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Gaining Network and Application Visibility to Better Manage End Points by Jim Metzler

The 2012 Application and Service Delivery Handbook reported on the results of a survey that was given to hundreds of IT professionals. The survey respondents were given twenty management tasks and were asked to indicate how important it was to their company in the coming year to get better at each task. The task that bubbled to the top as being the most important one for IT organizations to get better at was rapidly identifying the root cause of degraded application performance. Given that root cause analysis has been an important management task for years, the survey result raised an interesting question: Why is rapid root cause analysis so challenging that so many IT organizations continue to struggle to do a good job of it? As I will explain in this blog, a big part of the answer is that the end points are out of control.

Being able to rapidly identify the root cause of degraded application performance requires end-to-end visibility from the user to the application(s). In the IT environment that was prevalent until recently and which is still common, the end user resides in a corporate office and network connectivity in the office is provided by a wired LAN. The applications and data that the user needs to access are housed in a corporate data center and the connectivity between the corporate office and the corporate data center is provided by a WAN service such as MPLS. All of the resources in the corporate data center (i.e., the servers, storage or networks) are under the control of the IT organization and none of those resources have been virtualized. Performing root cause analysis in this IT environment is difficult in large part because in order to do it effectively, IT organizations need visibility into the complex end-to-end path that connects the end user to the application(s) and this path is comprised of a wide variety of devices that are usually owned and managed by different groups within the IT organization.

While the IT environment that was described in the preceding paragraph is still very common, a different IT environment is becoming increasingly common. One of the key characteristics of this new environment is that the users are mobile. One type of mobile user resides in a corporate facility where network connectivity is provided by a wireless LAN that is owned and managed by the IT organization. A second type of mobile user accesses corporate applications and data from an external facility where network connectivity is either Wi-Fi or cellular access to the Internet and the network access is provided by a third party. One thing that is true about both types of mobile users is that in most cases, IT no longer controls the devices that they use to access corporate applications and data.

Another key characteristic of this new IT environment is that if the user is accessing resources in the corporate data center, those resources are supported by an infrastructure that is at least partially virtualized and in my last blog I discussed the visibility challenges that are associated with virtualized infrastructure. However, a third characteristic of this new IT environment is that users are increasingly accessing applications and data that are provided by cloud service providers. In these situations, the IT organization has lost control over the resources that enable those applications and data.

A well-known management maxim is that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. An equivalent IT maxim is that you can’t identify the root cause of degraded application performance if you lack visibility into the end-to-end path. Given all of the factors that make getting that end-to-end visibility challenging, gaining that visibility will not happen by accident. Gaining the visibility it takes to resolve the most pressing management problem requires that IT organizations develop an actionable plan that spans the technology and organizational domains that comprise the existing and emerging end-to-end paths that exist between users and the resources they are accessing.

Related IT Networking Resources
Part 1: 2012 Application and Service Delivery Handbook - Executive Summary and Challenges
Part 2: 2012 Application and Service Delivery Handbook - Emerging Application and Service Delivery Challenges
Part 3: 2012 Application and Service Delivery Handbook - Network and Application Optimization
Part 4: 2012 Application and Service Delivery Handbook - Planning, Management and Security

 
 
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