APM: The symbiotic relationship between network and end user experience

By Pavel Minarik, Vice President, Technology at Progress.

  • 11 months ago Posted in

When it comes to IT infrastructure, end users tend to focus on what they can see in front of them - all that matters is how the applications and software perform. Users’ are increasingly intolerant of poor application performance. According to research by Cisco AppDynamics, 60% of customers blame the application or brand when performance issues happen. It’s therefore vital that organisations prioritise performance and overall user experience above all else.

However, apps do not exist in isolation. The overall performance of the network largely determines an app’s performance for end users. While applications run both on internal servers and the cloud, the performance of the network governs an app’s performance. User experience (UX) and application experience (AX) are also based on this.

It’s a requirement to understand how fast apps are running, any existing pain points and how to mitigate these. Ensuring that apps are providing an optimum user experience can be achieved through implementing Application Performance Monitoring (APM) as an essential component of network management.

Why APM matters

Every app, whether a retail app or accessible in the cloud should perform at a high level and provide a positive user experience. Tech teams need to know how fast their apps run, in order to rapidly identify and address sluggish performance. It’s important to know if customers and prospects are happy with the speed and performance of an app. And it is equally important to distinguish between network and application delay to avoid endless discussions and finger pointing. In the case of any problems arising, IT needs to know the root cause of the issue so they can solve it.

Not only does APM play a key role in ensuring quality end user experience, but it also ensures compliance with performance-related service level agreements (SLAs). From a network perspective, APM can show how long the user waited for a request response and measure response times for the application as well as databases and the network. If the solution is agentless, it detects the network traffic and monitors the responses. An APM solution can generally monitor all modern HTTP and HTTPS applications as well as transactions between the application and related database servers.

How effective APM benefits user experience

APM solutions work on the application layer and perform essential calculations for speed and delivery of engagement. They detect application traffic, then do TCP (transmission control protocol) assembly of the connection, parsing the application layer and measuring responses and other metrics.

Importantly, APM measures the transport time of a request from user to application. It has the ability to track precise application delay, and response time from the application server to the request. Details of any application delays can easily be viewed by IT in the APM console.

Ensuring optimum application experience depends entirely on monitoring application performance and comparing delivery to agreed goals. This meaningful data can be provided for the network-based apps in various different charts and reports, including the number of transactions, server response time, network transport time and number of concurrent users.

Should an application error arise, APM solutions empower IT and network teams with error details such as the error code, its timing, user identification and further information about the transaction. IT can then troubleshoot the transaction, accessing as detailed information like the query details including parameters. The issue can then be resolved and application performance restored.

Key foundations for best practice APM

Application performance management isn’t a completely plug and play solution, but requires a few considerations for effective implementation. Some of key foundations for establishing best practice APM include:

1. Prioritise apps to monitor

Monitoring the many apps of a typical enterprise is no mean feat – it might not be possible to monitor the performance of them all. IT and business leaders can prioritise the key applications to monitor in terms of response time. The accounting system may seem critical, but its performance is not as crucial as a customer-facing eCommerce application. It’s best to prioritise according to what kinds of transactions each application is responsible for.

2. Integration

For maximum effectiveness, APM must be considered an integral part of the organisation’s IT monitoring, management and surveillance ecosystem. APM is often tightly integrated with network and IT infrastructure monitoring solutions and ties into their dashboards and reports.

3. Automation

Automation is an IT godsend. For APM, look for ways to automate the collection of data, reporting and even automate responses to common IT issues, such as restarting a frozen server. For applications, there can be automated responses to performance problems or to deal with traffic spikes.

4. Minimise alerts

APM systems avoid flooding IT with alert overload by informing the appropriate person for an issue that needs attention. They can alert them through their chosen communication method – for instance, email, Slack, or Teams.

5. Tailored reporting

With the right solution, reports can be tailored according to the recipient’s role. This means that the IT staffers can pull dedicated activity reports, with high-level reports generated for the management team. With reports integrated into forecasting tools, IT pros can more easily predict an application’s future performance.

Maintaining app performance is table stakes for loyalty

Substandard or slow app performance – whether network or app-related - is usually the biggest threat to a good user experience. This is why complete visibility into the network, its related resources and the state of applications is table stakes to identifying and resolving issues quickly and effectively. With spiralling user expectations, quick resolution of any issues will ensure the high level of frictionless customer experience that maintains brand loyalty.

Tech pros can only improve application performance if they are measuring it. If CIOs take time to understand the capabilities of APM to improve network experience, application experience and, ultimately, customer experience, their tech teams will save valuable time and deliver the high levels of app performance that users expect.

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