• Written by Debra Wilkins

A Women's Perspective: Try-Before-You-Buy Avoids Cloud Migration Disappointment

I love to shop, and when I buy an outfit I look at style, color, cost, machine wash or dry-clean only (aftercare), is it suitable for the event I’m going to? Most importantly, do I look great in it?  This last part is essential for me, and as a result I rarely purchase clothes online; maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I like to ‘try my clothes on before I buy’. But, it’s important to note that some online shops allow you to try before you buy by having an easy “sale or return” policy, attractive for many buyers.

It got me thinking about my work and how often I come across companies who look at spending a lot of money to move their IT to a different environment such as Cloud or to a new datacenter, maybe virtualize their environment, without ever realising that they could ‘try before they buy’.   Providers of cloud/managed services and datacenter moves cannot a “sale or return” due to the commitment to make the change. This makes the offer of ‘try before you buy’ even more important.

A few years back I was at a ZCMI store trying on an outfit that to say looked completely wrong, would be an understatement.  An enthusiastic sales lady came up and gushed about how great the colour looked, how it accentuated all the right bits – basically saying it was perfect for me.  The truth was that the color made me look sallow, the cut was really not flattering, and I understood that all she wanted was the sale.  I recognised that as a person I wasn’t important to her, I was only important as a potential buyer.  The objective of your potential provider for Cloud or Datacenter solutions is to sell, and all that ‘trying it out’ gets in the way!  But your job isn’t to buy, it’s to make your life and the life of your company better.

Now, imagine the scenario of a cloud provider telling you that before you buy you can see for yourselves, how it will perform, what, if any, are the potential pitfalls, what might comprise post-deployment  performance, what about Response Time metrics, pre-deployment performance metrics, can the cloud provider can achieve more?  So how is this achieved?  Network emulation/replication has been used for years by large banks and the military, as getting things right was a ‘must’.  Today this technology offers  the same assurances to companies moving their applications into a networked  environment, where they can replicate the entire network experience, including the conditions, the types of networks, and how the components will cope.

It’s really worth being aware of what’s out there, because  when moving applications or changing to different types of networks, the premise should be that, as a buyer, you should know exactly what you are getting for your money. Your business is important to you. The provider cares about the sale. Make sure that along with every aspect on offer that the fit is right for you, that the performance is what you need. Availability should be a given, but performance is a more subtle point as it seems more subjective. Who makes the decision that performance is poor?  Also, what performance related factors will be measured? Where would your evidence be if your users start to gain a poor experience?  

So, analogies aside it’s right to get your ‘move’ right by understanding and experiencing how your business applications will perform in the cloud over in new networks, especially if moving from a LAN-based environment today to a WAN- based networked environment tomorrow.  Your applications will have to experience the mixed conditions of different networked environments, and if we are looking at mobile applications and mobile networks, this becomes even more essential to understand what this will mean for your customers and staff as these networks are highly variable. So when it comes to choosing a Cloud or datacenter provider who says they will make your IT life easier, try it out first, it’s a small cost to pay to get it right.

  • Written by Jim Swepson

APM It’s all about the Speed - We are no longer prepared to wait!

We have all been aware of the importance of managing performance for many years and traditionally the main focus has been on the availability of our internal systems (systems/server application management).   APM on the other hand is helping companies to gain a good understanding of their application performance and a key aspect of this is visibility on how applications perform across all types of networks.    Availability has become, over the past decade, an intrinsic requirement in all application performance whether, its internal or external applications,  we don’t think about it quite so much, but what is becoming increasingly essential is ‘SPEED’.

Read more: APM It’s all about the Speed - We are no longer prepared to wait!

  • Written by Jim Swepson

It's Just Horse Sense — Build an Emulated Network

Speaking with delegates at a Cloud World Conference, I discovered that many are still taking a chance with their mission-critical applications. There seems to be a belief that in order to discover how their apps will work in a real world network, like a WAN or Cloud network, their only option is to conduct tests using the live network.

I was kinda surprised! I mean when do they do this?

At night! — The network loading won’t be the same as that encountered in normal office hours.

During the day! Apart from the risk to the business, if they do have an issue how can they replicate it again to test their fixes?

Some customers even contemplate producing a replica (in part at least) of the live network, until they see the bill, then they stop, give up and say the network is too difficult and put it out of scope!

Read more: It's Just Horse Sense — Build an Emulated Network

  • Written by Jim Swepson

The Confusing Flavors of APM

Attending Interop in Vegas last month, I was surprised to note the number of vendors exhibiting their wares under the banner of APM – Application Performance Management.  With all the different offerings, it was rather confusing. It got me thinking about a trip I’d taken the night before to an ice-cream parlour. I love ice-cream, and at the parlour there were plenty of flavours on offer. With APM, as with ice-cream, meeting customer demand is key- one flavour doesn’t suit everyone.

Looking at the offerings all touted under the umbrella of APM, I realised that some were obvious choices and others, well…  

Read more: The Confusing Flavors of APM

  • Written by Jim Swepson

Which APM? – The Choice is Yours

Application Performance Management (APM) tools are really coming into focus as a result of cloud computing, agile development, virtualization, and mobile device adoption. We are seeing the industry really embracing “networked applications” and, as such, there will be a great need for these apps to perform well in the network as well as avoiding downtime. This means monitoring and managing from a network perspective, as well as a server and application perspective if we are to eliminate system outages and poor performance.

There are many APM solutions out in the market place - some 200 at last count - across different disciplines and domains, with differing features, methodology and options. The trick is to find one that suits you best. Even though they all go under the same umbrella, their approach is very different. Some monitor transactions across the network, some monitor applications on servers, some monitor the clients, some perform synthetic transactions.

Read more: Which APM? – The Choice is Yours

  • Written by Jim Swepson

Transparent Monitoring – The Order of the Day

I’ve been pondering the on-going issues around transparency within the electric and heating utility services, and to be honest I’m a bit confused. I’m offered documents that try to explain it all but it’s written in a way that, to be honest, is less transparent than my bill!

Through working for a company that offers intelligent real-time monitoring for cloud services, I’m used to better treatment than that. For me the concept means that I should know at a glance exactly what I’m getting, how well am I being served and how much it’s costing me.

Read more: Transparent Monitoring – The Order of the Day

  • Written by Phil Bull

Remote-Controlled Passenger Airliners – The Strongest Argument Yet for Data Link Testing!

That the military have been remotely controlling UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), often hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where the vehicle is actually operating is nothing new. So far, the UAVs that have been deployed have been quite modest in size. But eventually, this technology will, most likely, be used to control much larger vehicles including passenger airliners!

According to a recent (and excellent) article on The Economist web site called “This is your ground pilot speaking”, soon, a small twin-engined Jetstream commuter aircraft will take off from an aerodrome in Lancashire, England and fly towards Scotland – but on this occasion the main pilot won’t be in the cockpit. Instead, they will remain firmly on the ground, flying the plane from there. As this is a test flight, there will be a pilot in the aircraft in case something goes wrong.

Read more: Remote-Controlled Passenger Airliners – The Strongest Argument Yet for Data Link Testing!

  • Written by Jim Swepson

Software outages happen – but can we reduce the risk?

Testing has often been the poor relation, an afterthought, but things are changing, over the past few years outages have really impacted customers. Last week a computer outage at United Airlines delayed thousands of travellers (see the full Boston Globe Story) and earlier this year RBS had a software failure due to a software upgrade! This made the news, but for thousands of companies world-wide, outages can and do happen, they may not be so dramatic but they do impact reputation, end-user experience and can incur heavy financial losses. Since it’s a given that outages no matter what the reason can happen, it begs the question – can we do anything to reduce the chances of failure?

Read more: Software outages happen – but can we reduce the risk?

  • Written by Phil Bull

Did Barclays test the performance of their Online Banking Web Site?

The BBC reports that following a site rebuild, 10% of Barclays Online Banking customers are experiencing very long log-in times. So we called a few people we know who use the service and, while hardly a comprehensive sample, it appears that they all encountered lengthy delays. Our very qualitative initial investigations suggest that the new version is using frameworks to deliver the application and that it may be quite a reasonably sized download – multiple this by many thousands of customers doing this and a likely cause of the bottleneck is at the server end. Of course, a healthy dose of pre-deployment application performance testing could have identified this was likely to happen, so you have to ask the question - did Barclays test the performance of their online banking web site in realistic network conditions?

  • Written by Phil Bull

Am I getting a 2G, 3G, 3.5G or 4G service on my mobile phone?

In his latest blog for ComputerWorld (What the heck is 3.5G?) my colleague, Frank Puranik, has been exploring what we, as mobile phone users, may actually be getting in the way of link speeds (or should expect to receive when the newer 3.5G / 4G services are rolled out) when our mobile devices display symbols telling us we are receiving a 3G or H connection.

To say the situation is confusing is putting it mildly. It appears that services that were actually 3G were not displayed as 3G and new services being positioned as 4G/LTE are actually going to be 3G offerings, albeit, considerably enhanced versions.

Read more: Am I getting a 2G, 3G, 3.5G or 4G service on my mobile phone?

  • Written by Frank Puranik

It’s Worse than that Jim – Bandwidth is not equal to Link Speed either.

In a recent blog my colleague, Phil Bull notes that there’s confusion over bandwidth and speed. This discussion started with an article on Network World’s website where Netforecast said “No Matter What the FCC Says, Bandwidth Is Not Speed”. Basically the FCC were bandying the term speed and bandwidth pretty interchangeably and NetForecast took umbrage to this saying that most users equate “speed” to their application’s performance i.e. Response time. They noted, as we have pointed out many times that other factors, such as loss, re-order and latency, were just as important as bandwidth in delivering this “speed”.

And, that’s totally correct, but it’s not complete! It’s worse than that Jim: Bandwidth is not equal to Link Speed either.

Read more: It’s Worse than that Jim – Bandwidth is not equal to Link Speed either.

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