Why applications fail

About two thirds of application deployments in UK enterprises are considered failures when assessed against the original roll-out plan, writes Owen Cole, technical director at F5.

About two thirds of application deployments in UK enterprises are considered failures when assessed against the original roll-out plan, writes Owen Cole, technical director at F5. Failures are most prominent in businesses with offices in multiple locations and usability problems increase in areas of high latency and poor connectivity,...

for example in South America, Africa and the Middle East.

Adding to the problem of application performance is the fact companies are consolidating datacentres to comply with regulation, which takes applications and data further away from the user. The growth in companies putting applications on the web to make them easier to use when shared across different countries also takes them further away from the user, causing yet more latency issues.

Businesses are investing millions of pounds in applications today and failing to deliver them properly costs time and money, with hundreds of hours wasted when projects are abandoned.

Why are they failing?

The majority of applications rolled out today don't meet the original specifications. One of the main problems is that developers don't foresee how applications are going to be used in the real world. At the point where they think they've finished the application, many more security and network problems can arise. When issues do arise, the network manager blames the application developer and the application developer blames the network manager. The most common reaction is for the network manager to buy more bandwidth, but this isn't necessarily going to help because the reason the problem exists is almost always multi-faceted.

It could take up to six months to investigate and fix performance problems once the application has been deployed and this is not only very expensive but often impossible when contractors who worked on the job initially have moved on in a transient technology market. If the application deployment was planned more effectively at the outset both money and effort could have been saved.

All in the planning

Companies deploying applications for mission-critical projects must create a virtual team to plan the roll-out and involve all interested parties in the planning stage. This team must include the application developer, network manager and security manager. The team must look at the application it wants to roll out and decide what it will deliver. For example, if a company is rolling out a collaboration product with Microsoft SharePoint, it needs to consider the distances that exist between the new and existing applications and how this is going to influence changes in the network profile.

The amount of time it takes a page to load must also be considered. A typical page for a local user could take a second, for a remote user in Europe it could take five seconds, but for someone in South America it could take five minutes. This can't be reduced but can be planned around by better design in the application. This option can be complicated, however, and the other alternative is to add devices to the network to accelerate application performance. Application acceleration uses a number of technologies to improve application performance and response time over network connections. It can assist in mitigating issues such as WAN latency, packet loss and bandwidth congestion. It also addresses application challenges that adversely affect performance such as "chatty" protocols, for example HTTP, CIFS, differences in TCP/IP stack implementations, and the lack of distinction in web applications between cacheable and non-cacheable content.

Whichever approach is taken to application delivery, the main thing companies need to recognise is that it is a big problem. Continuing to invest in applications without thinking about their delivery can affect employee productivity levels and in today's environment, where businesses need to be as agile and competitive as possible, application delivery must surely move up the up the priority chain.

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