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Monitoring the complex relationship between applications and servers

Agencies are “stacking up” on applications, leading to greater time and cost savings.  But rising stacks can be difficult to manage and optimize. This is particularly true in hybrid IT and cloud environments. According to a recent SolarWinds federal IT survey, nearly half of IT professionals feel their environments are not operating at optimal levels.

The more complex the app stack, the more servers are required -- and the more challenging it can be to discover problems as they arise. These problems can range from the mundane (an application that’s not performing as it should) to the alarming (a potential data breach).

When emails aren’t being delivered or the network is running agonizingly slow, it can be difficult to determine the origin of the problem. Is it an app or a server? Identifying the cause requires being able to visualize the relationship between the two.

To do this, administrators must take monitoring for government networks to a new level. They need more in-depth insights and visual analysis than traditional network monitoring provides.

Let’s take a look at how federal IT professionals can get a better handle on the performance of their application stack. A deep dive into server and application monitoring  can improve response times, optimize network performance and deliver a seamless and efficient user experience.

The relationship between applications and servers

Until recently, application management was a fairly simple affair. Applications were primarily relegated to mainframes or PCs with local storage. When something went wrong, the damage was limited, and administrators knew exactly where to look to fix the problem.

Now, applications and servers are closely entwined and can span multiple data centers, remote locations and the cloud. Today’s virtualized environments make it harder to discern whether the error is the fault of the application or the server, since one affects the other.

In this complex infrastructure, administrators must be able to correlate communications processes between applications and servers. Essentially, administrators must be able to understand what applications and servers are “saying” to each other and monitor activities taking place between the two. This detailed understanding can help admins rapidly identify the cause of failures so they can quickly respond.

Administrators should be able to monitor processes wherever they are taking place -- on-premises or in the cloud. As more agencies adopt hybrid IT infrastructures, keeping a close eye on in-house and hosted applications from a single dashboard will be imperative. Administrators need a complete view of their applications and servers, regardless location, if they are to identify and respond quickly to issues.

A deeper level of detail

Traditional monitoring is great at detecting network slowdowns, bandwidth issues and other anomalies. But today’s complex application and server relationships require an even deeper level of detail.

Think of traditional monitoring as providing a broad overview of network operations and functionality. It’s like an X-ray that takes a wide-angle view of an entire section of a person’s body, providing insights that can be invaluable in detecting problems.

Application and server monitoring is more like a CT scan that focuses on a particular spot and illuminates issues that may otherwise be undetectable. Administrators can collect data regarding application and server performance and visualize specific application connections. The knowledge gained from this clear-eyed view can help administrators quickly identify issues related to packet loss, latency and more.

The benefits of a deeper understanding

Greater visibility allows administrators to pinpoint the source of problems and respond faster. This can save time and headaches, freeing up time to work on more mission-critical tasks that can move their agencies forward.

Gaining a deeper and more detailed understanding of the interdependencies between applications and servers, as well as overall application performance, can also help address network optimization concerns. Seeing where the problem lies without having to hunt through the thicket of an overgrown app stack or myriad of servers can allow IT professionals to keep their networks running smoothly and with minimal disruption. Less downtime means a better user experience and fewer calls into IT: a win-win for everyone.

Growing complexity requires an evolution in monitoring

Federal IT complexity will to continue to grow. App stacks will become taller, and more servers will be added.

Network monitoring practices must evolve to keep up with this complexity. A more complex network requires a deeper and more detailed monitoring approach that allows administrators to look very closely into the status of their applications and servers. If they can gain this perspective, they’ll be able to successfully optimize even the most complex network architectures. 

About the Author

Mav Turner is senior director, product management, for SolarWinds.


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