Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

Application Performance Doesn’t Have to Be a Cloud Detractor

The transition to the cloud offers IT teams an excellent opportunity to emerge as protectors of their organizations

Introduction: The Cloud as a Point of IT and Business Disconnect
For years, the benefits of moving to the cloud - including lowered costs, flexibility and faster time-to-market - have been espoused. But among IT professionals, there remains widespread reticence about migrating mission-critical applications over, due in large part to performance concerns. "Can the cloud really deliver the same level of speed and reliability as physical services?" IT asks. Business managers often minimize or downplay these worries, saying that the potential business benefits to be reaped are just too mission-critical to ignore.

Therein lies a major conflict. Regardless, as numerous surveys like this one from IDC demonstrate, cloud adoption is moving forward at a rapid pace. Clearly, the cloud is where we're headed. IT must learn to accept the cloud as just part of how services are delivered today, rather than some exotic and potentially dangerous new technology. The good news is IT's concerns about application performance are not insurmountable and can actually be eased with specific approaches.

This article will discuss factors leading to IT's wariness of the cloud. It will also highlight recent survey findings that show just how concerned IT professionals actually are, even as organizations move to the cloud en masse. Finally, the article offers several recommendations to help assuage IT's concerns and minimize risks as cloud adoption continues at a rapid clip.

Why Is IT Uneasy?
It would seem that cloud computing and high performance should go hand-in-hand. Theoretically, performance for cloud-based applications should match that of applications hosted on physical servers, assuming the configuration is right. However, in the real world, many factors can impact the performance of cloud-based applications, including limited bandwidth, disk space, memory and CPU cycles. Cloud customers often have little visibility into their cloud service providers' capacity management decisions, leaving IT professionals with a sense of distrust.

IT's concerns are exacerbated by the fact that when major cloud services do fail, they tend to fail spectacularly. Media often flock to this news like vultures, further undermining IT's confidence. As an example, this past summer Apple's iCloud service, which helps connect iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices to key services, went down for more than six hours. This captured headlines around the world. While Apple claimed that the outage impacted less than one percent of iCloud customers, the sheer size of this user base - 300 million users - translated to approximately three million users being disconnected from services for 11 hours. Shortly thereafter, an Amazon EC2 outage rocked Instagram, Vine, Netflix and several other major customers of this cloud service, inflicting unplanned downtime across all of them and igniting a frenzy of negative press.

In an attempt to ease IT's worries, several cloud service providers have begun offering "premium" performance features along with cloud instances. For example, Amazon EC2 now offers its customers dedicated IOPS (input/output operations per second) to benchmark disk performance. Other cloud service providers are also marketing ways to configure their platforms for different performance thresholds. The challenge here is that few companies can afford premium features for every cloud-based node and service. Without a view into the cloud's impact on end-user performance on the other side of the cloud, it is nearly impossible to identify poor end-user performance, never mind where these premium features could be applied for maximum ROI.

Finally, an awareness of their growing - and often precarious - reliance on cloud services further forces IT to face their own vulnerability. Enterprise use of cloud technology grew 90 percent between early 2012 and mid 2013, according to Verizon's recent "State of the Enterprise Cloud Report." Another important trend worth noting is that businesses are hosting less and less of what gets delivered on their websites. Instead, they're relying on a growing number of externally hosted (third-party) web elements to enrich their web properties, such as ad servers and social media plug-ins. This often results in a company becoming a cloud customer indirectly, without their even knowing it.

Recent Survey Results Demonstrate IT's Wariness
Recently, Research in Action (on behalf of Compuware) conducted a survey of 468 CIOs and other senior IT professionals from around the world, which determined cloud computing to be the top IT investment priority. No surprises there, as clearly these professionals are being driven by the promised benefits of greater agility, flexibility and time-to-value.

What is surprising is the fact that 79 percent of these professionals expressed concern over the hidden costs of cloud computing, with poor end-user experience resonating as the biggest management worry. According to the survey, here are the four leading concerns with cloud migration:

  • Performance Bottlenecks: (64%) Respondents believe that cloud resources and e-commerce will experience poor performance due to cloud application bottleneck usage.
  • Poor End-User Experience: (64%) End users may end up dissatisfied with the cloud performance due to heavy traffic from application usage.
  • Reduced Brand Perception: (51%) Customer loyalty may be greatly reduced due to poor experience and poor cloud performance.
  • Loss of Revenue: (44%) Companies may lose revenues as a result of poor performance, reduced availability or slow technical troubleshooting services.

Ironically, these responses come at a time when the cloud is increasingly being used to support mission-critical applications like e-commerce. More than 80 percent of the professionals surveyed are either already using cloud-based e-commerce platforms or are planning to do so within the next year. It's evident that even as cloud adoption marches forward, a layer of trepidation remains, at least among IT staffs.

Business managers believe the efficiency benefits of the cloud are just too mission-critical to ignore. But IT's primary concern - application performance - is also mission-critical, and perhaps a bit more visceral and tangible. After all, a major service outage is a blatant, clear-cut scenario while efficiency gains or losses are often more subtle and less quantifiable. Ultimately, it's IT that takes the blame when business services don't work exactly as planned.

It used to be that issues like security and cost dominated the list of cloud concerns. But application performance is increasingly making headway as users grow more demanding. For the average user, 0.1 seconds is an instantaneous, acceptable response, similar to what they experience with a Google search. As response times increase, interactions begin to slow and dissatisfaction rises. The impact of a slowdown can be devastating: Amazon has calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. In addition, Google found that slowing search response times by just four-tenths of a second would reduce the number of searches by eight million per day - a sizeable amount.

Getting the Performance You Need from the Cloud
As more and more companies begin or extend their journey to the cloud, there are things IT can do to increase their comfort level. These include:

1. Don't Be Afraid to Experiment: Cloud computing offers businesses the opportunity to leverage computing resources they might not otherwise have the expertise or wherewithal to employ. But it can be intimidating to move critical operations out of one's own hands. That's where free trials come in. A number of cloud computing vendors offer free test runs that let companies figure out how cloud services would meld with their current operations.

Getting the most out of a trial period takes some planning and effort, and this includes making certain to measure the cloud service provider's performance. Unfortunately, most cloud service providers today don't measure and provide performance statistics as part of these trial periods, so it's incumbent upon prospective customers to do so. It's often best to experiment in the cloud with a non-critical system, such as a sales support application that doesn't have a huge impact on customers, should performance degrade. Organizations should also be sure to measure performance for as broad a cross-section of users as possible.

2. Insist on Performance-Focused SLAs: Inherent cloud attributes like on-demand resource provisioning and scalability are designed to increase confidence in the usability of applications and data hosted in the cloud. But the most common mistake that people often make is interpreting availability guarantees as performance guarantees in a cloud computing environment. Availability shows that a cloud service provider's servers are up and running - but that's about it. Service-level agreements (SLAs) based on availability say nothing about the user experience, which can be significantly impacted by the cloud - such as, when an organization's "neighbor" in the cloud experiences an unexpected spike in traffic. Yet, despite the mission-critical nature of many cloud applications, our survey found that 73 percent of companies are still using outdated methods like availability measurements to track and manage application performance.

The fact is that most traditional monitoring tools simply don't work in the cloud. Effectively monitoring and managing modern cloud-based applications and services requires a new approach based on more granular user metrics such as response time and page rendering time. This approach must be based on an understanding of the true user interaction "on the other side" of the cloud. It must enable cloud customers to directly measure the performance of their cloud service providers and validate SLAs. With this type of approach, cloud customers can be better assured that application performance issues will not undercut the benefits of moving to the cloud. In addition, an understanding of true end-user experiences across key geographies can help companies identify the most strategic opportunities for applying premium performance features, as discussed above.

3. Utilize Industry Resources: There are resources available to help companies better assess if the source of a performance problem lies with them or with a cloud service provider, as well as the likely performance impact on customers. As an example, Compuware's Outage Analyzer is a free new generation performance analytics solution that tracks Internet web service outages, including cloud service outages, in real-time around the world. Outage Analyzer provides instant insight into the performance of thousands of cloud services and the resulting impact on the websites they service. Resources like this may not prevent cloud service outages from happening, but they can help companies better understand the source of performance problems so they can get in front of them more confidently and efficiently.

Conclusion: Cloud Computing Is the "New Normal"
Like it or not, cloud computing is here to stay, and its adoption will only accelerate further in the years to come. In many ways, the move to the cloud is reminiscent of the adoption of Linux. At one time, IT administrators had significant concerns about Linux, including its scalability and reliability. But sure enough, businesses continued their adoption of Linux, propelled largely by the promise of lower costs and greater efficiencies. Today, Linux is a well-integrated component of corporate data centers worldwide.

In reality, neither IT nor the business is wrong when it comes to their strong opinions on adopting the cloud for mission-critical applications. Ultimately both sides share the same goal, which is to maximize a company's revenues and profits. It's just that the two teams approach the problem differently: IT emphasizes application performance as a means of driving productivity and conversions, while business leaders look to increase cash flow, seek greatest return on capital investments and lower operating expenses.

The move to the cloud can be a very good thing for today's enterprises. It's also a good thing to be cloud-wary, and this is where the business will ultimately depend on IT to be vigilant. By paying due attention to performance issues, the transition to the cloud offers IT teams an excellent opportunity to emerge as protectors of their organizations, thus maximizing return on cloud investments.

More Stories By Ronald Miller

For almost a decade Ronald Miller has served in product marketing roles in the enterprise software, mobile, and high technology industries. In his current role managing Dynatrace’s go-to-market efforts, he is dedicated to helping Dynatrace customers get the most performance and ROI from their applications. In his spare time he enjoys being an amateur judge of the best BBQ in Austin, Texas. You can Tweet him at @RonaldMiller

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
Extreme Computing is the ability to leverage highly performant infrastructure and software to accelerate Big Data, machine learning, HPC, and Enterprise applications. High IOPS Storage, low-latency networks, in-memory databases, GPUs and other parallel accelerators are being used to achieve faster results and help businesses make better decisions. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at NVIDIA, focused on some of the unique ways extreme computing is...
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
With over 720 million Internet users and 40–50% CAGR, the Chinese Cloud Computing market has been booming. When talking about cloud computing, what are the Chinese users of cloud thinking about? What is the most powerful force that can push them to make the buying decision? How to tap into them? In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Yu Hao, CEO and co-founder of SpeedyCloud, answered these questions and discussed the results of SpeedyCloud’s survey.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
Actian Corporation has announced the latest version of the Actian Vector in Hadoop (VectorH) database, generally available at the end of July. VectorH is based on the same query engine that powers Actian Vector, which recently doubled the TPC-H benchmark record for non-clustered systems at the 3000GB scale factor (see tpc.org/3323). The ability to easily ingest information from different data sources and rapidly develop queries to make better business decisions is becoming increasingly importan...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
Qosmos has announced new milestones in the detection of encrypted traffic and in protocol signature coverage. Qosmos latest software can accurately classify traffic encrypted with SSL/TLS (e.g., Google, Facebook, WhatsApp), P2P traffic (e.g., BitTorrent, MuTorrent, Vuze), and Skype, while preserving the privacy of communication content. These new classification techniques mean that traffic optimization, policy enforcement, and user experience are largely unaffected by encryption. In respect wit...
Deploying applications in hybrid cloud environments is hard work. Your team spends most of the time maintaining your infrastructure, configuring dev/test and production environments, and deploying applications across environments – which can be both time consuming and error prone. But what if you could automate provisioning and deployment to deliver error free environments faster? What could you do with your free time?
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that eCube Systems, a leading provider of middleware modernization, integration, and management solutions, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. eCube Systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. ...