Ensuring a Quality Web Application Experience

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The Web provides users immediate, around-theclock access to myriad online services, increasingly through the use of interlocking Web apps. But these technological advances come with a burden of sophisticated technology — often negatively impacting the overall user experience. Unfortunately, it is not until a user complains that an underlying problem is discovered. But where, exactly, did that problem occur?

Many Web properties deliver a number of separate elements that constitute what a user sees as a whole; cloud-delivered content, Software-as-a-Service content stitched into Web pages, rich Internet applications, and third-party data and content from the origin site. To execute the whole package, virtual infrastructures and cloud applications must work hand-in-hand with core inhouse systems. Added to that, is support for a plethora of presentation schemes across different browsers and hardware platforms such as mobile devices and networks of unknown quality. It can, therefore, be extremely difficult to pinpoint a snag in the system.

To bridge the gap, an emerging management strategy — Web Application Performance Management (WAPM) — is providing a single, consistent metric to judge the efficacy of Web technology investments while answering the simple question: How well are we treating users? WAPM provides a scorecard showing how effectively the Web presence is meeting organizational goals and lets site operators know if the sophisticated technology is providing the benefits envisioned.

• How well is our system serving the needs of our users?
• Are users experiencing performance bottlenecks and if so, where?
• Are these problems associated with specific parts of an application?
• Are application errors occurring on a single server or virtual server, or are they just for users in specific geographic regions or for those using a specific kind of device?

When problems occur, WAPM data can ensure that the right people get the information needed to quickly resolve problems. Instead of waiting for a customer complaint, WAPM enables a proactive approach to attack the issues on a granular level and a timely fashion before users are affected on a widespread basis.

When News America, Inc. (a division of News Corporation) was having a problem with their Our News Web app, they turned to WAPM to resolve the issue.

“[WAPM] immediately determined that part of our application was taking too long to load,” says Alan Olegario, System Performance Engineer at News Corporation. “We used [WAPM] to drill down into the details of the issue. As a result, we were able to tell the application developers the exact page and object causing the problem. Once they fixed the problem, lo and behold, the site ran faster.”

Since then, WAPM has allowed News Corporation to make practical IT decisions based on actual data on a consistent, regular basis. They can now see what is taking place in a user session without the need to replicate the problem, hence reducing the time it takes to troubleshoot a problem from days to just hours.

WAPM scales to fit the needs of any service delivery model. It can even effectively manage the performance of traffic delivered in the cloud, for example, through the Akamai APS cloud. WAPM also presents immediate visibility into the performance of new releases of features on the Web. Finally, it can inform cost-benefit analysis.

Most important, WAPM measures how well the Web is meeting the needs of users and the institution, and identifies where it makes sense to improve. A well-planned WAPM strategy significantly reduces problem resolution time, and can remove many tiers of service escalation and eliminate the burden of trying to recreate end-user problems. The entire organization can be instantly aware of Web performance and receive constant confirmation of improvement. Consistent trending data of key performance indicators may be communicated to executive management and to customers. With the end-user view as the measure of success, online organizations can manage the complexity of Web delivery far more cost-efficiently and effectively than ever before.

About the Author: Fred Dumoulin is Vice President, WAPM Programs for Coradiant, and introduced the TrueSight product line, a WAPM service for businesses.

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