Cranking up Application Performance


Application performance may be more crucial to the bottom line that most of us realize. While many of us have long known that our networks don't provide the level of application support we would like, it's been hard to get a sympathetic ear in the front office that still considers IT to be a cost center.


But new research from the Aberdeen Group may help to convince the suits that investment in application performance can actually improve the bottom line, both by lowering costs and increasing revenue. The firm's latest report indicates that poor performance is hampering revenues in more than half the business world, with the typical loss hitting about 9 percent. And the hassles of poor performance are affecting more than just employees -- customer satisfaction and brand recognition are also starting to suffer.


The report states that businesses that do invest in application performance infrastructure spend an average of $96,000 per year and can mitigate the risk of losing up to $117 million per year. The best approach is not to shell out for marquee systems that address only the major app performance issues, but to install a wide range of capabilities designed to manage full application lifecycles.


The experience of Japan's Daiwa Securities offers an example of the kind of improvement that souped-up app performance can bring. The company had a proprietary system that supported more than 120 applications for about 250 employees, but frequent crashes and poor tech support would knock the system out on a weekly basis for more than an hour at a stretch -- an eternity in the securities business. The company recently migrated to Red Hat's JBoss Enterprise Application and Portal Platforms, delivering an instant savings of $300,000 in licensing and hardware costs, and has cut application compiling and delivery times from about 15 minutes to a few seconds.


Other open systems are putting greater stock in measurement and predictive capabilities to not only improve the delivery of applications, but assist in their termination as well. Borland Software Corp. recently introduced the Borland Management Solutions (BMS) platform, which uses the company's Open ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) Framework to turn software delivery into an integrated business process, rather than a series of discrete functions. The goal is to better align software management with business needs through "end-to-end visibility, metrics and intelligence."


Performance over the WAN is also a crucial function that some enterprises are meeting through advanced appliance technology. Juniper Networks has introduced three new devices in its WXC series aimed at small and medium-sized branch offices and central data centers. The company claims a 100-fold increase in usable WAN capacity using network sequence caching and other techniques aimed at minimizing network traffic and prioritizing business-critical data.


Increased reliance on networked applications and the improved capabilities of performance enhancement tools is quickly making application performance a "must-have" in the enterprise. The investment is minimal, but the returns can be substantial.