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The dynamic nature of virtualization, mobility and cloud computing has convoluted networks and challenged the ability of enterprises to deliver a consistent quality of experience to users.
As network infrastructure becomes more dynamic and complex, IT must become active -- rather than reactive -- with network performance monitoring and application optimization, said Jonah Kowall, research director of IT operations management at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.
Combining application delivery technology with application performance monitoring (APM) will help enterprises reach this goal, Kowall said. Recent partnerships and acquisitions in the industry reinforce his claim.
Application optimization: Combining ADCs and APM
To get ahead of application performance issues before the network and its users are affected, IT organizations need application delivery controllers (ADCs) that are more intelligent. "User experiences can be improved by combining content optimization and APM for more in-depth application visibility," Kowall said.
Businesses can use APM in a variety of ways to measure and monitor applications' response time and behavior. While APM is a passive means of monitoring end-user response times and the quality of content optimization, performance monitoring can give ADCs the information they need to facilitate faster user experiences and application performance over a broader range of connectivity options, by enhancing visibility into the complex enterprise network, Kowall said.
ADC and APM vendors are responding to the demand for smarter, performance-aware ADCs by forging partnerships and acquiring companies, said Jim Frey, research director at Enterprise Management Associates.
Riverbed Technology recently completed its acquisition of OpNet Technologies, a Bethesda, Md.-based APM vendor. Riverbed's performance management business unit, Cascade, is based on the network performance monitoring technology it acquired with Mazu Networks. It plans to integrate OpNet's APM technology into the Cascade network performance management product line, said Dimitri Vlachos, vice president of marketing and products at Riverbed's Cascade business unit.
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"Currently, some companies can do application delivery and some can do performance management, but enterprises need a complete solution," Vlachos said. "With the addition of OpNet's APM technology to our Cascade line, we will be able to feed user experience information back into our Stingray [ADC product] so IT can make decisions on how to best optimize performance."
GE Capital, the Orlando-based financial services unit of General Electric, uses Cascade for monitoring local and remote traffic across its network of 40,000 users, and subsequently installed Riverbed's other application optimization product line, Steelhead for WAN optimization, said Bryan Ginman, chief network architect for GE Capital. "The [Cascade and Steelhead products] really do complement each other, providing for the first time in this product true end-to-end application performance delivery," he said.
While the Stingray and Cascade products have some overlap, each does very different things well, Ginman said. The addition of OpNet technology will help give Cascade the ability to drill down into the packet level of past events, a huge benefit for Riverbed customers, he said. With OpNet, Riverbed is building a "Swiss Army knife of analytical tools" that it can combine with its application delivery products, he added.
As Riverbed integrates OpNet into its other products, Ginman believes the ultimate challenge will be preserving the flexibility and customization Opnet offers with the Cascade's ease of use and low administration footprint.
Application optimization and better user experience
The convergence of ADCs and APM enhances application optimization and acceleration, while granting IT a better insight into user experience.
"There are a lot of advantages to having ADCs and APM linking together, not only for deployment but for the future, too," Gartner's Kowall said. "ADCs can become more intelligent when [they understand] more about the application, allowing IT to have deeper visibility than they have had."