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The New Age of Network Analytics (Hint: It’s Not About the Network)

Faced with increased demand and expectations, enterprise leaders are realizing that they need a fresh approach to network analytics — and it has almost nothing to do with the network. Instead, this new age of network analytics is all about the application.

I am old enough to remember the beginning of modern networking.

It’s hard to believe it now, but the idea that we could connect a bunch of devices without predetermining how they would interact and then route packets between them to allow them to communicate was nothing short of miraculous.

I began my career as a network engineer, and even in those early days we quickly realized that we needed metrics to ensure that this new miracle of modern networking would keep working.

From those early days until very recently, network metrics were reasonably straightforward. Capture data on the technical details like bandwidth usage, latency, loss, and jitter, and you had a pretty good idea of how your network was performing.

In the last few years, however, there has been a dramatic shift in the importance of the technology stack — and the network that supports it. As a result, IT organizations are realizing that the traditional approaches of measuring and managing network performance are no longer sufficient.

Faced with increased demand and expectations, enterprise leaders are realizing that they need a fresh approach to network analytics — and it has almost nothing to do with the network. Instead, this new age of network analytics is all about the application.

The Problem with Network Analytics

Two forces have combined to make the traditional approach to network analytics insufficient for the modern enterprise.

The first of these is the nature of applications themselves.

Over the last couple of decades, applications have gone from simple, text-based interactions to the interconnected, distributed, and content-rich applications of today.

Modern applications put a significant emphasis on visual appeal, often leverage rich-forms of media and other content (e.g., video, audio, etc.), and typically pull together data from multiple systems to deliver the types of user experiences that customer, employees, and partners have come to expect.

While these new applications have unquestionably created a superior experience, they also consume vast amounts of bandwidth — something that can be problematic when it comes to managing and optimizing an enterprise network.  Furthermore, the distributed nature of these modern applications can cause minor network issues to cascade throughout the entire interconnected application stack, compounding the performance impact even further.

Going hand-in-hand with the changing nature of applications, however, is an even more critical shift which increases the importance of network performance exponentially: the application experience.

Until recently, an enterprise consumed most of its applications internally. Performance, therefore, was still relevant to things like employee productivity, but poor performing applications rarely had a direct impact on revenue, profit, or the customer experience.

Today, however, that paradigm has flipped upside down. An enterprise’s applications are now integral to nearly every business process and virtually every element of the customer experience and can have a dramatic impact on an organization’s revenue, profit, and reputation as a result.

Application performance is now essential to delivering and protecting competitive advantage. And that means that the ways that enterprises measure and manage the networks that support those applications must evolve.

 

The Application-Aware Age of Network Analytics

“I don’t care what’s running on the network. My job is to make sure it’s running well. That’s it.”

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I once uttered these words.

But these words once escaped my mouth — and they represent the way that enterprises have traditionally approached network management: the job of the network was to deliver packets.

The problem is that not all packets are created equal — because all applications are not equal.

Organizations now need the ability to prioritize and optimize traffic as it flows across the network using business context to do so rather than relying on technical parameters.

As these organizations seek to monitor performance from this business context, however, it becomes clear that network analytics must go beyond packets and technical performance criteria and, instead, become application aware.

This concept sounds intuitive. After all, hasn’t the application always been critical?

The reality is that the relatively non-dynamic nature of traditional application traffic patterns made network bandwidth allocation a relatively straightforward math problem.

Today’s interconnected, content-rich, and bursty applications, however, mean that an organization must analyze both technical network performance measurements as well as application transaction performance data to dynamically monitor and manage overall network performance.

Without application awareness, an enterprise is left with only crude tools to manage a highly complex and interwoven technology stack.

The Intellyx Take

In an application-powered world, it seems only logical that you must view and analyze the network through a prism of application performance.

Most organizations and technology vendors, however, have been slow to take this approach because doing so requires that they solve some thorny problems.

Taking an application-aware approach to network analytics requires that organizations go beyond easily-captured technical data and begin to incorporate things like business policies, value-driven business priority, security needs, and compliance requirements.

Applied to network analytics and management, this more holistic approach requires that organizations couple technical performance data with things like transaction response times and then apply successive business, security, and compliance contexts to effectively analyze, measure, and manage the network.

This integrated, application-aware approach is no simple task. Many enterprises are, therefore, turning to companies like CloudGenix that offer them precisely these types of application-aware capabilities.

As applications become central to every element of the customer experience and become even greater drivers of business value, competitive advantage will go to those organizations that embrace this new age of network analytics and the application awareness that it demands.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. CloudGenix is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.

This article was originally published as a white paper on the CloudGenix website.

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More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists.

As founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx, he advises, writes, and speaks on a diverse set of topics, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, devops, big data/analytics, cybersecurity, blockchain/bitcoin/cryptocurrency, no-code/low-code platforms and tools, organizational transformation, internet of things, enterprise architecture, SD-WAN/SDX, mainframes, hybrid IT, and legacy transformation, among other topics.

Mr. Bloomberg’s articles in Forbes are often viewed by more than 100,000 readers. During his career, he has published over 1,200 articles (over 200 for Forbes alone), spoken at over 400 conferences and webinars, and he has been quoted in the press and blogosphere over 2,000 times.

Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books: The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013), Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (Wiley, 2006), XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

At SOA-focused industry analyst firm ZapThink from 2001 to 2013, Mr. Bloomberg created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011.

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting), and several software and web development positions.