These days networks are measured by the performance of their applications. That means network managers have got to seek out application-aware management and analysis tools.
Both cloud computing and bring your own device (BYOD) programs have placed heavy emphasis on the measurement of application performance. With Software-as-a-Service (whether in a public or private cloud), engineers must gaurantee service level agreements (SLAs) that hinge on application performance. When it comes to mobility, engineers must deliver video and other real-time apps to mobile devices without any delay.
To better measure application performance, engineers are seeking out complex network analysis tools, and vendors are beginning to respond. This month at Interop, Broadcom Corp. unveiled a new network chip that features wire-speed application inspection. This enables engineers to perform stateful packet inspection and correlate that data to application signatures in order to apply policies within the LAN.
This kind of granular QoS in the LAN gives network engineers extremely fine control over how bandwidth is used in the access layer, allowing them to determine how applications like video or collaboration are being delivered to tablets and smart devices.
In addition to application-aware QoS strategies, some engineers are blending Deep Packet Inspection and NetFlow in order to deliver on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) SLAs. This month, a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota network engineer explained to news director Shamus McGillicuddy that he captures and analyzes packets from incoming Internet traffic to ensure SLAs in addition, and then additionally he uses a NetFlow tool to monitor and measure broader network performance.
But application assurance and network performance will go deeper as network engineers move into the world of DevOps. DevOps blends together application development and operations tasks to better manage and ensure application performance. Now infrastructure managers will also get involved in the process, helping to jointly develop apps and infrastructure to support them.
The idea of building and managing networks according to the needs of applications may not be thrilling for network engineers, who are trained to focus on speeds and feeds. But if network engineers don't take on the challenge, they'll find themselves with angry end users and few solutions.