Industry Perspective: “All Transactions, All the Time

How much data storage is necessary to effectively monitor and troubleshoot application performance?

And, if we stored every transaction, how can we maintain cost-effective services in the cloud? We were recently faced with this question during the development of AppResponse Xpert SaaS Edition. This new product monitors end-user experience by inserting a JavaScript snippet into your website. Every hit to a monitored web page is sent to a SaaS portal where it is processed into metrics. We needed to decide what to do with these detailed records after analyzing them. Should we throw them out, sample them, or should we store and index all of these transactions?

“Problems only happen when you’re not watching”

is an old troubleshooting proverb that helped drive our thinking. How often have you looked over a co-workers shoulder as they exclaim, “This was slow 5 minutes ago, but it’s not now!” Indeed, reproducible application problems tend to be solved quickly after they’re reported. It’s the intermittent problems that linger. This is not because the underlying issues are more difficult to fix, but rather due to a lack of data in nearly every case. When we can reproduce the problem, we can also generate the detailed information to understand and resolve the issue. When we cannot reproduce it, we’re left with whatever metrics were collected by our monitoring tools. Depending on the level of detail that these tools choose to store, that data may be insufficient.

Some argue that storing this “High Definition” data is unnecessary; we disagree.

Many APM products record metrics, but throw away the transactional data that those metrics are based on. If 99.9% of the transactions will never be reviewed, why bother capturing them? That would be a fair argument if it weren’t for the fact that the other 0.1% of the transactions is so extremely valuable. Rather than repeatedly identifying the same problem and trying hypothetical solutions based upon partial data, you can find the root cause and fix it correctly the first time if you have the right data to act on.

By making all of the transactions searchable, we can find answers to questions that we never thought of in advance.

Each person may have unique questions about an application’s performance. Many of these will be captured by pre-calculated metrics, but not always. For example, “What are the IP addresses of readers of this blog post who are running Android 4.0 and had a DNS resolution time > 2 seconds?”

We believe IT needs easy access to all transactions all the time to maximize the value they provide to lines of business.

Ultimately, this is why we made the ambitious choice to store all transactions all the time for our AppResponse Xpert SaaS solution, in line with prior design decisions we made for our APM Xpert suite. Whether that data is network packet streams over 10 Gbps networks, code-level transaction traces on dozens of virtualized systems supporting a production application, or end-user page hit records for a global commerce application hosted in “the cloud,” IT needs easy access.

Does the cost of storing so much data outweigh the benefit?

Not if done properly! Many industries are grappling with Big Data challenges and the APM business is no different. We worked very hard over many years to build the proprietary NoSQL database technology that enables the OPNET APM Xpert suite to conquer the Big Data problem for APM use cases. Combined with analytics for automating the problem-solving process,

The result of storing every transaction is faster answers to the hard questions.

Article provided by OPNET – Application Performance Matters

 

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Ice Wireless partners Iristel to expand in far north

Private Canadian telecom operators Ice Wireless and Iristel have formed a partnership to expand mobile, internet and fixed voice services in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, The Canadian Press reports. The expansion deal is aimed at bringing competition to Northwestel, a subsidiary of the country’s largest telco Bell Canada. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has opened up the telecoms markets in the three territories to full competition starting this month. Ice Wireless and Iristel agreed to bundle a range of services, including local, long-distance and internet services, while expanding cellular coverage.

Thanks to Telegeography for this article

Microsoft Lync 101: Ensure UC Everything

Network Instruments Microsoft Lync 101 Although the Microsoft Lync platform is somewhat of a newcomer to the unified communications world, it has turned a lot of network heads. Teams with significant Microsoft investments are obviously considering the platform, but the seamless integration of communication tools into an easy-to-use software GUI is also generating attention. This article will walk you through the basics of Microsoft Lync, how the platform is implemented, and its unique monitoring challenges.

What is Lync?

The Microsoft Lync UC platform seamlessly combines VoIP and video with traditional Microsoft email and instant messaging platforms via a software GUI on the user’s desktop. Given the wide use of Microsoft email and instant message application, most users will be familiar with the platform interface. Part of its appeal comes from its integration with existing Microsoft Office applications. For example, if a user misses someone’s IM, it conveniently appears in their inbox; and you can IM everyone, even if they don’t have Lync. Also unique to the Lync platform, is that every communications piece is encrypted by default.

Consider Deployment Options

How are teams deploying Lync? Since Cisco® or Avaya® voice communications have dominated the voice market, portions of Lync are often used to enhance the UC capabilities of these existing programs. For companies looking to switch communication application vendors or environments and offer new programs, a whole-sale dive into MS Lync might make sense. For example, if you currently have Microsoft Exchange or plan on implementing it and adding video conferencing to your UC lineup, considering Lync makes sense.

Manage the Challenges

With the perks Lync offers, come new challenges for network teams. These challenges can include implementation, bandwidth overload, application contention, and effective monitoring of encrypted communication. Skilled network teams can achieve success with Lync rollouts and performance by proactively managing these concerns.

Implementation

One benefit Lync offers is a pre-configured setup that’s ready to go out-of the box. However, if you have an established infrastructure (three years old or older), Lync offers little flexibility when it comes to adjusting to incompatibilities within your network. Before implementation, perform a complete analysis of your system to determine if any existing structure might interfere with successful Lync implementation.

Bandwidth

Although Lync offers some improvements in bandwidth management, it can consume more bandwidth than traditional UC offerings. Given the ability of users to initiate video conferencing at-will from the desktop, the task of fail-safe bandwidth management will be a network team priority.

To manage this challenge and ensure adequate bandwidth, teams should perform limited Lync deployments and baseline existing activities alongside desktop video communications. With this data, you can better assess the impact of rolling Lync out to the entire organization, and whether network capacity should be increased.

Application Contention

As two or more applications compete for bandwidth, one app can consume the space another needs to function. Voice and video on Lync are particularly contentious because they both need large amounts of bandwidth for optimal performance. To manage contention, ensure you have enough bandwidth overall to manage Lync. This means analyzing applications and components for bandwidth needs, and setting QoS preferences accordingly.

Encryption

Monitoring encrypted communications data can be challenging. Encryption can obscure visibility of monitoring devices into performance statistics and UC content. For example, encryption can stop data loss prevention devices from scanning instant messages sent from internal departments out to external organizations.

The solution? Verify how your monitoring devices handle encrypted traffic. For example, Observer decrypts SIP traffic and provides quality metrics on the fly once it has the appropriate security certificate.

With streamlined offerings in an out-of-the box setup, plus a multitude of cool, always-on features, Lync has become the popular new kid on the UC block. Follow the suggestions above to optimize the Lync experience for your enterprise. Then expect to see your work in action when your desktop Lync flashes with emails, IM’s, video, and voice messages sent to express thanks for a job well done

Thanks to Network Instruments for this Article

Three Shortcuts for UC Success

Managing UC means delivering streaming video fluidly, transmitting voice with clarity, moving IM’s briskly, and sending emails promptly. Easier said than done. To succeed from setup to show time, take these three tips to achieve the high performance end-users expect.

  • See the Entire Network and UC Environment

UC is a diverse mix of services running in a shared network environment where apps and communications interact together. It requires a monitoring solution set that provides total visibility and analysis of UC services and the overall IT environment. For example, when the audio drops out during a Board of Directors video conference, comprehensive views of your IT landscape with granular insights are essential for quick troubleshooting and resolution.

  • Set QoS Precedence Right From the Start

Poor performance ultimately impacts user productivity and can drain network team resources. Save yourself a few hundred headaches by correctly setting QoS precedence and allocating bandwidth where it’s most needed. To optimize performance, make all UC priorities clear – starting with decisions made during pre-deployment. When assigning priority numbers, consider the needs and priorities of all services in your environment.

Sensitive apps like VoIP and video deserve the number one slot, and establishing QoS precedents across all call components is essential. Also, be sure other apps integral to the enterprise like Salesforce.com® have a high QoS setting, while ranking unessential services like Pandora® last on your list.

  • Stay Ahead of Bandwidth Consumption

UC applications aren’t your Dad’s applications. They’re more complex and demanding than traditional apps. In a landscape of multiple services from diverse vendors, unexpected spikes in bandwidth usage can throw off everything. The best approach to managing bandwidth is a preventive one.

  1. Look before you leap. Conduct a pre-deployment network assessment. This gives you an understanding of current bandwidth load with existing network and application demands for accurate assessment of resources before adding more apps into the mix.
  2. Allocate significant bandwidth. Since voice and video are bandwidth-hungry, plan for heavy consumption by allocating a specific portion of your network pipe to satisfy these (usually) predictable UC demands.
  3. Use baselines to establish UC application behavior norms. Once a baseline is created, set prioritized alarms for instant alerts when an app starts veering off-course, providing you time to resolve problems before end-users are impacted.

For additional insight into monitoring VoIP and videoconferencing performance and quality, read the following white paper.

Thanks to Network Instruments for this Article

A Better Way to Test the Functionality of Your IVR Application

If you have deployed or are about to deploy a hosted or premise-based IVR application, you understand how much time and money go into the design of a really effective application.  It must offer easy to use self-service functionality to customers or users with a wide range of expectations, requirements and experiences with your company and its communications processes.  The design must balance the need to make opting out to an agent simple while still making it easy and desirable for customers to use self-service functionality.  It has to deliver callers to the right routines and agents based on complex business rules.  It must be user-friendly for new customers and power users alike and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So how can you be sure your complex application is actually developed and functioning according to the design?

Current Methods For Testing Your IVR Application

Businesses understand the need to test IVR application functionality before putting a new application into production.  If selecting option 3 for Make a Payment really takes customers to an agent queue or the Place an Order routine, customers will be frustrated and your contact center will be forced to handle more calls than necessary or desired.

Before a business can select an appropriate IVR application test method, it must consider a variety of general and test method factors:

  • What is your risk tolerance?
    • What will the impact be if something doesn’t work as expected?
    • Do you need to test every application state and every possible input or situation at each state?
    • Are there key test cases or call flows through the application that will clearly indicate whether or not the application is production ready?
  • Is the IVR application revenue generating?
    • Is there revenue on the line if the application doesn’t work as expected?
    • Are there significant productivity gains on the line?
    • Could you frustrate and/or lose customers if the application isn’t developed as designed?
  • How often do you need to test?
    • Is periodic regression testing of the application required or appropriate?

Once a business has considered these basic questions, it should be clear how much of the new, upgraded or fixed application must be tested before it is put into production.  The way a business eventually chooses to test IVR application functionality is as varied as the applications and business requirements being tested.  The options range from not testing at all to hiring loads of temporary testers/callers to purchasing in-house testing products.   Of course there are pros and cons to each test method, which are explored in detail in the benefits matrix below.  But in general, businesses without sufficient time, budget and resources are left with inadequate options for testing their IVR application functionality.

A New Way to Test IVR Applications with Application Feature Testing

There is another way to test IVR functionality that is better and more appropriate for many businesses.  Our clients tell us their developers have never had so much helpful and robust data to help with issue identification and resolution as they have with the following methodology.

Application Feature Testing is a highly flexible managed service approach for testing IVR application functionality.  It is unique in that it can be configured to complement each business’ risk tolerance, resources and other requirements.  The process can:

  • Complement in-house resources or perform all testing
  • Test hosted or premise based applications
  • Perform comprehensive state-based testing as well as testing based on a pre-defined set of test cases/call flows
  • Build test cases from scratch or leverage existing test cases provided by a client
  • Precisely replicate a previous test call
  • Deliver online, real-time results
  • Provide robust test call information including recordings, discrepancy descriptions and evaluations/scores
  • Be available whenever you or your over-worked team need it
  • Change the way your developers think about QA and functionality testing!

Testing can no longer take a back seat.  Customers demand quality interactions from your business including interactions with your IVR application.  If they don’t get what they want, they will go to your competitor.  To learn more about this testing approach and other services for improving the quality of customer communications and interactions, visit here and check out the IVR Functionality Testing matrix below:

IQ-Services Application Feature Testing

Videotron delivers on 200Mbps promise

As promised in March, Videotron has launched its highest speed cable broadband package to date, offering 200Mbps/30Mbps download/upload connections under the ‘Ultimate Speed Internet 200’ banner in Quebec City. The DOCSIS 3.0-based package gives consumers monthly data transfer limits up to 200GB for downloads and up to 50GB for uploads, and costs CAD199.95 (USD197.20). A version of the package is also available for business users.

Supplied by TeleGeography

 

Webinar – Is the Network Tap Mightier Than the Sword

Net Optics - Webinar the Tap is Mighter than SwordUS Department of Defense Case Study using Net Optics Taps

Case Study by the US Department of National Defense of how they built a solution to support 40,000 Department of Defense personnel from a central command center. When you are working with one of the most demanding and security conscious customers in the world, you’d better know what’s happening on your network. This webinar profiles a recent use case where ensuring the validity of the data traveling on the network, and delivering time-sensitive information without delays was absolutely critical. Net Optics Tap technology provided the answer this Defense Contractor was looking for and proved mighty enough to conquer the needs of this demanding customer.

What you Learn in this 30 minute Webinar:

  • Understand the immediate impact and business value of deploying Network Taps
  • Learn how the ability to monitor and troubleshoot network issues remotely increases end-user satisfaction
  • Identify key points in your network where 100% visibility is critical to reducing mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) and improving network uptime