Remove Cloud IT “Blind Spots” with Application Visibility

It’s no secret that moving to the cloud is the “new, shiny toy” when it comes to government IT. By using that term I don’t mean to suggest moving to the cloud isn’t a good idea in most cases. It definitely is, and can allow government agencies to lower costs, develop new services faster and to be more secure.

However, in the haste to migrate to cloud, some performance issues are being overlooked and/or created. First off, when we move applications for employees to the cloud that means they are geographically farther away from the end user. Now to get work done, employee applications have a lot farther to go. Applications in remote offices have to not only reach across a Wide Area Network (WAN) to get to a data center (where the application used to be) but also access the Internet through the agency Trusted Internet Connection or Cloud Access Point to the cloud hosted application. 

The unintended consequence of this more complicated path is slower performance due to increased application transaction times. These new performance issues must be closely monitored by the agency.  What’s needed to prevent these issues from spoiling the potential of cloud migration is better end-to-end application visibility.

Application visibility is sometimes referred to as Application Performance Management or Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics.  Whatever the term used, agencies need to get better at application visibility. Operationally many Public Sector IT organizations have gaps in their performance visibility. This is because their IT solutions aren’t integrated and teams aren’t working closely together due to contractual or geographic boundaries.

What’s needed for efficient cloud migrations and ongoing performance optimization is a solution that can track application performance not only in the cloud, but across the network segments, across security boundaries, and all the way to the end user device.  This rich visibility and analysis provides the ability to correlate performance using advanced analytics across the complete architecture.

Improved application visibility and analysis delivers three main benefits for government IT:

  • Greatly improved application performance
  • Optimized employee productivity
  • Quantified measurement of IT impact on the mission

Both the SES leadership and the IT team of an agency benefit from leveraging these capabilities for continuous improvement efforts. For agency leadership, it’s critical to understand and improve how actual mission processes are performing – for example, processing a veteran’s medical claim or a citizen’s application for Medicare. Application visibility provides this type of granular business information, which can be compared across clouds, sites or users.  Analyzing business transaction times, errors and failures by sites, groups of users of individual users can be useful for optimizing mission efficiency and effectiveness.

For the IT team, removing application blind spots gives them insights which empower more efficient building of applications, and delivering improvements faster. They can see where the errors are, and where they are spending most of their time fixing problems. Many organizations see upwards of a 3.6x improvement in case closures and a 50 percent jump in overall productivity when they leverage end-to-end application performance management. This is according to TechValidate.com, which has posted over a hundred customer case studies here.

Often legacy architectures have application dependencies no one thinks of before migration. A few years ago, we worked on a major data center migration project for a large systems integrator client. Prior to leveraging application visibility the client attempted migrating a key business application twice.  Each migration attempt broke this critical application, which provided their “quote to cash” functionality.

This meant the client couldn’t properly process orders or book the revenue. The application depended on services running on an old server no one remembered or knew anything about. Each outage cost the system integrator $1 million per hour until the server issue was discovered. Once they had production application dependency mapping, instead of using the manual clipboard method, they completed the migration successful.

Sometimes applications are developed in a bubble, built to specs without much consideration for how they need to operate in the agency’s production environment. Sometimes Lowest Price, Technically Acceptable (LPTA) plays a role, leading to corners being cut or testing scenarios skipped.   

When moving to cloud, there are many more application performance questions that need to be asked. How will the application perform remotely, on a mobile device, over a satellite connection? I worked for one client whose employees experienced such bad latency when trying to access a brand new $10M application from outside the continental United States the application was practically unusable. In this case, recognizing the performance constraint and designing around it was required.  Riverbed offers application network readiness assessments, including SLA testing in your software development life cycle (SDLC), so agencies can proactively avoid these performance issues.

Not only can improved application performance management deliver the benefits listed above, it can also promote a culture of continuous performance improvement. After all, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Once application visibility removes the blind spots and replaces them with end-to-end performance metrics, your IT team can continuously improve performance, correlate formerly siloed data and (in many cases) better enforce third-party SLAs.

Change is never simple for huge organizations like government agencies. But it’s imperative that the move to cloud be done in an efficient and informed manner. Application visibility removes the blind spots that currently hinder IT performance. Without robust end-to-end visibility, the government organization and their IT departments won’t have the tools they need for the mission. And without the ability to quantify progress, the possibilities of the cloud are not achievable.

This content is made possible by our sponsor. The editorial staff of Government Executive was not involved in its preparation.

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