18 Tools to Ensure Performance During Cyber Monday and the Holiday Shopping Season - Part 2
November 13, 2014
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APMdigest asked experts from across the Application Performance Management (APM) industry for their opinions on how to best prepare for the challenges of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the Holiday Shopping Season. The second set of six technologies presented here includes tools for network operations and development.

Start with Part 1 of this list

7. Network Performance Management (NPM)

Understanding bandwidth usage across your network is the most important thing your organization can do to ensure your applications can perform under Cyber Monday and holiday season stress. By understanding your bandwidth traffic, down to the user, your team can enforce bandwidth usage polices to ensure business critical applications get the priority they require to keep operations humming.
Megan Assarrane
Product Marketing Manager, Ipswitch

For most retailers, the time from Cyber Monday through the end of the holiday season marks the period in which they garner their greatest revenue gains. It is also the time when IT networking and application staffs are under the greatest stress, primarily because the loss of application or network services for even a few minutes during this time can mean huge and immediate revenue losses, and can impact long-term customer loyalty. Network visibility is a relatively new technology in NPM that allows network issues to be identified quickly, simplifying remediation actions. For companies that have implemented network visibility tools, they have found that the reduction of outages more than makes up for the relatively high cost of these tools.
Mike Heumann
Sr. Director, Marketing (Endace), Emulex

According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, 56% of shoppers plan to shop online this year, an increase of 4.5% over 2013. Retailers must provide a fast yet secure online shopping experience, while also ensuring the back-end applications handling payments transactions, inventory control and communications all run with no delays or inexplicable hiccups. And on Cyber Monday, retailers are especially vulnerable if their networks fail to deliver flawlessly. The consumer won't care why something has gone wrong; they just want it fixed. For that reason, network engineers need a network analysis and monitoring tool that provides comprehensive network and application analysis and identifies the root-cause of wired and wireless issues. This tool should provide the cross-platform visibility to quickly isolate problems, regardless of their source -premise network, WAN, application, data center, or cloud. Maintaining a secure and healthy network is a must for retailers to maintain their reputation and a competitive edge.
Bruce Kosbab
CTO, Fluke Networks

It is mid-November, so it is probably too late to implement major infrastructure or application changes. What it's not too late to do, though, is install a Network Performance Management system that can holistically measure the performance of both the infrastructure as well as the applications running the business. This will help pinpoint the bottlenecks that need to be prioritized and would give the highest return on investment. If demand starts exceeding capacity, I would do everything possible to ensure that a transaction started, gets completed. Even if that means showing an error (hopefully a nicely formatted one) to customers who just entered the site.
Vess Bakalov
Co-Founder and CTO, SevOne

Worried shopping carts will lose their wheels on Cyber Monday? To truly understand your e-shopper's experience you must instrument the network. Wire data is the new Holy Grail for APM.
James Wylie
Senior Manager, Product Marketing, Corvil

8. Performance Recording

The problem with a busy network, especially under heavy loads like those on Cyber Monday, is that you never know where or when a problem will arise. And with the network speeds available today, the initial cause of a problem may come and go before you even have time to react. The best tool you can use during these demanding times is network recording. Network recorders enable users to collect every bit of network traffic, archiving the traffic for hours or even days. So when a problem arises, you already have all the data you need at your fingertips, including the conditions that preceded the problem, so action can be taken immediately.
Jay Botelho
Director of Product Management, WildPackets

Holiday shopping, particularly Cyber Monday, puts unpredictable stress on your infrastructure. Consequently, you need to have a good understanding of your infrastructure's performance impact on your e-commerce applications. Real-time recordings of the baseline operations, as well as scheduled recordings of special sales and promotion events can help you analyze their effect on your infrastructure. Then, you can anticipate potential peak loads and whether or not resources will bottleneck, leading to contention storms. Recordings can be made in different ways depending on which performance management tool is used. Some APM tools record real-time information at a transactional level, while infrastructure performance management tools that are application-aware can provide real time end-to-end visibility with DVR-like recordings. Visibility into problems before they negatively affect sales during this crucial holiday shopping season is a gift we all can appreciate.
S. "Sundi" Sundaresh
CEO, Xangati

9. Log Alerts

Don't fail silently this holiday shopping season. Go beyond basic performance alerting and get notified when important log events, anomalies and even inactivity are occurring. It's common to set-up alerting on known exceptions or system errors so you can notified when they occur. However, systems can sometimes fail silently and not necessarily through exceptions that you know about. More subtle issues may occur that are symptomatic of larger issues to come, and log data can be your detective on the scene. For example, imagine a scenario where a payment has not been received for more than few minutes, or where a shopping cart page does not load as expected. These can be particularly important events as you try to manage the increased load on your systems leading up to Cyber Monday. Know about these issues before your holiday shoppers do, so that you don't risk revenue and site reputation.
Trevor Parsons, Phd
Co-founder & Chief Scientist, Logentries

10. Performance, Stress and Load Testing

Before the holiday season, identify bottlenecks on your e-commerce platform and associated infrastructure by stress testing it with the expected patterns of traffic and usage. The goal after fixing these bottlenecks is to get to a performance baseline that shows a graceful and predictable degradation under heavy load. During the season, monitor the application continuously with patterns of real usage of your application, and use it to identify issues on the back end tiers when problems occur. After the season, take a retrospective look at patterns of errors and degradation, and once these are fixed, add additional tests to emulate these missed scenarios to be a part of your stress and continuous/holiday season monitoring. At the end, it is all about ensuring an optimal user experience on your e-Commerce platform.
Anand Sundaram
VP of Product, AlertSite UXM, SmartBear

The top way to prepare for the holiday e-commerce rush is to do load testing up to highest possible load (of course, after you do everything else to be ready and closely monitoring systems and applications under such high load). Load testing remains the main way to ensure that the system will handle load that is much higher than currently observed in production.
Alexander Podelko
Consulting Member of Technical Staff, Oracle

Freeze the environment at least 10 days before the holiday rush, if possible. This will ensure that you don't introduce any new issues while attempting to fix something. As much as possible, perform load tests in test environment and ensure that the only bottleneck for the performance is the physical hardware - this is the sweet spot for any software application. Finally ensure your on-demand hardware expansion in your virtual environment (if you are in one) indeed works by doing a minimally intrusive test in production. And of course, motivate your operations folks to get charged up for the big days ahead.
Karun Subramanian
Application Support Expert, www.karunsubramanian.com

Cyber Monday presents developers and testers of e-commerce sites with an immense challenge. The good news is that most failures are preventable and can be avoided with robust performance testing that adheres to a few simple testing guidelines. (1) Companies need to run end-to-end tests in their production environment systems. Testing in staging or a scaled down environment often misses the mark and returns false negatives. (2) Test backup and failover systems. You need to know what will really happen if something goes down. (3) Make sure third party sites or tags won't bring you down. Will your site load fast and error-free, even if a service you are using dies? (4) Don't underestimate traffic numbers. Make sure you are testing based on maximum peak traffic numbers and not averages per day or per hour.
Alon Girmonsky
Founder and CEO, BlazeMeter

The majority of the market is not ready for the influx of customers and purchases on mobile. Without adequate real time monitoring solutions for popular mobile applications, brands are being exposed to revenue loss, reputation damage and customer dissatisfaction for the busiest time of year. Instead of driving sales during the holiday season, they will be dealing with user frustrations, failed apps and incomplete purchases. Shoppers want fast, easy and convenient ways to use mobile to cross everyone off their shopping lists. However, there is a way to ensure your company is ready for the shopping season. By testing on real devices on real networks that represent your user base, organizations can have earlier visibility into application glitches before the holiday rush, saving your company time, money and its reputation.
Amir Rozenberg
Director of Product Management, Perfecto Mobile

Read Amir Rozenberg's Blog: 'Tis the Season for Mobile Shopping - Can You Handle the Rush?

11. Network Emulation

While it is a given that you will have load tested your e-commerce systems (both front-end and back-end) with thousands of simulated users in time for Cyber Monday, you probably didn't try it out in a realistic mixed network (DSL, corporate, mobile- 2G, 3G, 4G) environment, where one "slow" user can dramatically slow down data throughput, particularly if this "slowness" is at a critical application point. So, you really need to augment your load testing by also checking how these systems will cope with a wide variety of different network conditions that they may encounter. The easiest way to achieve this is to recreate these conditions, on demand, using a network emulator to identify and address potential pinch points in the transaction path. Companies that take this approach will minimize downtime and abandoned shopping carts.
Jim Swepson
Pre-sales Technologist, iTrinegy

12. DevOps

Adopt agile DevOps practices and HTML5 to accelerate launches of higher-quality apps for cross-platform deployment.
Gabe Lowy
Technology Analyst and Founder of TechTonics Advisors

With online sales projected to reach almost $89 billion this holiday season - in the United States alone - e-commerce businesses have a huge opportunity. Customers are looking for similar experiences while shopping online via mobile apps, Web apps, and mobile browsers. It's imperative for an IT organization to view these avenues as a single window for business. End-to-end transaction visibility from URL to SQL queries across these platforms is vital to engage the users who use your application. A recent study reveals that today's consumer expects the next page of a transaction to load within three seconds. So to meet that expectation, IT organizations must start gearing up for the holiday season. First, they should test the performance of the application in the various regions where their target customers reside. To check the performance and fine-tune the business application, system engineers can load it with traffic that represents five times the amount of traffic handled in the previous year. DevOps plays a vital role in tweaking the architecture and back-end infrastructure.
Suvish Viswanathan
Manager, Product Marketing & Analyst Relations, ManageEngine

Go to Part 3 of this list

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