Help desk technicians see and hear the same phrase every day: "The network is slow."
When users request a network trouble ticket based on such a complaint, the help desk technician usually has to follow up with a series of rudimentary questions: Did you accidentally unplug your Ethernet cable? Is your Outlook slow because you are downloading 10 podcasts on iTunes while watching your favorite TV show on Hulu.com?
In any case, the technician has to question the user and probe the network to find out exactly what is causing the problem. This can take hours.
Xangati, an application management vendor, is offering enterprises a new method for solving users' network problems with the launch of its Visual Trouble Ticket (VTT) portal. VTT is part of Xangati's Application Management 2.0 framework, a portfolio of application management products that are based on Web 2.0 concepts such as collaboration and user-generated content.
Instead of relying on users' limited ability to describe the problems they are experiencing on the network, VTT allows them to start a "DVR-like" recording of their networked application activity, according to David Messina, vice president of marketing for Xangati.
The user can then go on with his workday. The recording is incorporated into a trouble ticket, which the help desk technician can access. This allows the tech to examine and diagnose application and network problems without even speaking with the end user.
"I like the idea of user-generated information," said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president of enterprise research at Yankee Group. "I think years and years ago when users weren't quite so tech savvy, this probably wouldn't have flown. But now companies like Comcast and AT&T use self-reporting tools all the time."
VTT will allow IT staff to replay the network activity of users who are experiencing problems, Kerravala said. He pointed out that 40% of all help desk trouble tickets go unresolved, owing mainly to the fact that technicians can't recreate the problems that end users are experiencing.
Messina said that having a self-generated recording of a user's experience allows IT organizations to address issues that arise with increasingly complex networks.
"A lot of the discussions about cloud computing and virtualization and so on claim that these types of solutions can drive down capital expenses and the operational cost of infrastructure," he said. "But the challenge is that applications can be dynamic and anywhere, and they can be accessed by any device. How do you track something that is not even on your network?"
The network manager often bears the brunt of criticism when end users suffer through performance problems in these complex environments, Kerravala said. By having a recording of those experiences, the IT organization can drill down to the source of the problem more easily.
"It's a huge step forward in management software," he said. "It lets IT focus on what the problem is. And it gets the network manager off the hook.
Kerravala said he believes Xangati's product will probably find traction in midmarket companies early on, before catching on with larger enterprises. But he thinks that other system management vendors are likely to adopt a similar approach to trouble ticketing in the future.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor