In recent years, cloud has become a key enabling technology for digital transformation. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, enterprises are benefiting from the flexible capacity, business agility, and lower fixed costs it provides. As a result, a growing number of organisations are migrating applications and information stores to public and private cloud solutions, so that hybrid IT architectures—where information is stored in the cloud as well as on local systems – have become the norm. However, while hybrid environments can provide significant IT and business benefits, they also lead users to cope with poor application performance issues on an alarmingly regular basis, reducing employee productivity, making operations less efficient, and impacting on the bottom line. This creates a significant gap between the performance needs of businesses and IT’s ability to deliver.

With applications, data and users scattered across branch offices and other remote locations, optimising and delivering great application performance is becoming increasingly difficult. As a result, IT engineers spend 10 to 50 per cent of their time on root-cause analysis, endlessly searching for the sources of application performance problems in a sea of complexity.

Achieving complete visibility across all code, data, networks, and end-user devices will help them maintain control over these complex environments, and take a fully integrated, proactive, agile approach to managing application performance that is directly tied to business value.

Cloud adoption may be inevitable, but it’s not easy

As enterprises move to deploy cloud architectures, the network becomes the key factor in determining the success or failure of cloud initiatives. At the same time, many of the demands of today’s enterprise environments are at odds with the network’s original design assumptions. Three key trends highlight the problem:

  • Dispersed workforce: More users are working remotely than ever before, either from home offices or an ever expanding number of branch offices. In fact, today nearly 80 per cent of enterprise employees and contractors are located in branch and regional offices, resulting in a dramatic increase in the amount of traffic on the enterprise’s wide-area network (WAN) for remote offices and branch offices.
  • Cloud-based services and applications: Lured by benefits such as pay as you go, automatic upgrades and reduced infrastructure spend, enterprises are increasingly adopting SaaS. This places a strain on legacy networks, as they require remote traffic to pass through the datacentre in order to access SaaS resources, unnecessarily loading the WAN and introducing latency that can negatively impact application performance.
  • Bandwidth-intensive business usage: applications such as teleconferencing, remote training and multimedia presentations are putting intense pressure on networks with a finite amount of bandwidth. Due to their increasing use, 48 per cent of respondents to a recent survey of enterprise IT departments expect bandwidth requirements to double by the end of 2017. Given that traditional architectures are often rigid and difficult to scale, not to mention overly complex to manage, these findings put the network on a collision course with the bandwidth needs of the enterprise going forward.
Today’s organisations tend to use a range of monitoring and troubleshooting tools Click to Tweet

As a result, achieving network agility has become a common stumbling block. Applications can fail or underperform for a multitude of reasons. The application code can be problematic, network issues can create connectivity issues, or servers can fail.  Even worse, IT can remain “in the dark” about why their enterprise applications are running slowly, as nearly two-thirds (64%) of enterprises continue to use a fragmented approach to technology monitoring, which cannot possibly deliver end-to-end visibility.

Today’s organisations tend to use a range of monitoring and troubleshooting tools. But, because each domain has a different perspective and restricted view, engineers often arrive at conflicting conclusions when looking to solve application performance problems that are crippling the business. Separate IT teams see only part of the transaction, and effective communication between those teams is challenging because they are using different, unsynchronised metrics. As a result, IT wastes time trying to determine the root cause for performance problems instead of fixing them. This translates into a reactive approach which falls short in the complex, application-driven world.

What true visibility is all about

Optimising application performance is a lot easier when organisations have a clear view of any problems that arise across the entire network – plus the right tools to fix them.

Regardless of whether applications are deployed on-premises or in the cloud, new technologies provide end-to-end, unified visibility into applications and the networks they run across, all the way out to the end-user experience. They provide organisations with visibility, optimisation and control, thus offering the necessary insight to ensure optimal performance of enterprise applications, while maximising IT efficiency and productivity. As a result, issues that previously might have taken weeks to resolve, now only take days.

When organisations see and understand exactly what’s going on across all networks, data centres, ISPs, branch offices, cloud services, and remote users, they can free up IT’s time to develop innovative solutions, plan capacity, and proactively identify and address emerging issues.

Equally important, IT can also configure application infrastructures so that they respond to the organisation’s needs. Ultimately, according to a Riverbed report, for organisations worldwide, IT’s improved visibility into application performance results in increased productivity (56 per cent) and revenue (43 per cent), as well as improved customer service (54 per cent), product quality (49 per cent) and employee engagement (46 per cent).

Organisations running applications in the cloud should not have to sacrifice control over convenience and cost. With cloud technology appearing more often, and the massive amount of data that is produced through an enterprise network, ensuring applications are performing at optimum efficiency is more important than ever.

In the pursuit of agility, businesses will only be able to keep their noses in front if they have a clear picture of application performance across the network, regardless of where they are located. Once this is taken care of, they will have a far better idea of what is needed to ensure they deliver and maintain business-critical applications within a hybrid environment, ultimately ensuring increased productivity across the enterprise, improving the bottom line.

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Paul Griffiths is Senior Director for the Advanced Technology Group at Riverbed Technology since the beginning of 2013. His core responsibilities include being an advocate for customers, prospects and Riverbed teams, advising on IT architecture and business solutions by communicating the current capabilities and future direction of the Riverbed portfolio. Interfacing with Riverbed Product Management and Engineering to contribute towards product development strategy. Having previously served in pre-sales and as a Global Consulting Engineer for Riverbed since 2006, Paul brings a wealth of knowledge, leadership and technical expertise to the Advanced Technology Group team, as well as evangelism for the company globally. Paul has over 25 years of experience across a wealth of IT industry sectors, including Data Communications, Mainframe, Office & Open systems, Symmetric Multi-Processing, Networks and Network Storage. Prior to joining Riverbed, Paul held technical marketing and consulting positions at Brocade Communications, Auspex Systems, Alliant Computer Systems, Convergent Technologies and ICL as well as participating on the Fibre Channel Engineering Council of SNIA Europe.