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Rich Applications + Poor Networks = Customer Experience Turn-off

You’ve probably seen the spinning “loading” wheel or the dreaded “hour glass” quite often in your Internet browsing experience, especially on rich media sites where videos download to your browser. You blame your ISP and move on. Lucky you.

Imagine if you are a store clerk manning the cash counter at a local big box store on Black Friday. Your POS application just went down, and the “self-service” counters have just blacked out. A collective sigh that goes up in the line doesn’t help either.

Now whom do you blame?

There are many layers to this problem. A typical business information ecosystem combines hardware—storage, servers, large computing capabilities; software applications—graphic interface driven information manipulation solutions; and the glue that connects them all—networking.

As each of these elements of the ecosystem evolved independently, business-critical issues like performance, usage, security, and availability of these individual elements have been refined in vacuum.

Today, infrastructure managers tool up virtual machines and clouds to offset hardware performance issues. Server virtualization offers performance, economy, and consolidation—and some critical associated challenges. For example, IT leaders require application tracking as applications are moved from Virtual Machine (VM) to VM as they tune/optimize their virtual infrastructure or respond to peak loads as well as manage VM failovers. In addition to virtualization, massive data centers we call cloud-computing facilities are being built to host applications at scale plus offer infrastructure, platform and other IT services. According to the Yankee Group*, 56% of IT business leaders seek to take advantage of cloud computing technology and build their own private cloud center while 24% seek a fully managed cloud computing facility. In the same study, 32% of IT business leaders will seek a hybrid cloud approach.

In parallel, application development groups have stepped up efforts to create richer experiences for their products, loading in video and rich interface applications liberally. To add to this, the slick user interface provides the end user with a multitude of options that really tax the network and the back-end storage and server infrastructure that has to churn the data.

Application developers are writing mobile applications at a frenzied pace thanks to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Google’s Android, and RIM’s BlackBerry. Legacy enterprise applications are being extended to mobile platforms too with the assumption of a suitable network for delivery. At the same time applications are being increasingly centralized into consolidated data centers creating greater distance between users and their applications plus data. Some estimate that over 80% of enterprises have under gone a data center consolidation process, which is significant, but we are just at the being of the centralization trend.

In large enterprises—like the big box store, IT managers are using the cloud to offload branch-specific applications and services to offer the location “local-like” availability and performance. Not really, though.

All these modernization leave the network grappling with the resulting dilemma—to deliver the same level of productive experience of any application to any user at any place at any time. Whoa.

Cisco has been working to solve this crippling problem by looking at the entire ecosystem from a services perspective.

Cisco’s Borderless Network architecture is built upon five network services:

1.      Mobility or users in motion

2.      Energy efficiency

3.      Integrated network security

4.      Application performance

5.      Video services

These borderless network services are built within switching, routing, security, wireless and wide area application services or WAAS infrastructure products. By integrating these services into existing network infrastructure, and providing the ability to control them via policy and management, Cisco enables a borderless experience to occur.

A borderless network eliminates the disconnect between applications and network designers by allowing the network to be aware of the applications that traverse it and endpoint capabilities that it connects.  This revolutionary thinking helps any users of any application at any time on any device remain truly productive.

If you’d like to learn more about the new Cisco innovations coming up in the application performance space, register for the October 5th event  - you won’t want to miss it!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing more about these new innovations and how they help you solve some of your most pressing application performance challenges.  So, stay tuned!

*Yankee Group Anchor Report, "Clouds in 2010:  Vendor Optimism Meets Enterprise Realities," January, 2010.

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