Welcome!

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, IoT User Interface, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo

Microservices Expo: Article

Understanding Application Performance on the Network | Part 1

A foundation for network triage

As a network professional, one of your newer roles is likely troubleshooting poor application performance. For most of us, our jobs have advanced beyond network "health," towards sharing - if not owning - responsibility for application delivery. There are many reasons for this more justifiable than the adage that the network is first to be blamed for performance problems. (Your application and system peers feel they are first to be blamed as well.) Two related influencing trends come to mind:

  1. Increased globalization, coupled with (in fact facilitated by) inexpensive bandwidth means that the network is becoming a more critical part of the business at the same time its constraint is shifting from bandwidth to latency.
  2. Many of the network devices - appliances - that sit in the path between remote offices and data centers are application-fluent, designed to enhance and speed application performance, often by spoofing application behaviors; in fact, many of these have evolved in response to problems introduced by increased network latency.

In an ideal world, your application performance management (APM) solution or your application-aware network performance management (AANPM) solution would automatically isolate the fault domain for you, providing all the diagnostic evidence you need to take the appropriate corrective actions. The reality is that this isn't always the case; intermittent problems, unexpected application or network behaviors, inefficient configuration settings, or just a desire for more concrete proof mean that manual troubleshooting remains a frequent exercise. Although it may seem like there are a near-unlimited number of root causes of poor application performance, and that trial and error, guesswork and finger-pointing are valid paths toward resolution, the truth is much different. In a series of network triage blog posts, I'll identify the very limited realm of possible performance constraints, explain how to measure and quantify their impact, illustrate these using network packet trace diagrams, and offer meaningful and supportable actions you might evaluate to correct the problem. Understanding how to detect these possible performance problems (there are twelve altogether) will help you troubleshoot faster, more accurately, with greater insight, while collaborating more effectively with your application and system peers.

In this introductory entry, I present the request/reply application paradigm assumption upon which most of the analyses depend, illustrate key packet-level measurements, and provide a list of the 12 bottleneck categories we'll discuss in future blog entries to the series.

Packet Flow Diagrams
Throughout the blog series I will be using packet flow diagrams to illustrate message flows on the network, often to emphasize TCP's influence on these flows. Some are drawings to illustrate concepts and theory, others are screenshots from Compuware's Transaction Trace Analysis that illustrate the pertinent performance bottleneck. The diagram conventions are simple:

  • Each arrow represents one TCP packet
  • Blue arrows are used to represent data packets
  • Red arrows are used to represent TCP ACK packets
  • The slope of the arrow represents network delay
  • Time flows from top to bottom

Terminology
We will frequently use the term "operation," which we define as the unit of work that an application performs on behalf of a user; we sometimes describe it as "Click (or Enter key) to screen update." Business transactions are made up of one or more operations; for example, a user may click through a series of screens (operations) to complete a customer order update. Operations are an important demarcation point, as they represent the unique performance dimension important to the business, to the user, and to IT. The time a user waits for the system to execute an operation impacts business transaction performance and therefore productivity, and is dictated by the performance of lower-level IT-managed hardware, software and services. Note that this terminology may differ somewhat from network probes that often use the term "transaction" to reference session-layer request-response exchanges, which we discuss next.

Request/Reply Paradigm
We assume a client/server or request/reply paradigm, with TCP as the transport; this covers virtually all of what we might refer to as interactive business applications. It would include, for example, web-based apps, "fat client" apps, file server access, file transfers, backups, etc. It specifically excludes voice and video streaming as well as the presentation tier of thin-client solutions that use protocols such as ICA and PCoIP.

For each operation, there will be at least one application-level request and one corresponding application-level reply. These can be considered application messages, sometimes referred to as application-layer protocol data units (PDUs). Consider a simple client-server operation. At the application layer, a request message is passed to the client's TCP stack (TCP socket) for segmentation (into packets), addressing, and transmission; these lower layer TCP stack functions are essentially transparent to the application. At the receiving end (the server), the data from the network packets is reassembled into the application layer message and delivered to the listener service for processing. Once processing is complete, the server application passes the reply message to the server's TCP stack, and the message contents are similarly segmented and transferred across the network to the client. The performance of these request/reply message exchanges is constrained by two factors; message processing (at the server or client) and message transmission (across the network).

It is helpful, then, to consider this request/reply message exchange as the basis for performance analysis; the reassembled messages represent our network-centric insight into the application, while the packets visible in the trace file inform us how efficiently the network transports these messages.

For further insight click here for the full article, and stay tuned for Part II.

More Stories By Gary Kaiser

Gary Kaiser is a Subject Matter Expert in Network Performance Analytics at Dynatrace, responsible for DC RUM’s technical marketing programs. He is a co-inventor of multiple performance analysis features, and continues to champion the value of network performance analytics. He is the author of Network Application Performance Analysis (WalrusInk, 2014).

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
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, drew together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established compa...
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
"Coalfire is a cyber-risk, security and compliance assessment and advisory services firm. We do a lot of work with the cloud service provider community," explained Ryan McGowan, Vice President, Sales (West) at Coalfire Systems, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...
Get deep visibility into the performance of your databases and expert advice for performance optimization and tuning. You can't get application performance without database performance. Give everyone on the team a comprehensive view of how every aspect of the system affects performance across SQL database operations, host server and OS, virtualization resources and storage I/O. Quickly find bottlenecks and troubleshoot complex problems.
"We are a custom software development, engineering firm. We specialize in cloud applications from helping customers that have on-premise applications migrating to the cloud, to helping customers design brand new apps in the cloud. And we specialize in mobile apps," explained Peter Di Stefano, Vice President of Marketing at Impiger Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Rapid innovation, changing business landscapes, and new IT demands force businesses to make changes quickly. In the eyes of many, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery. In this presentation, attendees learned about the: The transformation of IT to a DevOps, microservices, and container-based architecture What are containers and how DevOps practices can operate in a container-based environment A demonstration of how ...
President Obama recently announced the launch of a new national awareness campaign to "encourage more Americans to move beyond passwords – adding an extra layer of security like a fingerprint or codes sent to your cellphone." The shift from single passwords to multi-factor authentication couldn’t be timelier or more strategic. This session will focus on why passwords alone are no longer effective, and why the time to act is now. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Chris Webber, security strateg...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2017 New York. The 20th Cloud Expo and 7th @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Internet to enable us all to im...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...