3 Tips for Improving Application Performance

Make the most of your IT investments with these three tips to help you optimize your networks, applications, and clients.

By Apurva Davé

With all the chatter about the cloud and virtualization, it seems as though IT performance has taken a back seat to the big trends in the tech industry. However, as much as cloud computing and centralized data centers have helped to enable anytime, anywhere computing for distributed enterprises, without addressing performance, the true potential of these technologies will always be subdued.

Today’s environments are mixed and evolving continuously to include physical servers, virtual servers, and cloud infrastructure. Organizations try to assert control by consolidating as much as possible while keeping ties to flexible pools of compute and storage resources. Mobility and the consumerization of IT add further complexity by unleashing a growing torrent of data onto enterprise networks. All of these factors impact IT performance and can make it difficult to deliver the service levels that customers and end users expect.

To overcome these challenges and make the most of IT investments, organizations need a suite of tools designed to optimize networks, applications, and clients, because these key areas routinely suffer from suboptimal performance as a result of such factors as distance and complexity.

Begin Optimization Efforts on the Wide Area Network (WAN)

The wide area network (WAN) weaves together corporate headquarters, branch offices, remote workers, and even partner and customer sites. Its performance is directly tied to the successful and accelerated movement of files, data, servers, and machines to and from clouds, whether private, public, or a mix of the two.

Virtualization and cloud computing shift the IT performance burden to the wide area network, where bandwidth constraints and latency are recognized problems. According to the Taneja Group, a consulting and advisory firm, WAN bandwidth between locations is typically less than one percent of local LAN bandwidth, and WAN latency can be 100 times greater than on the LAN. Moreover, ALHTOUGH service providers offer service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee uptime, they don’t necessarily address concerns about performance or the response time or speed at which the cloud delivers applications and services to end users. High latency with lots of packets lost over the WAN or over the Internet can significantly reduce the level of services customers and end users receive.

WAN optimization controllers help address these challenges head-on with technologies such as data reduction and prioritization. They can improve response time for most applications by preventing network latency from severely affecting performance. WAN optimization controllers can also help organizations avoid costly bandwidth upgrades.

WAN optimization can be augmented by solutions designed to control, secure, and accelerate the delivery of application traffic and unlock the promise of cloud. Such solutions can auto-scale applications on demand and balance computing workloads across multiple clouds.

Turbocharge Applications using ADCs

Any number of problems can affect application servers and ultimately impair application performance. Perhaps the server is overloaded with a denial-of-service attack, or it could be struggling with huge numbers of concurrent connections. Inherent application inefficiencies could also be to blame.

Leading software-based application delivery controllers (ADCs) are designed to optimize enterprise application environments by load balancing, rate shaping, SSL offloading, and other techniques. They can deliver traffic to application servers in a much more efficient manner, squeezing greater capacity, greater performance, and better ROI from applications. ADCs can protect application servers from Internet shocks and traffic surges that would otherwise impair performance.

Using high-performance inspection techniques that can interrogate any part of a request or response, ADCs can also intelligently distribute traffic, monitor performance problems, and shape traffic spikes as well as control how traffic is internally routed. IT organizations can shape, prioritize, and route traffic, and even use the technology for routine maintenance and upgrades, all without impacting the user experience the business demands.

Complete the Performance Makeover with Client Optimization

Applications often suffer from suboptimal performance simply because the coding is inefficient. Perhaps they use JavaScript inefficiently or they simply use too many images. If the content is dispersed across multiple services and third-party sites, delays in rendering content within the client browser can result.

Advanced Web content optimization (WCO) solutions deployed on Web servers tackle this problem by examining application content and then smoothing out content complexities to reduce bandwidth requirements and improve rendering inefficiencies.

File merging JavaScript, style sheets, and images reduces the amount of roundtrip traffic, while JavaScript reordering makes the merges synchronous or asynchronous as required to ensure that the content renders as quickly as possible in the client browser. Moreover, metadata removal and other compression and caching techniques can further enhance content optimization.

Market-leading WCO solutions can also accelerate public Web sites -- even poorly designed sites -- so they load up to four times faster for visitors anywhere in the world and on all types of Internet browsers. They can reduce the time it takes for common activities on SharePoint 2007 and 2010-based Web sites and intranets, and they can provide faster access to ERP, CRM, payroll, and human resource applications, and other common business productivity tools.

A Final Word

Today’s IT environments are evolving, and businesses are leveraging a mixed bag of technologies to deliver the services their customers and end users need. Performance cannot be overlooked, and in order to ensure IT is providing the best services possible, organizations need to examine and optimize their networks, applications, and clients.

Apurva Davé is the vice president of products and marketing for the Riverbed Stingray business unit. Apurva has spent nearly 15 years focused on optimization technologies across areas such as streaming media, enterprise and Internet applications, and clouds. The author works closely with enterprises and governments to improve the performance and efficiency of their applications and understand how cloud architectures fit into their IT strategies. Apurva holds an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Computer Science degree from Brown University. You can contact the author at pr@riverbed.com.
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