Now AWS wants to be your cloud APM provider, too

Amazon X-Ray and Pinpoint allow end-to-end instrumentation of apps, but existing APM vendors can stand their ground by offering robust reporting tools

Now AWS wants to be your cloud APM provider, too

At its re:Invent conference this year, Amazon made a pair of announcements that should alarm cloud APM (application performance management) providers.

Two of Amazon's new AWS offerings, AWS X-Ray and Amazon Pinpoint, provide insights into distributed and mobile applications running on Amazon. With them, Amazon may not have put a stake through the heart of third-party APM offerings, but it might well mean limbs lopped off a la Monty Python's Black Knight.

Lifting the lid

X-Ray is arguably the bigger of the two, since it allows requests to be traced for applications as they run across various parts of AWS's infrastructure, such as Elastic Beanstalk or Amazon API Gateway.

Developers insert into the app a snippet of code that provides the needed request-tracing functionality. Data collected from the request tracer is forwarded to a daemon that aggregates the trace data and uploads it in batches to X-Ray.

Right now, X-Ray only supports applications written in Node.js, Java, C#, or composed with AWS Lambda functions (in any language supported by Lambda), but plans are on the table to add many other common languages like Python and Ruby. The other limitation -- that it requires adding instrumentation code -- isn't out of gamut for other products in this space.

Amazon's big advantage with X-Ray is that it's a one-stop shop. It allows performance telemetry to be fed back to the developer from across most every part of Amazon where an app runs, without having to create custom instrumentation for each segment.

Full disclosure

Another new service, Amazon Pinpoint, focuses on a narrower incarnation of the same basic idea -- tracking user engagement with mobile apps by way of push notification campaigns. Apps often use push notifications to stimulate interest in the app -- e.g., an online shopping app will alert users of upcoming sales.

Pinpoint targets and tracks user behavior in much the same way campaign management systems for mailing lists do. It's not as monumental a concept as X-Ray, but it fits in with Amazon's overall ambition to allow most every aspect of an Amazon-backed app to be instrumented natively.

Who's likely to feel the pressure from services like this? One easy answer is New Relic, the firm that's made a name for itself for providing "full-stack visibility" into apps. Amazon is fast building its own version of that, and on a stack that's popular and commands great loyalty.

Where New Relic (and other competitors) can continue to keep its edge is with its portfolio of powerful reporting and visual exploration tools. Instrumenting apps and gathering the data is only half the story; being able to make sense of that data conveniently is the other half. Amazon has some work in this vein -- Quicksight comes to mind -- but New Relic has already established deep presence for its front end, and with that ought to have plenty of ground to stand on for now.