Welcome!

Big Data Journal Authors: Roger Strukhoff, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Kevin Benedict, Richard Moulds

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, Java, Linux, AJAX & REA, Web 2.0, Big Data Journal

SOA & WOA: 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 Analysis at Compuware APM. He has global field enablement responsibilities for performance monitoring and analysis solutions embracing emerging and strategic technologies, including WAN optimization, thin client infrastructures, network forensics, and a unique performance management maturity methodology. He is also a co-inventor of multiple analysis features, and continues to champion the value of software-enabled expert network analysis.

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.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Cloud Computing is evolving into a Big Three of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Cloud 360: Multi-Cloud Bootcamp, being held Nov 4–5, 2014, in conjunction with 15th Cloud Expo in Santa Clara, CA, delivers a real-world demonstration of how to deploy and configure a scalable and available web application on all three platforms. The Cloud 360 Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, an analyst with Gigaom Research, is the first bootcamp that introduces the core concepts of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) based on the workings of the Big Three platforms – Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine, and Azure VMs. Bootcamp attendees will get to see the big picture and also receive the knowledge needed to make the best cloud decisions for their business applications and entire enterprise IT organization.
The Internet of Things is a natural complement to the cloud and related technologies such as Big Data, analytics, and mobility. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Joe Weinman will lay out four generic strategies – digital disciplines – to exploit emerging digital technologies for strategic advantage. Joe Weinman has held executive leadership positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, and Telx, in areas such as corporate strategy, business development, product management, operations, and R&D.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DevOps.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's “DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo,” which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. DevOps.com is where the world meets DevOps. It is the largest collection of original content relating to DevOps on the web today Featuring up-to-the-minute news, feature stories, blogs, bylined articles and more, DevOps.com is where the thought leaders of the DevOps movement make their ideas known.
There are 182 billion emails sent every day, generating a lot of data about how recipients and ISPs respond. Many marketers take a more-is-better approach to stats, preferring to have the ability to slice and dice their email lists based numerous arbitrary stats. However, fundamentally what really matters is whether or not sending an email to a particular recipient will generate value. Data Scientists can design high-level insights such as engagement prediction models and content clusters that allow marketers to cut through the noise and design their campaigns around strong, predictive signals, rather than arbitrary statistics. SendGrid sends up to half a billion emails a day for customers such as Pinterest and GitHub. All this email adds up to more text than produced in the entire twitterverse. We track events like clicks, opens and deliveries to help improve deliverability for our customers – adding up to over 50 billion useful events every month. While SendGrid data covers only abo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that the Web Host Industry Review has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 2000, The Web Host Industry Review has made a name for itself as the foremost authority of the Web hosting industry providing reliable, insightful and comprehensive news, reviews and resources to the hosting community. TheWHIR Blogs provides a community of expert industry perspectives. The Web Host Industry Review Magazine also offers a business-minded, issue-driven perspective of interest to executives and decision-makers. WHIR TV offers on demand web hosting video interviews and web hosting video features of the key persons and events of the web hosting industry. WHIR Events brings together like-minded hosting industry professionals and decision-makers in local communities. TheWHIR is an iNET Interactive property.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Verizon has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Verizon Enterprise Solutions creates global connections that generate growth, drive business innovation and move society forward. With industry-specific solutions and a full range of global wholesale offerings provided over the company's secure mobility, cloud, strategic networking and advanced communications platforms, Verizon Enterprise Solutions helps open new opportunities around the world for innovation, investment and business transformation. Visit verizonenterprise.com to learn more.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TMCnet has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC) is the world's leading business to business and integrated marketing media company, servicing niche markets within the communications and technology industries.
"In my session I spoke about enterprise cloud analytics and how we can leverage analytics as a service," explained Ajay Budhraja, CTO at the Department of Justice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
“We are starting to see people move beyond the commodity cloud and enterprises need to start focusing on additional value added services in order to really drive their adoption," explained Jason Mondanaro, Director of Product Management at MetraTech, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
"We are automated capacity control software, which basically looks at all the supply and demand and running a virtual cloud environment and does a deep analysis of that and says where should things go," explained Andrew Hillier, Co-founder & CTO of CiRBA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mac Devine, Distinguished Engineer at IBM, will discuss bringing these three elements together via Systems of Discover.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at 15th Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, Vice President, Product Strategy of LogMeIn's Xively IoT Platform, will show you how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
All too many discussions about DevOps conclude that the solution is an all-purpose player: developer and operations guru, complete with pager for round-the-clock duty. For most organizations that is not the way forward. In his session at DevOps Summit, Bernard Golden, Vice President of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss how to achieve the agility and speed of end-to-end automation without requiring an organization stocked with Supermen and Superwomen.