doesn't generally make a lot of sense.
Which places SolarWinds at an interesting crossroads: does it integrate the two stacks with some kind of common core, or keep them separate until most of its money is made on the new cloud things at which point it can jettison the old?
Sadly, this particular effort at Tech Field Day didn't leave me confident of SolarWinds' success. Previous efforts were stronger, so I'm unsure if this is just an artifact of the change in format (presenting to a webcam is very different to presenting in person). While SolarWinds' products haven't really been for me or the clients PivotNine usually deals with, I've always been able to appreciate how they were useful to the audience they were targeted at. This time around I was less sure of how well SolarWinds will do in what is a very busy and competitive category.
There are almost too many monitoring options for cloud software. The category keeps inventing new sub-genres to try to find a way to stand out from the crowd—”We're the leading post-punk nu-ska electro-dubstep monitoring platform—while simultaneously trying to find a way for something that pings remote systems to be classed as an observability platform to maximise its total addressable market before fickle VCs lose interest.
The challenge ahead for SolarWinds is to maintain the relevance of the already successful products it bought in a market that is incredibly unstable. It's far from clear that cloud people actually want an integrated, do-it-all single-glass-of-pain. Maybe they like having different tools that do different jobs, and the promise of integration is theoretically good, but not something people actually want to give you money for.
I guess we'll see.
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