June 12, 2012

Cloud Applications and WAN Performance - Another Delicate Balance

(Sponsor-Contributed Paper)

Looking for scalability, manageability and flexibility, enterprises adopt cloud services in SaaS delivery model for standardized applications like CRM (Salesforce), collaboration (GoogleApps, Office 365) as well as unified communications and conferencing systems (Cisco Webex, Microsoft Lync). With market players like Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace, enterprises can also access virtually infinite computing resources.

But cloud-based applications come with their own distinct challenges. If these challenges aren't properly addressed, the cloud projects will not yield their anticipated benefits:

  • Cloud applications are a significant investment. To yield a good ROI and deliver a suitable user experience their performance must be guaranteed over the shared WAN resources;
  • Cloud applications are made up of dynamic traffic that can impact the performance of other business critical traffic during peaks of high demand;
  • Cloud applications increase traffic volume, indirectly encourage the usage of Internet and open the opportunity for "shadows applications", placing a significant strain on the WAN;
  • Cloud applications turn the former "branch spoke" in a new "branch hub" where traffic coming from many different sources (on premises and on the cloud) combines to serve the users.

Just adding bandwidth will cost money and not solve all problems. Static classes of service (CoS) are too coarse to match such complex traffic situations - and does not apply over the Internet.

How Advanced Application Performance Management Meets these Challenges?

Advanced application performance management systems are able to overcome these challenges. They identify specific traffic types and dynamically adjust network behaviour and resources to the exact application traffic demand. This allows cloud applications to run with the right performance without costly bandwidth upgrades.

To really deliver their promise, they should have the following characteristics:

  • Be analytic to understand the rich application mix and intelligent to individually control each application flow (including the shadows ones);
  • Be cost effective so they represent only a fraction of the enterprise applications portfolio investment;
  • Be automated to not add complexity and heavy management overheads.

What is the Business Value to Control Cloud-based Applications Performance?

Just considering the Microsoft suite (Office 365, SharePoint and Lync), recent research demonstrates an average Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of $30 per user and per month for each of the key components and $80 per user and per month for the combo - this without considering the impact on the WAN.

Let's consider a 20-person branch office of a company with 5,000 employees in the professional services industry that is deploying Office 365 and Sharepoint. The company has a total IT budget aligned to its industry standard of $975/employee/month, of which $320/employee/month is allocated to applications.

This investment must be optimized and its benefits have to be guaranteed. Advanced application performance management will:

  1. Guarantee the quality of Office 365 and SharePoint (an investment of $60/employee/month as noted above);
  2. Protect the performance of the other business critical applications (ERP, CRM, Unified Communications, Internet, etc.) against the resource intensive Office 365 and SharePoint (an average investment of $320 - $60 = $260/employee/month);
  3. Prevent proactively application performance brownouts, improve the service desk productivity, facilitate IT governance and delay bandwidth upgrades by an average of 3 years to save a total of $30/employee/month;

To achieve these savings, the typical TCO for an advanced application performance management solution from Ipanema, called the nano|engine, is only of $3.00 per user per month for the branch office described above. That cost includes the nano, central devices, management operations as well as project overheads and aleas.

Investing $3.00/user/month in the nano saves $30/user/month while protecting applications that represent an investment of more than $300/user/month.

The Bottom Line

Not deploying the right advanced application performance management solutions in the branch jeopardizes not only the success of the new cloud application but also the performance of the other business apps. Unsatisfied users and business managers are likely to complain, lowering cloud application adoption and forcing IT to upgrade the WAN at a high cost without being sure of the impact.

Because it dynamically controls the traffic based on application type and users' activity, intelligent WAN management aligns the performance delivered to users to the business requirements. A critical component to successful cloud-based application deployment, it contributes to the company strategy to improve its efficiency and productivity through better collaboration and a more flexible IT management and licensing model.


Can you say a bit about how Advanced Application Performance Management compares with classical WAN Optimization?

Advanced Application Performance Management addresses all the aspect of guaranteeing the user experience in a holistic approach: all the users, all the applications, the entire network. It encompasses techniques like application classification, QoS, per flow control, application SLAs, hybrid networking, etc. WAN Optimization is a part of it that is necessary in some specific cases.

What do you mean by “shadow applications”?

With cloud computing, it is becoming really easy for not-so-technical people to deploy and use applications without asking. Line of business are always in a hurry to implement the next new fancy apps – why should they wait for the IT to discuss, negotiate, approve, plan, manage… And suddenly the IT managers are no more in control!

How is it possible for the nano to reach a so small TCO? Are you really considering all the expenses in your evaluation?

This is the real value that includes all component of the TCO: capex, operations, training, maintenance, project overheads, etc… The reason for such a compelling TCO is two-fold: first, the nano is a unique device on the market, a real game changer – second, the Ipanema solution being “autonomic” as we say, its operation cost is really minimal: you set the performances objectives and it works for you! In many situations we even reach a significantly lower TCO, particularly where our tele-management concept applies.

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