Application-Aware Performance Management Solutions Support Quality of Experience
By Cyril Doussau de Bazignan
The convergence of voice, multimedia, and data over shared IP network infrastructure has made it more difficult than ever to ensure the performance of enterprise services. Managed service providers (MSPs) and IT staff often struggle to get the information they need at the right time to ensure that consumers and end-users are getting the experience they expect. The question is no longer, "Can we deliver traditional IP-VPN and Ethernet connectivity?" It has become, "How can MSPs launch new services for their customers and increase revenue through those new offerings, while helping enterprises solve next-generation application delivery challenges and improve the end-user experience?" In striving to meet these demands, MSPs and enterprise IT departments face several major challenges:
- For enterprises, the need to reduce expenses and improve efficiency and services is driving efforts to simplify and consolidate data centers. However, data center consolidation puts a lot of pressure on an enterprise's ability to deliver applications across the wide area network (WAN). Consolidation creates compression on a system's infrastructure in the delivery of applications to its users, whether they are fixed or mobile. Quality becomes critical with voice and video traffic, which eats up bandwidth and also is extremely sensitive to end-to-end network performance.
- MSPs meanwhile must find ways to increase revenue and achieve a measurable return on investment (ROI) largely on deployed infrastructures in the face of increasing commoditization and price erosion for the managed VPN services. Demand for VPN services continues to grow but price-per-site is decreasing. With revenue streams becoming stagnant, and customers demanding more from the service and perhaps expecting to pay less, increased profitability depends upon the ability of MSPs to launch new, advanced VPN services that augment revenue.
- The need to increase revenue in difficult economic conditions puts pressure on MSPs to control costs and optimize ROI, while meeting the need to assure delivery according to service level agreements. To accomplish this, it is critical for MSPs to invest in a unified, scalable, multitenant platform to monitor network and application performance and end-user experience.
Adopting a user-experience and application-focused approach
To overcome these challenges, MSPs and enterprises are beginning to understand the need to move beyond the traditional approach towards delivery of enterprise services to one that incorporates user-experience and application-focused features that have gained importance in today's business services environment. Deploying these application-aware offerings can be accomplished through a smooth and staged introduction comprised of two functional sets-visibility services and optimization services-that can ultimately culminate into intelligent policy-controlled application control services. These offerings address a MSP's need to generate new revenue streams, while at the same time meet an enterprise's need for increased visibility and assurance of VPN service and application performance, in addition to addressing concerns over escalating bandwidth requirements and costs.
A logical first step is application usage visibility, which provides the data needed to identify bandwidth-intensive applications, aids in rapid troubleshooting and proactive resolution of application-based network performance issues, and allows for the detection of rogue activity occurring on the network. This not only provides informed visibility but will assist enterprises in determining the best use of the numerous classes of service offered within the managed VPN. Applications, per site, can be correctly classified as to their performance characteristics and apportioned to an appropriate class, e.g. real-time, best effort, etc.
Making informed decisions about optimization
Armed with an understanding of application deployment, an enterprise may deploy WAN optimization solutions that accelerate applications over the WAN. But optimization/acceleration techniques also present new challenges for measuring the response time for the optimized applications. When applications are optimized between the branches and the data center, measuring application performance from the data center may lead to inaccurate user experience measurement-and installing the same monitoring devices in all branches as those used in the data centers would be cost-prohibitive.
Combining technologies to meet demands
Gaining an understanding of the user experience from all network locations and achieving bandwidth and application optimization without excessive deployment costs requires two primary components:
- The networking technology and WAN optimization devices
- Visibility into the service and the assurance of its performance through detailed real time reporting and monitoring
Choosing the right application-aware performance management solution is critical to obtaining the visibility, monitoring, and reporting capabilities needed to support WAN optimization. The enhanced visibility such a solution provides makes it possible to detect applications that are good candidates for optimization and can empower users with the information required to make informed decisions prior to WAN optimization deployment. In addition, the solution should offer another critical component-visibility and reporting to monitor the optimized network environment once WAN optimization has been deployed. This delivers the information needed to ensure that traffic optimization and application performance are reaching the expected levels.
In today's enterprise network environment, application-centric performance management is key to achieving an optimal application performance experience. Combining state-of-the-art technologies in response to this business requirement allows managed service providers to launch new services for their customers and increase revenue through those offerings-all while enabling organizations to improve the performance of their applications over the WAN, support their increased bandwidth consumption, and address rural and remote bandwidth limitations while reducing their IT management costs.
Cyril Doussau de Bazignan is Product Marketing Director for InfoVista, a leading proactive service assurance management software company. InfoVista empowers telecom operators, services providers and large enterprises to maximize business return and productivity by assuring the optimal performance of mission-critical networked services, applications, and infrastructures. Cyril can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.