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