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As mobility's role grows, need for better mobile APM tools follows

Networking pros have little insight into why a mobile app misbehaves, but they can be sure the network will be blamed. Newer mobile APM tools with more granular visibility and controls aim to identify and resolve problems faster.

Fall is starting to descend on New England as we assemble this edition of Network Evolution. Outside my window, hues of yellow and orange are starting to seep into the edges of leaves on the maple tree across the street. Pumpkin-flavored everything is everywhere. And perhaps the most telling sign of all that summer is over: For the first time in months, I didn't get side-eyed by the barista when I ordered a hot coffee today.

All this can mean only one thing. It's time for me to start panicking about Christmas shopping.

Like many people, e-commerce has drastically changed my holiday shopping habits. Going to a shopping mall or department store this time of year seems simultaneously quaint and rage-inducing. If I can't buy it from somewhere that doesn't end in .com, it's very unlikely to wind up with a gift tag on it. Something else has changed recently. Doing the majority of my holiday shopping through a mobile device doesn't seem like a wacky idea these days. I already use my smartphone for so many other day-to-day transactions, from ordering delivery from the local sushi joint to hailing an Uber car to paying my credit card bill to refilling prescriptions to buying train tickets.

My enthusiasm for tap, tap, tapping my way to the submit order button puts me in the minority today, albeit a sizeable one, as a study by Forrester Research found that 38% of smartphone users and 31% of tablet users plan to make retail purchases on their mobile devices in 2014. But that's expected to reach 55% and 61%, respectively, in the next four years.

Convenience is the draw of mobility, but reliability and performance of a mobile app make or break its success. A smartphone or tablet app can have the world's sleekest user interface, but that isn't worth much if the app regularly crashes or times out. And don't think you're off the hook if you don't support consumer-facing apps. Reliability and performance are equally integral to the increasing number of business applications that enterprises are deploying for employees to use internally, and just as the network is often to blame for slow or unresponsive apps on wired networks, networking pros can expect an earful if their companies' mobile apps behave similarly.

As we explore in our cover story for this issue ("Mobile application performance takes center stage"), network managers typically have little (if any) insight into what's causing a mobile app to misbehave. Could it be the wireless LAN? Or does the problem lie in the wired network? What about the application or device itself? How would you know?

Here's the good news: Application performance management (APM) vendors are getting serious about mobile APM with far more granular tools than ever before, explains Chuck Moozakis, site editor of SearchNetworking. Check out the story to learn more.

Also in this issue, we look at what's behind the biggest news in Ethernet in some time: a group of vendors and cloud providers developing a 25 Gigabit Ethernet specification, with plans to have 25 Gbps network devices ready to ship in two years ("25 Gigabit Ethernet: Why that, why now and what's next"). We also take a look at the role of software-defined networking in wireless LANs ("In SDN, wireless can boost interoperability and performance"), or rather, its possible functions beyond the oft-cited use case of facilitating unified wired/wireless network management.

And finally, don't miss this issue's edition of "The Subnet," where the director of engineering at the Ryan Seacrest Foundation explains how the nonprofit's use of video conferencing technology has become an unofficial method of palliative care at pediatric hospitals around the country ("A new take on video conferencing in healthcare").

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This was last published in October 2014

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