Ensuring Successful Application Performance

If the number of mission-critical business applications is growing, why are employees still suffering from poor application performance?

by David Messina

Corporate initiatives focused on increasing enterprise efficiencies have forced IT organizations to concentrate their efforts on serving up a growing number of networked applications and services to improve overall employee productivity. In larger corporations, these applications number in the hundreds; most would be considered mission-critical by business units. Despite these efforts, a Yankee Group survey of IT managers estimates that companies lose a staggering 35 days of productivity per employee per year due to the poor performance and availability of these applications.

Why the disconnect? Is it that IT organizations are understaffed, lack the right skill sets or are they simply being forced to roll out too many applications too quickly? In short, the answer is none of the above. Most IT organizations have the expertise and the resources to achieve the company’s goals. The problem essentially goes much deeper -- to the underlying infrastructure and the tools used to manage it.

Take, for example, a casino that had deployed a new custom betting application onto its network. When the application was introduced, everything seemed to work well. However, over time, customers began to experience performance issues that effectively brought several parts of the casino’s business to a standstill. With their traditional monitoring tools, the casino’s IT department floundered trying to determine the problem, even with multiple skilled experts involved. In this high-stakes environment, every passing hour meant lost revenue.

The problem for the casino’s IT organization (and with most IT groups) is that they organize and manage the enterprise network and its applications using a “siloed” approach in which each endpoint, network and application is assigned to a particular “silo” or category within the IT organization. Each silo is staffed by different IT personnel -- depending on their expertise. Within a single IT organization, there are “silos” designated for servers or SANs or an application (such as CRM). Traditionally the IT group deploys an element management system that does a fair job monitoring all of the assets under a specific silo. These systems lack the ability to manage the interactions among the endpoints, applications, and networks that span these silos.

As a result, problem identification responsibilities often “ping pong” between IT silos for days or weeks while end users complain and suffer. Industry research indicates that, on average, six service-desk calls are needed just to identify the owner of a problem.

The bottom line is that IT departments have the right expertise but not the right tools to get to the heart of a problem.

RPI Protects Application Performance

Rapid Problem Identification (RPI) is a technology that addresses this issue. With RPI, IT departments can pinpoint the root cause of application issues across the network by providing a real-time view of all the network and application elements within the ecosystem. Using flow information, RPI automatically discovers all the networked components and applications across the LAN and WAN.

As part of this discovery process, each endpoint is associated with a specific location (topology) and all application usage is examined across endpoints in real time. This provides IT managers with dynamic visibility so that they can know what every element is doing. With RPI, a granular profile is established for every application, client, server, and network so that when there is a problem, the “established” profile can be compared against the real-time profile.

RPI solves both common and complex problems such as degraded or sluggish performance of mission-critical applications. To resolve the casino’s issues, the IT department used RPI to determine the interactions the application had with the other elements within the network. The team was able to determine that the new application was using 10 times the bandwidth of the application it had replaced. By identifying the root cause of the problem, adjustments could be made to resolve the issue and resume normal operations.

In some cases, the source of a problem is not as obviously traceable. An East-coast-based financial firm was experiencing performance issues with a key financial application but the IT department, using traditional monitoring tools, could not determine what was causing the anomaly. With RPI, the firm’s IT group was able to establish a baseline of how each application, endpoint, and network element should perform across the silos. Through this analysis, IT detected an anti-virus software update that the security group was running in the middle of the day -- something that was affecting the performance of all the other applications -- including the financial application. Because their traditional monitoring software could only gather data for their particular silo, the application group had no idea that a security application, managed by another silo, was running and affecting performance so dramatically.

With so much at stake, employees shouldn’t be hamstrung by the very applications and resources that were designed to enhance productivity. By putting the right systems in place, companies can ensure that these applications are doing what they were designed to do -- streamline processes and maximize the efficiency of the entire organization. With RPI, IT organizations can help companies achieve this goal while protecting their greatest assets -- their employees.

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David Messina is the vice president of product marketing at Xangati. You can reach the author at david@xangati.com.