Considerations for Monitoring Performance of Mobile Apps
October 18, 2011

Aruna Ravichandran
CA Technologies

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It seems no matter where you look, mobile devices are frequently used to find directions when traveling, verifying flight details, check bank balances, reserve theater tickets, shop online, pay bills, access email, attend meetings, and participate in dozens of other activities.

Many business recognize this growing trend and are looking at new ways to stay competitive, quickly add new services and stay connected with their customers anytime, anywhere. As a result, the applications that run today’s business have evolved from a physical IT resource to the cloud and mobile devices. Once the business starts to offer a mobile application, how will IT manage the application? Will users have a good experience? Will they be able to download their favorite song in an acceptable time? And how do you ensure transaction success?

While IT organizations may be able to monitor their business applications and traditional IT infrastructures effectively today, the solutions and approaches used may not be adequate for the new complexity that comes with mobility. These new mobile business services require applications that are designed for ease of use and simplicity and are delivered to multiple device types, carriers and locations.

Also these new services may be built to utilize the current application environment or in some cases this may push IT organizations to adopt cloud based services to allow for easier accessibility of information. As with any new technology that enters the IT landscape it brings with it various challenges.

Here are three things to consider when thinking about how to monitor mobile applications:

1. Not all mobile applications are the same

There are two basic types of mobile applications, native mobile applications and browser based applications. Native applications reside on user devices and communication is over HTTP(s). Browser-based applications use modified browsers to access applications online.

When monitoring these applications you should consider how the user experiences the service from a native application and from the browser. If the access is from a browser, does the entire page render? How long does it take? Does it perform differently from one device to another?

Customers may have a very different experience using a mobile browser than using the native application. For example, I recently made a purchase through Amazon using my iPhone. I used my iPhone’s mobile browser to execute my shopping transaction. I was pleasantly surprised as to how easily and quickly I could make my purchase. A friend of mine made a purchase through Amazon’s native application on an Android and was not happy with the experience. She mentioned that in the future she would not shop from her phone but would wait until she got home to use her laptop.

As you can see from the example that one person’s experience of a mobile application can have a negative perception of the quality of service. When monitoring these new services it is important to be able to gauge how your customers experience the mobile application and how they experience it from various devices.

2. Feature-greedy users generate change and complexity

Let’s face it, everybody loves the latest gadgets with all the latest bells and whistles. This is great for the consumer markets but this can introduce complexity when trying to manage mobile applications.

As in the example above, the user’s experience may be different from device to device. So when looking at monitoring mobile applications, not only do you have to consider browser and native applications but also the various devices.

Some management vendors offer a service where you can rent cradles of phones to test and to monitor mobile applications. This can be a costly option. Another way is to emulate the application for multiple devices. This is a more cost effective way to understand how your applications will perform for the various mobile devices.

3. Visibility into chaos can help you troubleshoot issues

Not only do you need to understand how end-user experience these new mobile applications but when something does fail what was the cause of the failure? How do I know if it's an issue with the application, the device, the carrier? Also, with many mobile applications built to leverage the already underlying business services, applications and supporting infrastructure, this can complicate and lengthen the time it takes to find the root cause of an issue.

When monitoring the mobile application, you should also be monitoring all dependencies and be able to visualize the entire end to end service. Having an end to end service view is key to understanding the complexity of IT environments.

These are just a few of the things to consider when looking at managing mobile applications.

Aruna Ravichandran is Vice President, Product and Solution Marketing, Application Performance Management and DevOps, CA Technologies.

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