How a DevOps approach to network performance can optimise application experience

It’s no secret to businesses that their success relies heavily on whether or not application and network teams can provide smooth and seamless performance and availability to customers and employees

In today’s ‘always-on’ world, downtime can have a devastating impact on an organisation’s reputation and revenue. Yet, the growing challenge is that modern applications are more complex than ever, which means the majority of people have unfortunately experienced this frustration while using key applications.

As a business undertakes digital transformation, the growing complexity and distributed nature of these applications means that they are often faced with additional collaborators, and this can lead to its own challenges. These stakeholders often speak different operating languages resulting in disparity, and an increased share of responsibility can lead to uncertainty over who owns what. There’s something else to add to the mix too: the intricacies of these applications require them to work with a complex underlying network and Internet infrastructure, on which the optimisation of application performance is entirely dependent.

With digital transformation continuously changing the app architecture, conditions are constantly evolving – so it’s imperative for businesses to find new tactics to manage their application experiences, and monitoring is one of them. However, with new technologies and external providers being added to the stack, traditional monitoring solutions are rendered obsolete due to the visibility gaps they create for DevOps and NetOps teams.

By applying a DevOps approach to continuously test and improve the application itself and the internal and external network that it’s run on, businesses can reach higher levels of performance.

Constant optimisation with synthetic user monitoring

By implementing real-user and synthetic monitoring alongside one another, problems can be picked up on from not only within the application, but visibility even extends into external environments such as the cloud and Internet, which are now part and parcel of the digital experience. Synthetic monitoring not only helps to quickly locate and fix performance issues, but also allows for opportunities in the pre-production of the application experience, such as designing, testing, and optimising the impact of network performance – all before roll out to users.

In practice, synthetic monitoring can anticipate and mimic the workflow and route of an end user using an application via behavioural scripts – essentially replicating the user’s journey. Alongside network pathing around visibility of routing, this allows businesses to see directly into the digital experience of their application users, while also providing an understanding of the application’s underlying network. This is important as it provides visibility into potential network degradation which may be caused by external issues such as a latent DNS server, or a downstream Internet Service Provider that has made a configuration error.

By aligning visibility across multiple aspects of infrastructure including application, network and routing and devices, synthetic monitoring provides a model for strong optimisation and also continuous improvements. In the first instance, this model provides teams with the insight to identify baseline performance and any reliances from third-parties that may affect it. Networking teams are then able to use this baseline to locate any points where enhancement is needed in order to improve the application performance. Before then making those changes in the pre-production stage, not only trialling the application performance but also gaining visibility into the performance of backend network infrastructures such as the DNS or cloud provider or the location. It is this end-to-end visibility into the application as well as the external network and service dependencies on which it runs, that can allow teams to significantly improve applications through consistent testing and growth.

Collaboration is key for application and business success

Today, applications are everywhere – we use them to communicate, work, learn, shop, and play. Our dependency on them in our day-to-day lives has become so ingrained that they are now the main point of contact for how services are supplied, meaning that businesses must therefore prioritise them as an essential component of their enterprises. Their complexity requires a growing reliance on external networks and services, which then goes hand-in-hand with the increasing need for companies to have visibility into the application’s underlying network – and it is these factors which mean that the way in which applications are built and enabled to optimise is of huge importance.

Not only must network and application teams implement more advanced monitoring techniques, but they must also break out of their traditionally siloed operations and communicate in a way which will allow them to successfully improve applications. Through a shared DevOps approach, these teams are presented with a new and crucial opportunity to collaborate and help grow the business by continuously testing the application, as well as the internal and external networks.

By constantly optimising app performance using baseline performance testing across providers and location, this method of monitoring can not only connect divergent teams but also provide the all-important visibility required in today’s digital world. And with the ability to assess network performance before any updates are shared with the end user, businesses can be confident in their reputation as application providers due to their increased control, which in turn prevents dreaded downtime.

About the Author

Neil Miller is the Leader of Solutions Engineering at ThousandEyes. ThousandEyes delivers visibility into digital experiences delivered over the Internet. The world’s largest companies rely on our platform, collective intelligence and smart monitoring agents to get a real-time map of how their customers and employees reach and experience critical apps and services across traditional, SD-WAN, Internet and cloud provider networks. ThousandEyes is used by some of the world’s largest and fastest growing brands, including more than 100 of the Fortune 500, 190 of the Global 2000, 6 of the 7 top US banks, and 9 of the top 10 global software companies.

Featured image: ©Goredenkoff