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Instana: Making fully automated app performance management a reality on Google Cloud

About Instana

Instana is a fully automated application performance management (APM) platform designed to free DevOps teams from the complexity of application performance monitoring. By managing availability, functionality, and performance of software applications in real time, it enables DevOps to easily see what’s working well and what can be optimized for smoother performance and cost-efficiency.

Industries: Technology
Location: Germany, United States

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Instana scales its APM solutions by seamlessly moving its APM platform and customers to Google Kubernetes Engine and easily delivers its solutions in multi-cloud and on-premises environments with Anthos.

Google Cloud results

  • Cuts data storage expenses by 15% with Cloud Storage and optimizes costs with a pay-as-you-go pricing plan
  • Lift and shift migration saves Instana 15% on core infrastructure costs
  • Enables simple setup of new data centers worldwide through automatic compliance and maintenance with Google Cloud
  • Automates scaling to customer traffic, maximizing performance while eliminating downtimes with Google Kubernetes Engine
  • Deploys APM platform globally with Anthos, on-premises, and in hybrid and multi-cloud environments

Boosts new capabilities + hotfix releases 10x

In the competitive app development world, agility is king. If you’re not developing, testing, and launching your apps rapidly in a continuous delivery pipeline, you could quickly fall behind. It’s one reason monoliths are becoming less popular, giving way to microservices and containerization. After all, the benefits are clear: happier and more productive developers, making more innovative and efficient apps, at a lower cost. What’s not to like?

Of course, making it happen isn’t that easy. Adopting agile development processes alone isn’t enough. According to a McKinsey survey, around 80% of CIOs haven’t seen the business benefits they were looking for when they started modernizing. Turns out, agility has its challenges: in a dynamic, microservices-based environment, applications enter a state of continuous change, and it can be hard to keep up.

Not with Instana, a company founded with one simple goal: make life easier for DevOps. The team behind Instana understands that in today’s agile development world, where scale and complexity are reaching ever greater heights, the task of keeping applications running smoothly can be a mighty one.

As the first and only application performance management (APM) solution that discovers and maps microservice applications automatically, Instana makes the dependencies of services into something that’s visual and simple to interpret. This makes it easy to spot and fix problems quickly in ever-changing environments. It’s a constant health check for scalable and highly distributed systems, without the need for permanent additional engineering.

“Our solution delivers a continuous X-ray of all the components running on top of the orchestration layer,” explains Mirko Novakovic, co-founder and CEO of Instana. “By revealing the most relevant metrics about performance and reliability, we make it easy for developers, SREs, and DevOps to manage these components and the system as a whole.”

“Because pricing models vary, cost is a complex issue in the cloud. Instana is able to provide the intelligence to help our customers understand CPU usage, empowering them to optimize their architecture for their cloud vendor’s specific pricing model.”

Mirko Novakovic, co-founder, Chief Executive Officer, Instana

Revealing the insights that help companies optimize their architecture

Instana’s automated health check facilitates every aspect of application development and maintenance. But initial calls often follow a clear pattern: “Our customers tend not to think about monitoring their applications until there’s a problem,” says Mirko. “We’re happy to help them find the needle in the haystack and solve production problems, but if we came in earlier, the benefits would be even greater.”

The adoption of a cloud-native stack, according to Mirko, is the perfect opportunity to leverage the power of APM. When companies embark on their digital transformation journey, they often lack insights into existing application dependencies, which slows down and complicates the migration. “Moving applications into the cloud is already a big task,” says Mirko. “Instana’s monitoring system brings granular visibility to the application stack, making the migration smooth and cost-efficient.“

Cost reduction is a major factor in cloud adoption, but companies have not yet realized the savings potential of APM during and after the migration. By visualizing the application performance characteristics, Instana helps its customers understand usage patterns, know which components to move first, and design more resilient components in general. This visibility helps optimize costs. “Because pricing models vary, cost is a complex issue in the cloud,” explains Mirko. “Instana is able to provide the intelligence to help our customers understand CPU usage, empowering them to optimize their architecture for their cloud vendor’s specific pricing model.”

Customizing components to gain (and pay for) only what developers need

In choosing a cloud vendor for Instana’s own Kubernetes-based applications, optimizing costs was among the top priorities as well. “Our main challenges are cost control and the reduction of maintenance overhead,” says Fabian Lange, co-founder and VP of Engineering at Instana. “Thanks to the flexible pricing system of Google Cloud, we have much better control over what we pay. “It means we can stay true to our principle of being the most cost-effective APM solution for modern multi-cloud and hybrid applications.”

But the decision to move to Google Cloud in 2019 was also driven by the need for greater flexibility and customization than their existing cloud vendor allowed. “With our previous provider, we were tied to preconfigured standardized components, which is too limiting for us,” adds Mirko. “Google Cloud gives us the flexibility to customize the components in the cloud to our specific needs, such as CPU, RAM, or IOPS. That includes, but far exceeds, a cost benefit.”

Today, Instana deploys applications with Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and stores data with Cloud Storage. “As an APM tool, we have a lot of data, and we need to store it somewhere safe, available, and affordable” says Fabian. “With Cloud Storage, we’re saving about 15% of our data storage costs.”

“If our customers have surges in requests, the traffic carries over to Instana directly, making us linearly dependent on our customer experience. With Google Kubernetes Engine, we can automatically scale those customers up, deploy new resources for them, and provide smooth service without any downtime.”

Fabian Lange, co-founder, VP of Engineering, Instana

Getting the full Kubernetes experience: easy to use and intuitive

As a leading provider for cloud-native and microservice applications, Instana is highly automated to begin with, but GKE further streamlined development and orchestration processes. Today, deploying new components for customers during the onboarding phase only requires an initial manual activation, GKE and Instana’s automation pipeline do the rest. “With other vendors, there’s always something missing for the full Kubernetes experience,” says Fabian. “Because Kubernetes was originally developed at Google, we’re getting the best results possible with Google Kubernetes Engine. Everything just works and is easy to use, from auto-scaling to deploying new customers and permission management.”

Depending on the load, auto-scaling scales up or down the number of allocated compute resources automatically. “If our customers have surges in requests, the traffic carries over to Instana directly, making us linearly dependent on our customer experience,” says Fabian. “With Google Kubernetes Engine, we can automatically scale those customers up, deploy new resources for them, and provide smooth service without any downtime.”

“Today, we can deploy more easily, enabling faster launch times for new features. When it comes to hotfixes and improvements underneath the surface, we’ve gone from one to 10 releases a day. With Google Cloud, our APM solution is delivering more value and innovation to customers, faster.”

Fabian Lange, co-founder, VP of Engineering, Instana

For Instana’s development team, this ease of use translates to more productivity. With just a small team in charge of Instana’s global cloud operations, every minute spent on maintaining infrastructure is a minute less focused on creating value. Because GKE automates this maintenance, developers can spend most of their time building and improving APM solutions. “Today, we can deploy more easily, enabling faster launch times for new features,” says Fabian. “When it comes to hotfixes and improvements underneath the surface, we’ve gone from one to 10 releases a day. With Google Cloud, our APM solution is delivering more value and innovation to customers, faster.”

With customers all around the world, many of which need local data centers, Instana needs to have a global data presence. For a small team without local offices in these countries, establishing this presence was a challenge. “Before our move to Google Cloud, it was practically impossible to set up new data centers in other countries quickly,” says Fabian. “With GKE, we can build a presence in a new region within a few days, relying on Google Cloud to manage the technical underbelly.”

Giving customers the agility of Google Cloud, even on-premises

Beyond global reach, Instana provides APM solutions to businesses with varying infrastructure requirements, and various cloud vendors providing the resources. Pivotal for the decision to move to Google Cloud was the opportunity to manage Kubernetes workloads across on-premises and public cloud environments with a single, consistent platform: Anthos. Built on the concept of “write once, deploy everywhere,” Anthos simplifies the development, deployment, and operation of applications across hybrid and multiple clouds. By integrating its APM solution into Anthos, Instana can run its entire SaaS platform in Google Cloud, while bridging incompatible cloud architectures that make up the company’s customer base.

“We have large customers who need to run Instana on-premises, in virtual private clouds, or clouds by multiple cloud vendors,” says Mirko. “With Anthos, we can manage many clouds and on-premises systems with a single control plane inside Google Cloud, allowing us to fully cater our service to the needs of our customers.”

On the customer side, this streamlines the APM integration because Instana can monitor applications remotely, even in on-premises or virtual private cloud (VPC) environments. “Without Anthos, we need to provide time-consuming professional services to these customers, helping them use our software,” says Fabian. “Anthos enables us to troubleshoot and monitor remotely, wherever they run, saving us time and giving our customers a more comfortable experience.”

Co-developing Anthos capabilities for SaaS vendors with Google Cloud

Combined, GKE and Anthos help Instana pioneer a multi-cloud future, bringing intuitive and money-saving APM solutions to customers all over the world. Based on this shared vision, Instana became an Anthos Partner Services design partner, helping Google co-develop Anthos capabilities for SaaS vendors. “If Kubernetes is the operating system for multi-cloud environments, Anthos is the perfect management platform for applications in these environments,” says Mirko. “It allows customers to get Instana running with the click of a button, deploying our APM solutions in all their clouds and on-premises setups to achieve greater agility.”

In the end, agility isn’t just a technical achievement, it transforms the entire culture of a company. As such, the partnership with Google Cloud follows the same philosophy that makes Instana such a popular choice for customers: “We’re a startup with a hands-on philosophy,” says Mirko. “And that’s exactly what you get with Google Cloud, from access to product managers, to having your feedback heard. It’s something that’s never been the case with other cloud providers: we truly feel like we’re all part of one team.” It’s a philosophy that will remain important for Instana as it continues to build its vision of next-generation application management that DevOps can rely on.

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Instana

Instana is a fully automated application performance management (APM) platform designed to free DevOps teams from the complexity of application performance monitoring. By managing availability, functionality, and performance of software applications in real time, it enables DevOps to easily see what’s working well and what can be optimized for smoother performance and cost-efficiency.

Industries: Technology
Location: Germany, United States