Innovation and changeDigital TransformationFive ways to optimise application performance management

Five ways to optimise application performance management

Paul Parker, CTO of SolarWinds, discusses the importance of application performance management (APM) in a public sector context and shares five key components that should be in every IT pro’s APM toolkit

These days, organisations in most industries are striving to offer products and services that are more open and accessible, with many turning to applications as the primary means of product and service delivery. Even in the public sector, applications have the power to change how services are provided, such as mobile apps that utilise user-generated data to record potholes in roads, which is reported back to local authorities, who can then arrange relevant repairs.

It’s very progressive and holds enormous potential, but as we move towards continuous delivery, with customers or end-users expecting consistent service delivery, what about application performance?

Unfortunately, even with an incredibly fast infrastructure, if application performance is poor, then constituents will more than likely have a bad experience. Proper application performance management (APM) is vital for identifying application performance issues and ensuring that they maintain an expected level of service. Load testing, synthetic and real-user monitoring, and root-cause analysis are just a few of the key tools that comprise a balanced approach to APM.

Understanding the importance of application management raises the question: How can public sector IT professionals ensure that their applications are performing optimally?

Here are five key components that should be in every IT pro’s APM toolkit.

  1. End-user experience monitoring

This should be high on the primary list for public sector IT professional’s APM efforts. End-user experience monitoring tools collect information on interactions with the application and help identify any problems that are having a negative impact on the constituents’ experience.

Many factors can affect the user experience. As local government bodies move closer to complete cloud adoption—the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018 showed that 72% of respondents in the U.K. public sector consider the cloud to offer the biggest potential in terms of opportunities to create/increase efficiencies in implementation, rollout, and performance—it’s important to find a tool that can monitor both on-premises and hosted applications. It’s also useful to consider a tool that makes provisions for instant changes to network links or external servers if either, or both, are compromising the end-user experience.

  1. Runtime application architecture discovery

This part of APM looks at the hardware and software components involved in application execution—as well as the paths they use to communicate—to help identify problems and establish their scope.

With the complexity of today’s networks, discovering and displaying all the components that contribute to application performance is a substantial task. As such, it is important to select a monitoring tool that provides real-time insight into the application delivery infrastructure.

The best tools will go one step further and provide the ability for IT managers to visualise application architecture on the same console that provides insight to the end-user experience. This will not only provide a more complete picture, it will also allow the IT team to interact with different aspects of the APM solution quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

  1. User-defined transaction profiling

Just as it is important to identify the software, hardware, and communication paths that application traffic takes throughout the networks, it is equally as important to understand user-defined transactions as they navigate the architecture.

This insight allows IT teams to map out events as they occur across the various components. In addition, it will provide an understanding of where and when events are occurring, and whether they are occurring as efficiently as possible.

  1. Component deep-dive monitoring

This component of APM provides an in-depth understanding of the components and pathways discovered in previous steps. In a nutshell, the IT management team conducts in-depth monitoring of the resources used by, and events occurring within, the application performance infrastructure.

  1. Analytics

Finally, as with any IT scenario, having information is one thing; understanding it is another.

APM analytics tools enable IT teams to:

  • Set a performance baseline that provides an understanding of current and historical performance, and set an expectation of what a “normal” application workload entails
  • Quickly identify, pinpoint, and eliminate application performance issues based on historical/baseline data
  • Anticipate and alleviate potential future issues through actionable patterns
  • Identify areas for improvement by mapping infrastructure changes to performance changes

When choosing APM tools, it’s important to consider the organisation’s current technical environment, and understanding what applications are the most important and most frequently used will help to shape a management strategy. A delay in performance necessitates a prompt response, and with a strategy and tools in place that provide continuous monitoring as well as real-time, transaction-oriented information, this won’t be a problem.

As IT environments become more complex, it is equally important to choose a set of APM tools that integrate both with one another and with other tools and solutions already in place. Having visibility across all pieces of the application environment is critical to having a complete understanding of application performance and helping ensure “always on” optimisation.

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