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3 Keys to Enabling Your Business by Optimizing Application Performance

By Jay Botelho, Director of Engineering at LiveAction

Today's digital businesses are highly reliant on key applications. From payroll and HR to sales and more, applications are central to everyday operations, and any performance degradation can bring things to a screeching halt. When application performance declines, revenue generating transactions slow or stop, users abandon and circumvent permitted applications, employee productivity drops, and customer experiences and retention deteriorates. In short, application performance optimization should be a top priority for IT departments at organizations of all types and sizes.

But application performance management (APM) is easier said than done for a variety of reasons. Specialized APM tools give DevOps and application operations teams the visibility and they need to manage application performance, but it's often siloed and incomplete. Code-level APM solutions can monitor components of an application for key performance indicators, but they can't provide you with a full picture that includes the underlying network that moves the traffic.

This is a major blind spot for application teams, because the network can have a significant impact on application performance. From infrastructure deficiencies that degrade connectivity and traffic patterns that introduce latency, to workloads that create bottlenecks, packet loss and jitter - network health and performance can cause severe issues for business-critical applications. Without network visibility, application teams lack the complete insights they need to effectively manage application performance. Likewise, network managers have been relying on legacy tools to measure packet loss, latency and jitter for application flows. This approach uncovers the symptoms of an application issue but not its origins, and forces network operations (NetOps) teams to manually correlate application analytics with other network monitoring tools. This is an antiquated and inefficient APM style that requires already-overburdened network engineers to do most of the heavy lifting.

According to one EMA report, 33% of enterprises say that application performance optimization drives their network monitoring and management strategies. Since network traffic is the cornerstone of application visibility, network managers need a holistic view of both application performance and network infrastructure metrics and analytics. The good news is that some network performance management and diagnostics (NPMD) solutions can provide application intelligence that allows NetOps teams to analyze the relationship between both network and application performance, and better collaborate with application teams to ensure that applications are meeting fundamental business requirements.

In order to optimize application performance, you must be equipped to perform a few basic functions. Here are three essential capabilities your NetOps team must have to better support the critical applications upon which your business depends:

1.       Build In-Depth Application Visibility - To gain a full picture of application performance, especially when performance is degraded, you need actual network traffic data - not simulated data. You must be able to access and review data from network flow record protocols (such as IPFIX and NetFlow v9), which support flow record extensions that provide key metadata such as NBAR and AVC. Most importantly, you need a platform that can collect this data across every domain across your entire network. This will provide the end-to-end visibility you need to plot out global traffic flows with application context. 

2.       Accurately Assess Application Performance - You need deep insights into several types of network data in order to successfully assess and understand application performance. Network flows with IPFIX or NetFlow extensions are helpful because they can provide application performance-specific reporting. IPSLA and agent-based synthetic monitoring solutions can test the health and performance of application traffic paths. Deep packet inspection (DPI) can give you in-depth insight into application traffic, providing the ultimate truth about what's happening on the network and how critical applications are performing. Some infrastructure vendors even embed DPI metadata in extensible flow records. The key to assessing application performance lies in your ability to collect, correlate and analyze all these disparate data types in an intuitive, unified manner.

3.       Successfully Optimize the Network - After establishing the necessary visibility into application performance and equipping your team to effectively analyze it, the next step is to push changes that optimize your network to support optimal application performance. Some AIOps-driven NPMD solutions can intelligently recommend the appropriate actions. Machine learning, big data, and predictive analytics technology can reveal how the network is impacting application performance and how changes can resolve potential problems. For instance, automated capacity management capabilities can highlight potential capacity issues that will impact application performance and suggest changes you can make to the network to address them (such as prioritizing business-critical applications over recreational applications to ensure the most important traffic is delivered with the best quality). These tools should have the ability to reconfigure the network, leveraging SNMP or integrations with network element management systems to adjust quality of service (QoS) settings. They can also integrate with an SD-WAN platform to adjust policies and QoS settings.

Your business must ensure that users have an expected level of performance when working with various applications. Poor application performance can upset employee productivity, product and service functionality, customer satisfaction, and inevitably, the bottom line. Network administrators and application teams need simplified, comprehensive visibility across your entire network infrastructure, as well as the business critical applications that rely on it. The key capabilities listed above will help you rapidly identify and address issues, reduce management costs and ensure that your network and applications are optimized to support organizational objectives and help your digital business thrive. 

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About the Author

Jay Botelho is the Director of Engineering at LiveAction.


Published Wednesday, October 07, 2020 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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