People 'n' Issues

Monitoring is heart of IoT

August 23rd, 2016
Connected devices result in an increase in the volume of data flowing into companies. But, while companies are able to analyse the data, IT will struggle to maintain adequate application performance levels, writes WIMPIE VAN RENSBURG, Country Manager for Sub Saharan Africa at Riverbed Technology.
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We’re all becoming pretty familiar with the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT). Often, when thinking of the IoT, the first things that come to mind may be a wearable fitness tracker or a smartphone app that can control a thermostat. In fact, adoption of the IoT is so widespread that Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be over 20 billion connected things in the world. The IoT is not only having an effect on the consumer world. It is also driving rapid digital transformation in the realm of business. We’re already seeing IoT powering a wide range of applications across industries. For example, The William Tracey Group, one of the UK’s largest recycling management companies, is using the IoT to collect data from chipped wheelie bins, smart weighing arms on collection trucks and on-board computers. This data is then used to help enterprises protect the environment while creating new business opportunities.

The growing business case for connected things means that the volume of data flowing into companies’ data collections is increasing. However, whilst companies are able to analyse the volumes of data supplied by connected devices in order to improve decision-making processes and efficiency, IT will struggle to maintain adequate application performance levels as enterprises bring more connected devices online.

Implementing application performance monitoring (APM) establishes the end-to-end visibility IT needs in order to immediately identify what’s causing an application to perform poorly, so that the issue can be fixed before it escalates.

The challenges of IoT

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in order to make the IoT come to life. While users may be launching a simple app on their smartphone, there are a number of factors that go into making that simple digital experience work.

By considering how a wearable fitness tracker works, we can understand the complexity that can be constructed by the IoT. The user interface is simple, but the wristband is always working to send and receive information via Bluetooth from a smartphone, upload that information to a cloud-based app that analyses a range of metrics, including activity levels, nutrition, sleep quality and heart rate. The application then supplies that analysis to its dedicated smartphone app, and possibly also to other mobile and web-based applications.

Users expect all of this to occur in real-time. In order to meet these expectations, network communication and interdependent application processes taking place on a grid of distributed environments need to perform to perfection. If just one piece of this application fails, so will everything else.

The complexity of this process is further amplified if we consider a company managing a fleet of delivery vehicles such as UPS. UPS has installed a variety of connected devices their vehicles to monitor mileage, optimum speed and overall engine health– all in real-time. This enables the company to ensure the driver is driving safely, automatically schedule maintenance, and provide immediate updates to customers. The operation becomes even more complex when scaled across an entire fleet of vehicles.

Achieving seamless app performance

With businesses storing information in the cloud as well as on local systems – creating what are known as hybrid environments – and enabling employees to access that data from an increasing number of connected devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets, the number of things that can go wrong within applications as well as within the network increases.

Monitoring the performance of all the applications and systems that run across hybrid networks has become more and more difficult, costly and time-consuming for IT. This is why many organisations are seeking the help of technology in order to achieve real-time visibility to oversee the performance of massively distributed applications. By implementing the use of specialised APM tools, companies can:

1.                   Monitor distributed applications and the underlying networks: By achieving complete visibility over the organisation’s apps, IT can examine the type of information flowing through the network and map out how it is being collected and shared between devices, applications, cloud services and the analytics systems. IT can then quickly identify if there are any issues affecting the end user experience.

2.                   Pinpoint the causes of bottlenecks or errors: IT can then identify the causes of information bottlenecks, determine which are affecting business critical processes, and address these first.

3.                   Look for opportunities to improve performance: Because APM tools continuously monitor applications and information transactions, IT can amass a wealth of information that can then be analysed for patterns in order to identify minor bugs before they become severe, or to seek opportunities for performance improvement.

What next?

Business-critical IoT applications now span both physical, virtual, and hybrid environments and end-users’ expectations are continuing to grow. IDC predicts that within three years, 50 per cent of IT networks will transition from having excess capacity to handle the additional IoT devices, to being network constrained with nearly 10 per cent of sites being overwhelmed.

With this in mind, it’s now more important than ever to monitor the performance and availability of the business applications that employees and customers rely on so business productivity can increase. Companies need to be able to pre-empt an inevitable rise in the flow of data and ensure that they have adequate bandwidth to cope with this upsurge.

Application Performance Management tools can provide the end-to-end visibility and diagnostics necessary for identifying issues with complex networks and distributed applications as well as for taking action before issues escalate. Additionally, the detailed analytics provided by APM enables companies to not only take control of performance improvement, but to also evaluate the business impact of all applications in their network.

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