Why is Latency Still a Network Headache?
February 26, 2018

Chris Bloom
Savvius

Share this

It wasn't so long ago that enterprises housed their critical business applications within their own network of servers and client computers. Monitoring and troubleshooting performance issues like latency was far easier. So, even though our network monitoring and diagnostics tools have improved greatly, the introduction of a myriad interconnected SaaS applications and cloud hosted services have greatly complicated our typical network landscape, causing knock-on effects like latency to appear.

As enterprises outsource more and more of their applications and data hosting to external vendors, they introduce more weak links into the network

As enterprises outsource more and more of their applications and data hosting to external vendors, they introduce more weak links into the network. SaaS services are generally reliable, but without a dedicated connection they can only be as good as the internet connection they're using.

From a network management perspective, the secondary issue with externally hosted apps and services is that the IT team has far less control and visibility, making it more difficult to keep vendors honest about meeting their service level agreements (SLAs).

Monitoring and troubleshooting the network traffic within the relatively controlled environment of an enterprise headquarters is manageable for most IT teams. But for organizations built on a distributed business model with multiple branch offices or remote workers, using dedicated MPLS lines quickly becomes cost prohibitive. When you consider that the traffic from applications like Salesforce, Slack, Office 365, Citrix and others typically bypasses HQ, it's not surprising that latency is becoming more common and increasingly difficult to troubleshoot.

One of the first casualties of latency is VoIP call quality, which manifests as unnatural delays in phone conversations. With the explosive growth of VoIP and other UCaaS applications, this problem will continue to grow. Another area where latency takes its toll is in data transfer speeds. This can lead to a series of cascading problems, particularly when large data files or medical records are being transferred or copied from one location to another. Latency can be an issue for large data transactions like database replication, too, requiring more time to carry out routine activities.

The Impact of Distributed Networks and SaaS

Enterprise network performance monitoring needs to shift out of the data center

With so many connections to the internet from so many locations, it makes sense that enterprise network performance monitoring needs to shift out of the data center. One of the best approaches is to find tools that monitor the connection at all of their remote locations. Most of us use applications like Outlook, Word and Excel on an almost daily basis. If we're using Office 365, these applications are probably configured to connect to Azure rather than the enterprise data center. If the IT team doesn't actively monitor network performance directly at the branch office, then they completely lose sight of the user experience at that location. They may think that the network is performing well, when in fact the users are being frustrated by an undiagnosed problem.

When traffic from SaaS vendors and other cloud-based storage providers travels to and from an organization, it can be impacted by jitter, trace route and sometimes compute speed, meaning that latency becomes a very serious possibility for end users and customers. Working with vendors who have a physical footprint close to where the data is needed is one way to minimize potential issues caused by distance. But even in a parallel process, you may have thousands or millions of connections trying to get through at once, causing a tiny delay. Those delays build up and become much worse over long distances.

Is Machine Learning the Answer?

We've all heard about the power of AI and machine learning to help automate aspects of network management, but it's even difficult for these cutting-edge tools to minimize latency. The problem stems from the fact that we cannot accurately predict when a switch or router will become overloaded with traffic. The delay may be just a millisecond or a hundred milliseconds at most, but once a piece of equipment is overloaded, the data gets stuck in a queue until it can be processed. Is machine learning the answer? Maybe, but we're not there yet.

Take the Broad, Narrow Approaches

Despite all the benefits of SaaS solutions, latency will continue to be a challenge unless corporate IT teams rethink their approach to network management. In a nutshell, they need to take a broad, decentralized approach to network monitoring that encompasses the entire network and all its branch locations. And they need to find better ways of monitoring and improving true end-user experience. Once they understand what users are experiencing, in real time, they will see – and hopefully fix – severe latency issues before end users even realize there was a problem.

Chris Bloom is Senior Manager of Technical Alliances at Savvius
Share this

The Latest

August 22, 2019

Recent EMA research explored the state of ESM. One of the many conclusions is that ESM is mainstream. Fully 87% have some level of ESM deployment. Not surprisingly, there is a significant divide between mature and relatively new deployments in terms of benefits derived, use of AI and automation, adoption levels, and number of non-IT areas being served from established ITSM implementations ...

August 21, 2019

For the first time, a majority of companies are putting mission critical apps in the cloud, according to the latest report by Cloud Foundry Foundation ...

August 20, 2019

The cloud continues to transform IT in every industry. But in order to migrate to the cloud, embrace these new technologies and truly evolve their business, organizations need an underlying network that can support digital transformation ...

August 19, 2019

One common infrastructure challenge arises with virtual private networks (VPNs). VPNs have long been relied upon to deliver the network connectivity and security enterprises required at a price they could afford. Organizations still routinely turn to them to provide internal and trusted third-parties with "secure" remote access to isolated networks. However, with the rise in mobile, IoT, multi- and hybrid-cloud, as well as edge computing, traditional enterprise perimeters are extending and becoming blurred ...

August 15, 2019

The configuration management database (CMDB), along with its more federated companion, the configuration management system (CMS), has been bathed in a deluge of negative opinions from all fronts — industry experts, vendors, and IT professionals. But from what recent EMA research on analytics, ITSM performance and other areas is indicating, those negative views seem to be missing out on a real undercurrent of truth — that CMDB/CMS alignments, whatever their defects, strongly skew to success in terms of overall IT progressiveness and effectiveness ...

August 14, 2019

The on-demand economy has transformed the way we move around, eat, learn, travel and connect at a massive scale. However, with disruption and big aspirations comes big, complex challenges. To take these challenges head-on, on-demand economy companies are finding new ways to deliver their services and products to an audience with ever-increasing expectations, and that's what we'll look at in this blog ...

August 13, 2019

To thrive in today's highly competitive digital business landscape, organizations must harness their "digital DNA." In other words, they need to connect all of their systems and databases — including various business applications, devices, big data and any instances of IoT and hybrid cloud environments — so they're accessible and actionable. By integrating all existing components and new technologies, organizations can gain a comprehensive, trusted view of their business functions, thereby enabling more agile deployment processes and ensuring scalable growth and relevance over the long-term ...

August 12, 2019

Advancements in technology innovation are happening so quickly, the decision of where and when to transform can be a moving target for businesses. When done well, digital transformation improves the customer experience while optimizing operational efficiency. To get there, enterprises must encourage experimentation to overcome organizational obstacles. In other words ...

August 08, 2019

IoT adoption is growing rapidly, and respondents believe 30% of their company’s revenue two years from now will be due to IoT, according to the new IoT Signals report from Microsoft Corp ...

August 07, 2019

It's been all over the news the last few months. After two fatal crashes, Boeing was forced to ground its 737. The doomed model is now undergoing extensive testing to get it back into service and production. Large organizations often tell stakeholders that even though all software goes through extensive testing, this type of thing “just happens.” But that is exactly the problem. While the human component of application development and testing won't go away, it can be eased and supplemented by far more efficient and automated methods to proactively determine software health and identify flaws ...