Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Johnnie Konstantas, Cloud Best Practices Network, Sarah Patrick, Ramesh Ganapathy

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.


@CloudExpo Stories
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, will discuss how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved effi...
Data-as-a-Service is the complete package for the transformation of raw data into meaningful data assets and the delivery of those data assets. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lakshmi Randall, an industry expert, analyst and strategist, will address: What is DaaS (Data-as-a-Service)? Challenges addressed by DaaS Vendors that are enabling DaaS Architecture options for DaaS
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
It's easy to assume that your app will run on a fast and reliable network. The reality for your app's users, though, is often a slow, unreliable network with spotty coverage. What happens when the network doesn't work, or when the device is in airplane mode? You get unhappy, frustrated users. An offline-first app is an app that works, without error, when there is no network connection.
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
Father business cycles and digital consumers are forcing enterprises to respond faster to customer needs and competitive demands. Successful integration of DevOps and Agile development will be key for business success in today’s digital economy. In his session at DevOps Summit, Pradeep Prabhu, Co-Founder & CEO of Cloudmunch, covered the critical practices that enterprises should consider to seamlessly integrate Agile and DevOps processes, barriers to implementing this in the enterprise, and pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Advances in technology and ubiquitous connectivity have made the utilization of a dispersed workforce more common. Whether that remote team is located across the street or country, management styles/ approaches will have to be adjusted to accommodate this new dynamic. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., focused on the challenges of managing remote teams, providing real-world examples that demonstrate what works and what do...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
With the proliferation of both SQL and NoSQL databases, organizations can now target specific fit-for-purpose database tools for their different application needs regarding scalability, ease of use, ACID support, etc. Platform as a Service offerings make this even easier now, enabling developers to roll out their own database infrastructure in minutes with minimal management overhead. However, this same amount of flexibility also comes with the challenges of picking the right tool, on the right ...
In most cases, it is convenient to have some human interaction with a web (micro-)service, no matter how small it is. A traditional approach would be to create an HTTP interface, where user requests will be dispatched and HTML/CSS pages must be served. This approach is indeed very traditional for a web site, but not really convenient for a web service, which is not intended to be good looking, 24x7 up and running and UX-optimized. Instead, talking to a web service in a chat-bot mode would be muc...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...