Getting today’s internet-based applications under control is a challenge worth tackling, says Compuware’s Michael Allen, Director of IT Service Management Solutions.
A two-second delay in website response can cause a 4.3% reduction in revenue
Industry leaders have found a clear linkage between Web performance and business results - like this statistic from bing1 which drives home just how crucial web application performance can be to today's businesses.
This realization has unfortunately come at a time when internet applications have become far more complex in performance terms, particularly with the advent of Web 2.0. Organizations are increasingly reliant on third party technologies and services to deliver a richer customer experience and competitive edge, but the more components you add to the mix, the less control you have over the final outcome. In this article, we'll review some of the major challenges of managing customer-facing internet-delivered applications, and then outline some solutions that are proving effective.
So why are these applications so complex to manage? The answer lies in three important aspects: the web application delivery chain, the platform that your customers choose, and the level of usage. Let's look at each of these aspects in turn.
Challenge 1: you have only partial control of the web application delivery chain
One of the biggest challenges is today's businesses are operating borderless applications, meaning the only place where the actual application comes together as a whole is at the user's access device, resulting in only partial control of the web application delivery chain. This complex chain links together several components - your application and infrastructure, your datacenter, network provider, the Internet, third party content, cloud providers, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), user's local ISPs, and wireless carriers. If performance deteriorates in any one of these dependencies, the quality of service your application delivers is impacted and it's your brand reputation that suffers, not your partners' - your customers probably don't even realize that the third-party content providers are there.
Challenge 2: you can't control the devices and browsers your customers choose
The competitive landscape Web 2.0 has created is driving organizations to deliver more interactive, useful or exhilarating web experiences, leveraging the rich media capabilities that the latest environments and devices offer. This however makes managing browser diversity and the increasing no. of devices used to access the internet more complex. For example, popular new browsers like Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome handle dynamic content differently, multiplying the risk of performance and compatibility issues for web pages and transactions. Couple this with the rate of content change demanded by the business, makes testing web and mobile compatibility for every browser type, version, operating system and mobile devices both time consuming and prohibitively expensive. Systemic failure to tackle this will result in lost customers, diminished brand and significant revenue damage - a predicament that must be addressed.
Challenge 3: you can't control demand
With internet-based applications, demand is determined by your customers. Some peaks are predictable - for example, retail - during Christmas and valentines day and online betting during major sporting events like the World Cup. Other peaks are not so easy to predict, for example when there are breaking news announcements or unusual weather patterns. Either way, you have to be confident that your applications will scale to support the peaks. That means testing the system to ensure it performs even when you exceed your maximum anticipated load and simulating the characteristics, demographics, actions and volumes of your users for an accurate representation of the responses your real-life customer base will experience.
Taking back control through proactivity
As described above, there are several factors that come together to deliver internet-based applications, some we have direct control over and some we need to effectively manage to ensure they deliver the best possible customer experience and protect brand reputation and revenue streams.
A proactive approach to optimizing the customer experience can reap multiple rewards. For example, when Shopzilla improved its website performance from seven seconds to two seconds, it generated a 7-12% increase in revenue - not to mention a 50% reduction in hardware costs.1
Compuware's Application Performance Management solution gives IT operations the information needed to proactively identify and resolve issues across the entire application delivery chain - whether the root cause lies within the datacenter or on the Internet. Our structured approach starts with gaining visibility of the end-user application experience to identify and quantify performance issues before they incur major business impact. Then we extend that visibility deeper by tracing user's transactions through the complete application delivery chain (desktop through datacenter) to achieve rapid fault determination and recovery. Finally through correlating and reporting application performance and business KPI's through real time role relevant dashboards we deliver high levels of Business and IT alignment.
One of our customers, Cliff Goolsby, Sr. Director Architecture, Engineering & Systems Assurance, with AutoTrader.com, has called our solution "the industry's only end-to-end unified view spanning the enterprise and the internet".
Compuware solutions optimize application performance across the Enterprise and the Internet for leading organizations around the world, including 46 of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies and 12 of the top 20 most visited U.S. web sites.
1 "Velocity and the Bottom Line," Steve Souders, Velocity Conference 2009, radar.oreilly.com/2009/07/velocity-making-your-site-fast.html