By Rob Price
In the ever-increasingly digital world that we find ourselves in, our customer’s reliance on digital technologies and applications has never been greater and is only going to continue to grow. Indeed Rajiv Sodhi, Chief Operating Officer, Microsoft India, stated that 500 million new applications will be deployed globally over the next five years.
As 74% of customers rely on social media to guide their purchasing decisions, an increasing number of organisations rely exclusively on their digital presence to interact with customers. For these organisations, the application truly IS the business. Even for more conventional companies, who still retain a physical presence, there is an increasing reliance on digital technologies and applications to interact with their customers, optimise their workforce and improve operational efficiency.
If we are to accept that the application is the business, then we need to be able to ensure that it is working as effectively as possible and delivering the best experience to those individuals using it.
A recent report by Statista , found that between 2019 and 2020 an estimated 250 million Apps were downloaded daily. At one time or another, we've all downloaded an App on our smartphones, only to find very quickly that it doesn't meet our expectations. We then simply delete the application and look for a better one. The sad truth is that the owner of that application has missed their one chance to hook us as a customer and has potentially lost us forever.
Many factors can and do affect application experience. Performance, stability, useability, and security are all key contributors to the overall experience that an application will deliver, and therefore are all factors that we need to be able to monitor and remediate. It is also important to understand that many elements in the technology stack can have an impact on each of these factors.
How Real-Time App Data Can Drive Better Business Outcomes
Ultimately, of course, the purpose of an application is to drive a business outcome. Therefore, the first thing we need to consider is the user interface to the application. A Kleiner Perkins study found that 28% of users will switch to a competitor if the app is slow and 53% abandon an app that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. If an application is slow, difficult to use, or buggy, the user may quickly tire of using it and abandon it, favouring a “better” one. As an example, imagine your organisation is running an e-commerce application. Then imagine if a significant percentage of your customers are abandoning their transactions before completion. It follows that you would want to identify, firstly, that this is happening, and secondly, why?
The next thing we need to consider is the structure of the application itself. Many applications now are no longer a single monolithic piece of software. Most are a collection of many microservices, some of which can often be provided by external providers. The ability to monitor the structure of your application and how all these individual services are interacting is therefore critical. If we return to our e-commerce App for a moment. Imagine the App is using an external service to validate card payments, and the provider of that service suddenly implements a change. This change could be entirely outside of your direct control but could easily have a dramatic impact on your App's performance.
So, how do we monitor and identify issues with the user interface and the structure of the application itself? The answer is we need to deploy Application Performance Monitoring (APM). An effective APM platform such as Cisco’s Application Dynamics (AppD) platform will allow us to do this.
Of course, every application at its most basic level is a workload that requires physical infrastructure resources (memory, storage, CPU, etc.) on which to run. Suppose an application needs, for example, 10GB of memory to run optimally, and you have only provided 5GB. In that case the performance and stability of the application will all be adversely affected.
We can mitigate issues at the infrastructure layer using tools such as Cisco Intersight Workload Optimiser (IWO). IWO will evaluate the infrastructure requirements of the workload and identify any shortfalls. IWO can then be used to directly remediate these shortfalls. IWO can even identify where resources have been over provisioned, enabling those resources to be freed up and used elsewhere.
The Importance of Application Delivery Network
The next consideration is how the application is delivered to the user. This will invariably be via the network. Again, a sub-optimal, poorly performing network will impact the overall experience that the application can deliver. Our ability to monitor and identify issues in the network is therefore also key. It is worth pointing out that when we talk about the network, we are not simply referring to our corporate network but the entire path between the application and the user, which in many cases will now include the internet itself. Tools such as Cisco’s ThousandEyes, Accedian and LogicMonitor allow us to monitor and quickly identify issues in the network layer.
Finally, we need to consider security. According to Police data, the UK saw a 31% increase in cyber-crime amid the pandemic. Sadly, this highlights that cybercrime has reached epic proportions over the past few years, and this trend shows no signs of abating. So, we may have an excellent user interface, a well-constructed application with ample infrastructure resources assigned to it, and a highly capable network. Despite this, a security breach can render all our good work useless. There is no such thing as 100% full proof security, but if we are to ensure the overall application experience, we must deploy security at all the layers we have examined in this blog.
In closing, I hope that this blog illustrates that having a digital presence has never been more important to our customers, and that multiple factors can adversely affect this. A “full-stack” approach to business observability is vital to ensure the best possible experience for our customers. Logicalis has a suite of tools to address full-stack observability and the expertise to help our customers to deploy these tools. Get in touch today to find out more.