Remember how IP convergence was supposed to simplify complexity? Well, it did, but there were some unintended consequences. The mass adoption of IP communications and services means that, in many enterprise network environments, applications essential to operations such as voice, collaboration, ERP and CRM tools must contend for bandwidth with non-critical, recreational or unsanctioned traffic like the latest cat video of the week on YouTube [here’s my personal favorite source].
At the same time, applications can be deployed anywhere: from on premises to externally hosted private or public clouds – or any hybrid thereof – interconnected over Internet, MPLS and/or Ethernet WANs. With organizations relying on applications to perform most business-critical activities, companies will increasingly need to track and prioritize traffic, dynamically allocate network resources and restrict unwanted usage according to business rules in order to preserve, let alone grow, the bottom line. To maximize benefits this should be done on an end-to-end, per-application, per-user basis.
Sounds pretty daunting, right? Perhaps unsurprisingly, 75% of IT teams are suffering from degraded business applications, according to a recent IDC study. The good news for MSPs is that a lot of corporate IT managers out there need your help aligning applications and network resource utilization to business priorities. The bad news for many MSPs is that getting into application performance management means stepping outside of their traditional managed WAN/IP VPN services comfort zone and moving up the protocol stack. This transition may seem like an impossible leap, especially if MSPs lack the tools to cost-effectively see, control and accelerate application traffic. And this is all happening at a time when core-managed network services are experiencing intensifying commoditization and severe price erosion in many markets. But consider the upside: application performance offerings can help MSPs generate new, differentiated revenue streams, acquire new customers and lower churn.
Here are some specific examples of significant customer value that MSPs can deliver with managed application performance based on true layer 7 visibility, control and optimization:
1. Application Assurance
Traditional service level agreements (SLAs) based on network uptime, availability and parameters like jitter, packet loss, latency, etc. are table stakes. MSPs can differentiate by assuring application quality of experience performance tied to end-user experience level agreements (ELAs). Industry best practice is to base ELAs on business-oriented performance targets developed in consultation with clients. The key is ensuring that business-critical applications like Unified Communications, SAP, Oracle, and Citrix receive priority access to bandwidth reliably and predictably (optimally down to per-user granularity), while restricting nonessential traffic. Successful MSPs will typically include a bundle of application policy configuration options including adds, deletions and/or changes in the monthly package (e.g., up to X changes per month included in the flat billing).
By providing customers with deep, real-time visibility into user application behavior, MSPs show organizations how resources are being used on their network. Having accurate knowledge of ambient traffic levels allows companies to operate existing applications and/or rollout new software without over-provisioning network infrastructure and WAN links. Customers will appreciate detailed reports and actionable recommendations to help them optimize, shape and protect their environment at the lowest possible cost of operations. As an added value, MSPs should consider including quarterly service reviews (“health checks”) to discuss trending analysis and potential solutions to chronic performance issues. This is also a great way to stay looped into the customer’s business plan (for example, the planned rollout of new business applications on the network) and can serve as lead generation for related or adjacent services like network assessments and Managed Unified Communications.
According to Gartner, 70% of the time IT organizations learn about performance problems from end users. By delivering customer IT staff with proactive, actionable notifications of performance issues, MSPs can help with trouble resolution before users call into the internal helpdesk and the blame game starts. Also, with the right end-to-end application performance analysis tools, MSPs can help customers keep third-party ISPs accountable by ensuring they deliver the bandwidth, jitter, latency and other key SLA metrics to which they have committed. It’s really about empowering customers with the type of business-centric information they need, when they need it.
The bottom line is that poorly performing applications can translate to lost revenue, unsatisfied users, and lower productivity. MSPs with the right per-application, per-user visibility, control and optimization tools are uniquely positioned to help customers deliver on user experience and ROI goals.
To learn more about how to ensure your applications always perform, contact us today.