The volume of transactions running through websites and mobile apps make customer-facing applications crucial to online businesses. If these applications perform well for their users, they generate revenue for the business. If they don't, they affect the credibility of the business, which in turn affects the overall revenue. It is therefore imperative that businesses understand how well their revenue-critical applications are behaving for their end users.
From an IT team's point of view, understanding the user experience of their applications is becoming challenging as technology evolves. Newer and more complex applications are being written using an assortment of languages. These applications are being deployed on a wide variety of infrastructure components. To add to that, today's users access these modern applications on a variety of devices such as the Web, smartphones, tablets and smart watches.
Fortunately, there are a few means available through which businesses can determine the user experience of their Web applications. Let's take a look at three common approaches:
Real User Monitoring (RUM)
The data gathered through RUM provides answers to questions about user experience such as:
■ How long did it take to load the full page?
■ What is the response time from a network perspective (redirection time, DNS resolution time, connection time)?
■ What is the time interval between sending the request and receiving the first byte of response?
■ What is the time taken by the browser to receive the response and render the page?
■ Are there any problems on the page? If yes, what caused the problem?
■ How is the performance when the application is accessed from different countries?
■ What is the response time across different browsers? Do new application updates affect the performance in a specific version of the browser?
■ How does the application perform in different platforms such as desktop, Web and mobile?
The biggest advantage of monitoring real user data is that it relies on actual traffic to take measurements. There is no need to script the important use cases, which can save a lot of time and resources.
Real user monitoring captures everything as a user goes through the application, so performance data will be available irrespective of what pages the user sees. This is particularly useful for complex apps in which the functionality or content is dynamic.
Although user experience is best tracked at the browser level, application performance monitoring at the server side also provides insight into end-user performance. Server-side monitoring is mostly used in conjunction with real user monitoring. This is because problems originating on the server side can only be efficiently detected using server-side monitoring.
Monitoring performance on the server side involves agent-based instrumentation technology for acquiring and transmitting data. This monitoring approach is used to watch user transactions in real time and troubleshoot in case of issues such as slowness or application bugs.
Developers have to install agents on the application server to help capture and visualize transactions end-to-end, with performance statistics across all components, from the URL down to the SQL level. This visual breakdown reveals the flow of all the user transactions being executed in each layer of the application infrastructure.
Server-side monitoring helps track response time and throughput taken by each application component, with the option to trace transactions end-to-end via code analysis. This helps the IT Operations/DevOps teams identify slow Web transactions and then isolate performance issues down to the level of the specific application code that caused them. The underlying database is also monitored most of the time to determine slow database calls, database usage and overall database performance. With server-side monitoring, users will be able to identify the SQL queries executed during a transaction and thus identify the worst performing queries.
Synthetic Transaction Monitoring
Synthetic transaction monitoring is an active monitoring technique based on the concept of simulating the actions of an end user on a Web application. This method involves the use of external monitoring agents executing pre-recorded scripts that mimic end-user behavior at regular time intervals. The monitoring agents are usually very light and do not create any additional load on network traffic.
Most application performance monitoring solutions provide recorder tools to capture the actions or paths a typical end user might take in an application, such as log in, view product, search and check out. These recordings are saved as scripts, which are then executed by the monitoring agents from different geographical locations.
Since synthetic transaction monitoring involves sending requests across the network, it can measure the response time of application servers and network infrastructure. This type of monitoring does not require actual Web traffic, so you can use this approach to test your Web applications prior to launch — or anytime you like. Many companies use synthetic monitoring before entering production in the form of automated integration tests with Selenium.
Synthetic monitoring does have its limitations, though. Since the monitoring is based on pre-defined transactions, it does not monitor the perception of real end users. Transactions have to be “read-only” because they would otherwise set off real purchase processes. This limits the usage to a certain subset of your business-critical transactions.
The best approach is to use synthetic transaction monitoring as a reference measurement that will help identify performance degradation, detect network problems and notify in case of errors.
Every business is different and has its own requirements that can help to choose which type of monitoring to implement. An ideal strategy would be to use active and passive monitoring techniques side by side so that no stone is left unturned in the pursuit to monitor end-user experience.
Sridhar Iyengar is Vice President, Product Management, for ManageEngine.
In the spirit of Earth Day, which is Saturday, April 22, we recently asked IT professionals for the tips and tricks they're using to help keep their data centers as green as possible. Here are a few ideas inspired by the responses we got ...
A majority of senior IT leaders and decision-making managers of large companies surveyed around the world indicate their organizations have yet to fully embrace the aspects of IT Transformation needed to remain competitive, according to a new study conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) ...
The move to cloud-based solutions like Office 365, Google Apps and others is one of the biggest fundamental changes IT professionals will undertake in the history of computing. The cost savings and productivity enhancements available to organizations are huge. But these savings and benefits can't be reaped without careful planning, network assessment, change management and continuous monitoring. Read on for things that you shouldn't do with your network in preparation for a move to one of these cloud providers ...
One of the most ubiquitous words in the development and DevOps vocabularies is "Agile." It is that shining, valued, and sometimes elusive goal that all enterprises strive for. But how do you get there? How does your organization become truly Agile? With these questions in mind, DEVOPSdigest asked experts across the industry — including analysts, consultants and vendors — for their opinions on the best way for a development or DevOps team to become more Agile ...
Is composable infrastructure the right choice for your IT environment? The following are 5 key questions that can help you begin to explore the capabilities of composable infrastructure and its applicability within your own IT environment ...
What is composable infrastructure, and is it the right choice for your IT environment? That's the question on many CIOs' minds today as they work to position their organizations as "digitally driven," delivering better, deeper, faster user experiences and a more agile response to change in whatever vertical market you do business in today ...
As companies adopt new hardware and applications, their networks grow larger and become harder to manage. For network engineers and administrators, the continued emergence of integrated technology has forced them to reconfigure and manage networks in a more dynamic way ...
The complexity of data in motion is growing and risks undermining the success of the modern data-driven enterprise. A recent survey of data engineers and architects, conducted by StreamSets, sought to bring some perspective to the new reality in the enterprise, leading to some interesting insights about the enterprise data landscape ...
The biggest factor driving happiness is the quality of relationships IT professionals have with their coworkers, including users, peers, and managers, according to the 2017 IT Job Satisfaction report from Spiceworks ...