For all the care and feeding we’ve given to the data center over the years, it must be remembered that all that technology and the skills to operate it are a means to an end. The real prize these days is application performance.
An increasingly mobile workforce is fostering dramatic changes in the way work and productivity are measured, and enterprise infrastructure needs to keep up with these trends in order to remain relevant in the years to come. That means issues like throughput and compute power are still important, but so are architectural flexibility and the need to become more responsive to user needs.
According to a recent survey from SolarWinds, 93 percent of business people say the performance and availability of apps like Exchange, Sharepoint and NetSuite are crucial to their job performance, with nearly two-thirds describing them as critically important. At the same time, however, 36 percent say they have waited a full day for problems to be resolved in mission-critical apps, while 22 percent have experienced wait times of several days.
Meanwhile, top IT executives are starting to recognize that data center infrastructure as it stands now is not geared for the emerging app-centric business environment. Results from surveys at the recent IBM Edge conference show that only 10 percent believe their infrastructure is up to the demands of mobility, social media, Big Data and cloud computing, and only about a third say they are effectively collaborating with business elements within their organizations to better fulfill user demands.
A highly functional application environment is needed to not only improve worker’s lives, but customer satisfaction as well. According to CA’s James Harvey, deployment of an application performance management (APM) stack is crucial for the development of customer engagement and the ability to foster long-term relationships. As commerce becomes more digitized, applications are increasingly the first, and sometimes the only, means of customer interaction with the business. Harvey adds that a key transition over the coming years will be the decentralization of the APM stack across app owners, support teams, dev/test and others in order to provide faster response to performance and availability issues.
Of course, part of the problem the enterprise is having with app performance is user expectations. With data users becoming increasingly accustomed to the accessibility and service they receive from consumer apps, they naturally demand the same response from the enterprise. But there is a danger to applying the consumer mindset to the business world, says Lua CEO Michael DeFranco: Most consumer apps simply are not capable of dealing with the complexities of the business world. Popular tools like MeetUp, for example, are designed for neighborhood get-togethers and other small functions, but not large-scale corporate events. And as a rule, the consumer apps do not provide the security or control that large organizations require. Adding this kind of functionality to basic services like storage and scheduling increases complexity and, alas, diminishes performance.
While it’s tempting to simply throw more technology at application performance, the fact is that it is more than just an infrastructure problem. Management, automation, policy development and a host of other factors will have to be addressed and will need to be coordinated across on-premise, cloud, mobile and social media footprints in order to truly accommodate the diverse data environments that we now live in.
But of all the changes that have hit the enterprise over the past decade, app performance is probably the most crucial because it gets to the heart of why the enterprise exists and how well it will cope in today’s economy.
New tools will help, but what’s really needed is a new way of thinking.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.