CIOs who understand how their enterprise's network is impacting application delivery will be in a better position to ensure that the IT organization is supporting business operations optimally. Knowledge Center contributor Joel Trammell gives CIOs five key questions to answer, which will help them gauge the overall picture of application service delivery at any given time.
modern-day network is not a utility but a complex, ever-changing entity
that requires constant management by skilled network professionals.
Gone are the days when network engineers simply monitored the
infrastructure to make sure the devices were up and running. Trends
such as the rise of streaming applications, increasing numbers of
remote users and branch offices, data center consolidation, and
software as a service are forcing organizations to rely more on the
wide area network to deliver business-critical traffic.
As distributed network traffic increases in volume and complexity,
IT professionals must focus on network and application performance. How
can CIOs gauge whether their networks are supporting business functions
optimally? If their network groups are measuring the right performance
metrics, CIOs should be able to answer five key questions about network
and application performance. These questions are as follows:
Question No. 1: Can you measure how well your mission-critical business services are being delivered?
For instance, how well is SAP performing over the network for your
remote users? The question is not just, "Is it available or not?"
Measuring service delivery response times across the network is a good
first step in understanding how your applications are performing for
end users. By knowing how an application performs under normal
circumstances, you can then gauge how both planned and unexpected
changes impact service delivery.
Your IT group should be able to tell you how quickly applications
are getting to end users and where the bottlenecks are. They should
have baselines that establish the parameters of normal application
performance, taking into account the differences in performance for
time of day, day of week and day of month. So, for instance, if you
know that the accounting software gets the most usage on the fourth
Wednesday of every month, you can be prepared for any performance
Question No. 2: How much of the traffic on your network is business-related and how much is not?
As streaming applications such as real-time video become more
prevalent, the ability to set policies for which types of traffic get
priority across your network is imperative. You must know which
applications are on the network at any given time, who is using them
and when, as well as how much bandwidth each application is consuming.
IT organizations should implement QOS (quality-of-service) policies
to ensure that mission-critical applications receive the highest
priority when they need to access network resources, and also to ensure
that bandwidth-hungry applications like VOIP (voice over IP) do not
starve out other applications. Ongoing monitoring with real-time
visibility into how QOS is prioritizing network traffic is needed to
determine if applications are being classified appropriately.
Question No. 3: Can you regulate compliance initiatives with long-term network traffic storage and playback?
As governments become more involved in technology regulation, IT
organizations need to show proof of how the network is being used at
any given time. This requires deep packet inspection capabilities with
long-term storage so that past application transactions can be easily
recounted. The ability to quickly rebuild complete Web pages with
graphics and reconstruct e-mails, documents and instant messages is
important for forensics, compliance and security auditing.
Question No. 4: Is your network prepared for a convergence of unified communications and data services?
The addition of streaming application services such as VOIP and
video can negatively impact the performance of data applications. While
not traditional applications, these services can be critical to the
day-to-day business activity of end users. Therefore, managing their
service delivery across all parts of the infrastructure is a critical
step toward verifying that the network architecture is ready for
Question No. 5: Have you established SLAs (service-level agreements) around application delivery (not just availability)?
Implementing SLAs for application performance provides a measuring
stick for how your end users receive application services and when
performance degrades from normal. SLAs can also help you determine
whether your external service providers are living up to their service
The answers to these five questions will give CIOs an overall
picture of application service delivery at any given time. CIOs who
understand how the network is impacting application delivery will be in
a better position to ensure that the IT organization is supporting
business operations optimally. Taking a performance-first approach is
crucial and requires first knowing how applications are being delivered
to end users under normal circumstances, understanding how performance
is impacted by infrastructure and application changes, and isolating
application delivery bottlenecks. Only then can IT organizations make
certain that problems are resolved quickly, mitigate risk from planned
changes and unexpected events, and take measured steps to optimize
application delivery across the network.
Joel Trammell is co-founder and CEO of NetQoS Inc.
Since co-founding NetQoS in 1999, Joel has led the company to become
one of the fastest growing in the United States. In 2005, the Austin
Business Journal recognized Joel as its Private Company Executive of
the Year. In 2006, he received the Ernst &
Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Joel's achievements in IT span more than two decades and
include numerous positions of leadership and management, most recently
with Advanced Micro Devices, UST Computers (where he was the
president and CEO of the Austin, Texas-based provider of computer
hardware and network services) and HomeSmart, a company that he
co-founded in order to provide sales and marketing products for the
residential construction industry.
Joel began his career as an officer and instructor/division
director at the U.S. Navy's prestigious Naval Nuclear Power School,
instructing more than 400 naval officers in thermal sciences and
nuclear reactor plant systems. He was awarded the Navy Achievement
Medal and the designation of Master Training Specialist before moving
on to build products and solutions that would empower clients to solve
their long-standing IT problems.
Joel graduated magna cum laude from Louisiana Tech University
with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He remains a
recognized expert in network solutions and large-scale IT systems
deployment. He can be reached at JoelTrammell@netqos.com.