Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Stackify Blog, Automic Blog, Simon Hill, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo, @DevOpsSummit

Java IoT: Article

SaaS Performance | @CloudExpo @Catchpoint #DevOps #WebPerf #AI #SaaS

SaaS providers need better tools to manage performance, enabling them to get ahead of problems

Managing Performance for SaaS-Based Applications

Software as a service (SaaS), one of the earliest and most successful cloud services, has reached mainstream status. According to Cisco, by 2019 more than four-fifths (83 percent) of all data center traffic will be based in the cloud, up from 65 percent today. The majority of this traffic will be applications.

Businesses of all sizes are adopting a variety of SaaS-based services - everything from collaboration tools to mission-critical commerce-oriented applications. The rise in SaaS usage has many positive benefits, but one drawback is that as demand grows, SaaS providers are having a harder time ensuring a high-performing (fast, reliable) end-user experience - at the same time performance expectations are growing higher than ever.

SaaS Providers Struggle to Meet Modern Day User Performance Expectations
Websites and applications must be fast. People want to read an article as soon as it's clicked; shoppers will abandon their cart on an ecommerce site if the website is too slow; customers expect to be able to quickly make transactions - and the list goes on. According to Google's latest research (February 2017), as page load time increases from 1 second to 7 seconds, the likelihood of a visitor abandoning the page increases 113 percent. For SaaS companies to be successful, they need to adopt the same laser focus on the end-user experience that has fueled the rise of ecommerce and B2B applications.

Meeting these performance demands is proving to be a significant challenge. One recent survey of SaaS providers found more than half reported difficulties in delivering sufficient performance levels, while more than a quarter said their organizations had incurred financial penalties as a result of unmet service-level agreements. Twenty-one percent of respondents whose organizations had an unplanned service interruption said it resulted in the loss of a customer relationship. Among those SaaS providers suffering financial penalties, the average cost incurred was $359,000 - not including the time and effort spent finding and fixing the source of performance declines.

Why Is Ensuring Superior Performance So Difficult?
Ensuring strong performance levels is proving difficult for several reasons:

Infrastructure Build-Outs - As many SaaS providers expand into new geographies and support more businesses, they are adding infrastructure as well as partitioning more existing systems. According to the SaaS provider survey mentioned above, almost half of respondents noted they have at least doubled the number of systems supporting their workloads and applications over the past two years. While this helps them support more customers, there is a nasty side effect - greater complexity, which makes it harder to find and fix the source of performance problems when they do occur.

Users' Geographic Expansion - Heightening these performance challenges is the growth of end users in new geographies. Application performance tends to deteriorate based on distance from the SaaS provider's data center. This means as end users move further away, there are more variables standing between them and the data center which can degrade performance - networks, ISPs, even browsers. This makes it impossible for SaaS providers to gauge worldwide performance levels for a specific SaaS user, based solely on the experiences of end users in just one or two geographies.

To expand and improve geographic reach, many SaaS providers build out their infrastructure, which in turn adds more complexity. The net result is a vicious cycle that ultimately results in decreased visibility into infrastructure health and end-user application performance.

The Capricious Nature of the Internet - Full SaaS provider outages are rare, but when they do happen, they can be disastrous. The Amazon S3 outage on February 28 served as the latest example, causing widespread availability issues for thousands of websites, apps, and IoT devices.

There have been other instances recently - in February 2016, Office 365 went dark for wide swaths of Europe. In August 2015, a Google data center in Belgium was struck by successive lightning strikes, causing problems for numerous Google cloud infrastructure service users. Not even tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, or Google are immune to acts of God or nature. Inevitable outages are not the fault of these providers - rather, the "ripple effect" is the result of the tendency for business users to concentrate too much work in the hands of a single provider.

More common than full-blown outages are instances of SaaS applications just not performing well. Even though many SaaS providers have monitoring systems in place, 54 percent report the primary way they find out about performance problems is through customer complaints.

Managing Performance Must Be a Shared Endeavor
SaaS providers need better tools to manage performance, enabling them to get ahead of problems before their customers' end users are affected. This is a fundamental shift from traditional application performance management (APM) to what Gartner refers to as digital experience management (DEM). DEM treats the end-user experience as the ultimate metric, and identifies how the myriad of underlying services, systems, and components influence it. This approach is consistent with a recent EMA survey in which more than three quarters of respondents prioritized the ability to troubleshoot and analyze root causes of application performance problems, down to the platform level.

As the number of performance-impacting variables increases, SaaS providers may find themselves drowning in data, but searching for insights. They need advanced analytics to make data more actionable by identifying the cause of performance issues, swiftly and accurately. Sometimes performance issues are within the SaaS provider's control (such as when a particular region or data center requires more capacity). Other times, the issue may not be directly within the IT team's control - for example, a slow ISP or CDN. Even with these external factors, the information is still useful because time spent unnecessarily "war-rooming" can be avoided.

Business users of SaaS services should also be contributing to the performance management effort. They should consistently measure their SaaS providers' response levels, as well as monitor and measure real end- user performance at the closest points of geographic proximity. This is the key to gaining the most realistic view of end-user performance levels around the world. Having this information can help SaaS users uphold provider SLAs, but perhaps, more important, identify performance problems in advance and quickly determine if the problem is with the cloud service provider, or another component or internal infrastructure element.

Finally, as the recent Amazon S3 example demonstrated, SaaS users should always have a redundancy plan in place for their critical applications. In essence, they need to architect for failure. This may require an investment of time and effort, but can make all the difference in keeping SaaS-based businesses running smoothly when faced with a completely unpredictable event.

Conclusion
The growth in SaaS reliance is not going away, and SaaS providers cannot afford setbacks. When the SaaS platform that employees spend 80% of their day on goes down, productivity, and therefore a company's bottom line, takes a hit.

SaaS providers will continue to struggle with rapid growth and increasing complexity as business users port more mission-critical applications to the cloud and end users demand increasingly higher levels of performance and productivity.

This situation has the potential to escalate unless SaaS providers address the issue head-on with new approaches that evolve APM to DEM. Business users must also do their part. Ultimately, this can translate to more proactive, productive performance management, with less finger pointing and war rooming and more accurate, decisive issue resolution.

More Stories By Mehdi Daoudi

Mehdi Daoudi is the co-founder and CEO of Catchpoint Systems, a premier provider of web performance testing and monitoring solutions. His team has expertise in designing, building, operating, scaling and monitoring highly transactional Internet services used by thousands of companies that impact the experience of millions of users.

Before Catchpoint Systems, Mehdi spent 10+ years at DoubleClick and Google, where he was responsible for Quality of Services, buying, building, deploying, and using monitoring solutions to keep an eye on an infrastructure that delivered billions of transactions daily.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
DevOps teams have more on their plate than ever. As infrastructure needs grow, so does the time required to ensure that everything's running smoothly. This makes automation crucial - especially in the server and network monitoring world. Server monitoring tools can save teams time by automating server management and providing real-time performance updates. As budgets reset for the New Year, there is no better time to implement a new server monitoring tool (or re-evaluate your current solution)....
The benefits of automation are well documented; it increases productivity, cuts cost and minimizes errors. It eliminates repetitive manual tasks, freeing us up to be more innovative. By that logic, surely, we should automate everything possible, right? So, is attempting to automate everything a sensible - even feasible - goal? In a word: no. Consider this your short guide as to what to automate and what not to automate.
Cavirin Systems has just announced C2, a SaaS offering designed to bring continuous security assessment and remediation to hybrid environments, containers, and data centers. Cavirin C2 is deployed within Amazon Web Services (AWS) and features a flexible licensing model for easy scalability and clear pay-as-you-go pricing. Although native to AWS, it also supports assessment and remediation of virtual or container instances within Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or on-premise. By dr...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
The cloud revolution in enterprises has very clearly crossed the phase of proof-of-concepts into a truly mainstream adoption. One of most popular enterprise-wide initiatives currently going on are “cloud migration” programs of some kind or another. Finding business value for these programs is not hard to fathom – they include hyperelasticity in infrastructure consumption, subscription based models, and agility derived from rapid speed of deployment of applications. These factors will continue to...
While we understand Agile as a means to accelerate innovation, manage uncertainty and cope with ambiguity, many are inclined to think that it conflicts with the objectives of traditional engineering projects, such as building a highway, skyscraper or power plant. These are plan-driven and predictive projects that seek to avoid any uncertainty. This type of thinking, however, is short-sighted. Agile approaches are valuable in controlling uncertainty because they constrain the complexity that ste...
Digital transformation has changed the way users interact with the world, and the traditional healthcare experience no longer meets rising consumer expectations. Enterprise Health Clouds (EHCs) are designed to easily and securely deliver the smart and engaging digital health experience that patients expect today, while ensuring the compliance and data integration that care providers require. Jikku Venkat
identify the sources of event storms and performance anomalies will require automated, real-time root-cause analysis. I think Enterprise Management Associates said it well: “The data and metrics collected at instrumentation points across the application ecosystem are essential to performance monitoring and root cause analysis. However, analytics capable of transforming data and metrics into an application-focused report or dashboards are what separates actual application monitoring from relat...
"This all sounds great. But it's just not realistic." This is what a group of five senior IT executives told me during a workshop I held not long ago. We were working through an exercise on the organizational characteristics necessary to successfully execute a digital transformation, and the group was doing their ‘readout.' The executives loved everything we discussed and agreed that if such an environment existed, it would make transformation much easier. They just didn't believe it was reali...
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We're developing a software that is based on the cloud environment and we are providing those services to corporations and the general public," explained Seungmin Kim, CEO/CTO of SM Systems Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Many enterprise and government IT organizations are realizing the benefits of cloud computing by extending IT delivery and management processes across private and public cloud services. But they are often challenged with balancing the need for centralized cloud governance without stifling user-driven innovation. This strategy requires an approach that fundamentally reshapes how IT is delivered today, shifting the focus from infrastructure to services aggregation, and mixing and matching the bes...
DevOps promotes continuous improvement through a culture of collaboration. But in real terms, how do you: Integrate activities across diverse teams and services? Make objective decisions with system-wide visibility? Use feedback loops to enable learning and improvement? With technology insights and real-world examples, in his general session at @DevOpsSummit, at 21st Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, explored how leading organizations use data-driven DevOps to close th...
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
We just came off of a review of a product that handles both containers and virtual machines in the same interface. Under the covers, implementation of containers defaults to LXC, though recently Docker support was added. When reading online, or searching for information, increasingly we see “Container Management” products listed as competitors to Docker, when in reality things like Rocket, LXC/LXD, and Virtualization are Dockers competitors. After doing some looking around, we have decided tha...
The nature of test environments is inherently temporary—you set up an environment, run through an automated test suite, and then tear down the environment. If you can reduce the cycle time for this process down to hours or minutes, then you may be able to cut your test environment budgets considerably. The impact of cloud adoption on test environments is a valuable advancement in both cost savings and agility. The on-demand model takes advantage of public cloud APIs requiring only payment for t...
"We are an integrator of carrier ethernet and bandwidth to get people to connect to the cloud, to the SaaS providers, and the IaaS providers all on ethernet," explained Paul Mako, CEO & CTO of Massive Networks, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
From our perspective as consumers, perhaps the best thing about digital transformation is how consumerization is making technology so much easier to use. Sure, our television remote controls still have too many buttons, and I have yet to figure out the digital display in my Honda, but all in all, tech is getting easier for everybody. Within companies – even very large ones – the consumerization of technology is gradually taking hold as well. There are now simple mobile apps for a wide range of ...