Category Archives: APM

Cisco Application Visiblity and Control – What’s in it for me?

Cisco’s NBAR2 delivers detailed visibility into application performance and prioritization

A long long time ago in a galaxy far away…
I read a research note from Gartner (circa 2001) that suggested deep packet inspection (DPI) would render other forms of measuring application performance less meaningful.

Has that day come?

Maybe, maybe not, but this gets us a lot closer and the data could prove invaluable providing metrics, diagnostic, and deep-dive data to application performance processes within an enterprise or service provider network.

With the flurry of news over the last week about vendors (ManageEngine, CA, Plixer) leveraging this new application performance data I had to take a closer look. What I found was incredibly interesting.

AVC stands for application visibility and control. It is Cisco’s built in capability for discovering and controlling applications on the network. Leveraging NBAR2, Cisco’s next generation of DPI, more than 1000 applications are recognized out of the box, and this data is available just like standard netflow data for visualization in Cisco’s tools or 3rd party tools.

The demand for bandwidth consumption in the enterprise is growing along with video, mobile and cloud. While this is often good for business it can be challenging for operations who need visibility into which applications are running on the network, performance metrics by application, and a way to manage and prioritize to control the end-user experience.

How many times have you walked around your office and seen too many desktops watching something on youtube? Listening to music streaming from youtube is not the most productive use of bandwidth I think.

NBAR2 provides visibility at the application level for collection of performance metrics such as:
– breakdown of applications in detail going accross the network
– by IP, by port, by application
– in-bytes
– in-packets
– in interface
– out interface
– out bytes
– out packets
– response time
– application delay
– network delay
– client delay
– server delay

Because AVC is built into the latest gear (ASR 1000 and ISR G2 routers) it may eliminate the need for other costly DPI hardware currently used to measure application performance or shape traffic.

Check out this very short video demo of ActionPacked Networks net flow reporting tool showing the new application performance data.

This data is awesome and needs to be accessible to APM tools to diagnose performance issues as well as fed into analytics (ITOA) engines that perform anomaly detection and correlation.

AVC also supports prioritization of applications using QoS to improve user experience for critical applications and enforce fair-use policies.


Related links:

Cisco AVC Knowledge Portal
Dr. Netflow doing a quick demo

Making Sense of Customer Experience (CX) , User Experience (UX) and Application Performance Management (APM)

One thing I have always been a little nit-picky about is clarity of communication. The words customer experience, user experience and application performance are used in so much marketing and promotional language that it can be easy to lose site of what those terms actually mean.

Customer experience, often abbreviated as CX, is a customer’s perception of their entire relationship with your organization. It’s their memory and emotional assessment of the history of each and every touchpoint they have had over the duration of your engagement together. CX can also refer to a single interaction when thinking more granularly.

Looking at it from the organizational perspective, CX is the planning, delivery and management of every aspect of each individual customer journey in support of customer behaviors such as discovery, evaluation, purchase, post-purchase evaluation, and experience sharing.

Who owns the customer experience in your organization?

User experience, often abbreviated as UX, is a subset of CX. It is the customer’s perception of their entire digital relationship with your organization. It is the sum of their feelings about the history of their online interactions with you through the web, smartphone app, and social media. From an organizational perspective, UX also focusses on designing and managing the digital touch points , or perhaps just influencing with regards to social media.

Digital is increasingly paramount and cannot be separated from your business, brand and CX strategies.

Why are CX and UX so important now?

Because businesses sell products and services but people buy experiences! Because the features and benefits of the products and services you sell can be commoditized, delivering memorable experiences worth sharing cannot. CX and UX are the moat that you build and use to defend your market position, take on new markets, or create entirely new ways of delivering the experiences people desire.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be called CX or UX but rather PX for people experience!

So where does application performance management (APM) fit in? It is a big part of managing the digital experience and supporting most of the non-digital experiences people have with businesses. APM is the monitoring and management of software application for availability and performance. The job of APM is to identify application problems and support quick diagnoses so expected services levels can be maintained.

Of course, software applications directly support and influence most digital journeys. But have you thought about how they indirectly influence many brick and mortar or supporting capabilities. If you talk to an employee at the customer service desk to ask if a product is in stock they are using a software application to look it up, and let’s not even get started on the complex supply chain and logistics involved to stock the shelves at any big box retailer.

APM are the monitoring and processes your organization has in place to ensure the systems that support the business and translating all those metrics into business value or PX.

I had a bit of an awakening as it relates to – can I use my new word ;) – PX, but that’s for another post. That sounds like my next job – CPXO – Chief People Experience Officer!


Web Performance is Only 50% of User Experience (UX)

As a former website monitoring vendor,  I have often made the statement that web performance is user experience, and I’ve seen others say the same.  Let’s deconstruct that a little bit and try to add some clarity to what user experience actually is and where application performance management and optimization fit in.

In plain english, User experience (UX) is the science of understanding how a person perceives their digital relationship with your organization. It includes all the subjective aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.

Quoting more technically from wikipedia’s definition of user experience
ISO 9241-210 defines user experience as “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service”. According to the ISO definition, user experience includes all the users’ emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, physical and psychological responses, behaviors and accomplishments that occur before, during and after use. The ISO also list three factors that influence user experience: system, user and the context of use.

I would purport then that User Experience is 50% application performance and 50% usability. Application performance is the hard science part while usability is the soft science part.

Usability is about…

Effectiveness – can users complete tasks, achieve goals with the product, do what they want to do?

Efficiency – how much effort do users require to do this?

Satisfaction – what do users think about the products ease of use?

And application performance is about…

Availability – is it there to users to interact with when they choose to?

Performance – does it offer a fast and fluid experience when pressing buttons, entering data or using menus?

Relating user experience to music. It’s not just technical execution of the notes but the voicing of the music as well that makes a piece sound wonderful.

If your website is slow or it doesn’t work users will hate it. Even if it’s super-fast and always there,  if users can’t figure out how to complete the task from the user interface presented or that interaction is tedious they will also hate it.

Yes, web application performance is half of user experience, but so is usability. Both are essential to delivering memorable experiences worth sharing. A key to success in today’s connected world.


Why the APM Imperative? Because User Experience is the Business

In plain english, application performance management (APM) is what we do to ensure applications users depend on are working well and fast to support the business.

Monitoring tools capture and bring together information that measures the end-user experience, business results, and performance of the underlying software and hardware. These metrics allows all stakeholders to see when important digital customer touchpoints are not serving users and the business well. They also help development and operations people quickly identify, diagnose, and resolve issues.

Business results are directly related to customer experience (CX) and as more and more customer experiences migrate to digital channels it will be incumbent upon the business stakeholders to take ownership of user experience (UX) partly through the practice of APM.

APM is becoming as much about managing the business as managing technology.

As important as using APM to manage user experience and business results has become, research shows almost 60% of organizations have yet to adopt formal application management platforms and processes.

Further, the increasing complexity of today’s application environments – Cloud, Mobile, virtualization, SaaS – means more data need to be collected, analyzed, integrated and visualized with a higher level of granularity so the business can operate in real-time and respond effectively when things go wrong.  No one is immune from “stuff happens” no matter how good operational practices may be.

Gartner group has been working on refining and formalizing the definition of what is required in an APM platform and has recently published the 2013 Magic Quadrant for APM. You can get a copy of that for yourself if you are a Gartner client or courtesy of AppDyamics here.

There are only 13 vendors who made Gartner’s exclusive list this year, but there are 100s of solutions out there that can help your organization more effectively manage application performance, user experience (UX) and the business results derived from those digital interactions.

I’ll be sharing more about free and open source tools too.

Check out all this great stuff being shared by Etsy as open source.

So what are you waiting for?