Troubleshooting application performance is one of the most common tasks that network administrators and sys admins do on a daily basis. Many of today’s applications are web based which can complicate troubleshooting as the application itself may be on a network that you don’t control and that is distant to your users. Likewise, most web based applications can be accessed from anywhere. This means that users at remote sites and telecommuters may report performance issues that you’re responsible for solving.

When troubleshooting this type of application performance problem there are three main things to understand before you start troubleshooting.

First, you need to understand which part of the application is running slowly. Even a simple web based application can have many parts. For this example, we’ll use a basic shopping cart based ecommerce site. Typically, an application like this would involve steps like these:

  • Loading of the initial web page
  • Searching or browsing to the desired item
  • Selection of the desired item
  • Adding it to the cart
  • Reviewing the cart
  • Submitting the order
  • Processing payment
  • Display of order confirmation

Second, you need to understand where the issue is occurring. Is it universal or does it only affect users at your corporate office? How are remote site users impacted? How about telecommuters? What about users in foreign countries?

Third, you need to understand when the issue is occurring. Does it happen every time that you process a transaction or only during certain times of the day or specific days of the week? Does it seem random or is there a pattern to the performance problem?

Gathering this type of information manually is very difficult and likely to produce inaccurate results. However, there are application monitoring applications available that have been built specifically for this purpose. The new Synthetic End User Monitor from SolarWinds, launching tonight, is one such application. Synthetic End User Monitor can be used to monitor performance of the application as a whole and allows you to record a series of steps (like the ones listed above) to be used to test the application in detail. Then, the tests can be ran periodically to help you understand how application performance varies over time. Additionally, Synthetic End User Monitor allows you to install players at remote sites so that you can monitor application performance from those locations as well.

Once you understand which part of the application is slow, for which users the issue is occurring, and during what time of day finding the root cause of the application performance is fairly straight forward. At that point, the issue can usually be handed off to either a network engineer, system administrator, or application developer depending on the root cause that you determined.


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Last week I traveled to central Florida to give a couple of presentations on IPv6. While there I met with several technologists and business leaders from the federal community to answer questions and field discussions on this subject. It was a great trip and the presentations went well. Two things surprised me about the trip though...

First, it was a lot cooler there in and around Orlando Florida than it's been here in Austin TX. As a matter of fact, it rained for a few minutes each of the days that I was there. We haven't had a decent rain here in Central Texas in nearly a year and I'd forgotten how much I missed it. The cooler weather was also a nice respite, although typically when people think about going to Florida they think it'll be warmer there  and I was no exception.

The second thing that surprised me was the amount of interest there was in discussing IPv6. It's usually pretty easy to get a group of network engineers together to talk about the depletion of IPv4 and the need to start working toward IPv6 but many of the folks I met with weren't in the networking community. There were local Value Added Resellers (VARs) in attendance, attorneys that work with small businesses, business consultants, federal purchasing agents, senior executives from the federal community, and more in addition to the technical audience of network administrators, system admins, and application developers.

I don't think that a conversation on IPv6 would've drawn such a crowd a year ago, which is more evidence that we are finally making progress toward IPv6 in some real, tangible, and measurable ways. Likewise, when I spoke at Cisco Live in Las Vegas in July, in London in January, and even during a community meeting in Sydney this year - IPv6 is gaining momentum everywhere I look.

Key takeaways for you - it's time to start looking into training on this technology, get some hands on experience (labs or even maybe migrate over your own subnet at work), and start working on an IPv6 assessment for your organization. You really want to be out in front on this - not left behind...

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