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Why taking a DevOps approach to network performance can improve application experience
Mon, 10th May 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Delivering optimal application performance and availability for end-users is the ultimate goal of any IT team. Yet, as IT infrastructures become more complex and include components outside the traditional data center, the task of achieving this goal is becoming increasingly difficult.

Today's modern applications are more distributed and modular than ever before. In turn, the number of people responsible for their management and performance has increased, blurring the lines of demarcation as it relates to ownership and troubleshooting.

The situation is even more challenging because the underlying network and internet infrastructure supporting applications are rapidly becoming more and more complex. Traditional application monitoring solutions fail to meet this challenge which causes visibility gaps that DevOps and NetOps teams have to try to deal with.

These heterogeneous and constantly evolving environments require IT teams to undertake new strategies to achieve effective application management and ensure optimal user experiences. One of the most important is effective monitoring.

By combining real-user monitoring with synthetic proactive transactions, performance issues can be detected beyond the enterprise's four walls. This includes any external cloud and internet-centric components that have become part of the organisation's overall IT mix.

The benefits of synthetic monitoring 

In addition to allowing the rapid diagnosis and resolution of disruptions, synthetic monitoring opens up a new approach to designing, testing and optimising how the broader ecosystem of network performance impacts application experience. This can be achieved during the pre-production phase before any updates or changes are rolled out to users.

In essence, synthetic monitoring uses scripts to emulate the expected workflows and path that an end-user would take through an application. Paired with network pathing around routing visibility, modern synthetics provides an understanding of how users experience an application and the deeper perspective required to see the characteristics of an application's underlying network.

This allows the IT team to diagnose whether degradation is caused by external issues such as a latent DNS server or a downstream internet service provider that has made a configuration error leading to network traffic becoming bottlenecked through its infrastructure.

From a performance optimisation perspective, synthetic monitoring that correlates visibility across network, application, routing and device layers also provides a continuous improvement model. In this model, which borrows from the DevOps approach, the first order of priority is to identify baseline performance and any third-party dependencies that may impact it.

The IT team can then use this baseline to identify areas of improvement that would optimise overall application performance. The team can then roll out those optimisation efforts in the pre-production environment to test both the application performance and the impact of back-end network infrastructures, including the choice of cloud provider, DNS provider, and impact of geographic location, etc.

When equipped with this level of visibility into the networks and components that their business relies on every day, teams can deploy end-to-end performance thresholds for continuous testing and continuous improvement, thereby creating an ongoing improvement process.

Application optimisation

During the past couple of decades, applications have become the underlying infrastructure supporting daily business. They are the primary mechanism through which services are delivered and consumed.

As dependencies on external cloud and internet-centric environments have increased over the years, contextual insight into the underlying network that the application relies on has become increasingly important. How these applications are designed, deployed and optimised is therefore critical.

More advanced monitoring is required to achieve successful application optimisation, as is a new approach to the job itself. While application and network teams have traditionally operated in silos, the DevOps approach to continuously test and improve both the application itself and the internal and external network that it's run on creates a new opportunity to reach higher performance levels.

By working together as a cohesive whole and adopting a DevOps approach to their work, the teams can achieve their goal of better-optimised applications and consistent, reliable performance for end-users. That's a win-win for everyone.