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End-to-end network application performance monitoring

Many tools claim to give you a true end-to-end picture of network application performance, but most miss one or both ends (storage and endpoint) of user-driven application usage.

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For that and many other reasons, a true end-to-end solution is usually made up of multiple, partially-overlapping tools. The keys to living with multiple tools are:

  • Minimize the tool set: Overlap is almost inevitable, and in some cases it can allow you to drop a tool or two from the management set.

  • Expect to integrate: Even the vendors that have tools to cover the full range of niches typically haven’t really integrated them with each other into a single tool with multiple modules. So, no matter what, expect to knit together tools using scripting, SNMP and other methods.

  • Unify the views: Most tools can feed SNMP traps out to other tools. Use a manager of managers or portal to gather high-level alerts and alarms to build a simple “red/yellow/green” dashboard, and provide a common entry point from which to drill into other tools as needed.

  • Begin with the end user in mind. In a very real sense, a performance problem only exists if a user notices it. Try to detect things before they notice and resolve them before they yell. User-perspective tools really help with this.

About the author: John Burke is a principal research analyst with Nemertes Research, where he focuses on software-oriented architectures and management. As an analyst, John draws on his experiences as a practitioner and director of IT to better understand the needs of IT executives and the challenges facing vendors trying to sell to them. A frequent speaker, his career began at The Johns Hopkins University, where he supported the engineering faculty in its use of computers in research and teaching. He moved on to systems and network administration at The College of St. Catherine, in St. Paul, Minn., and then to directing staff in voice, data, desktop and systems management at the University of St. Thomas, also in St. Paul.

This was first published in January 2011

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