Slow App? Where's the Problem?

Hands up if you have dealt with an issue like the following. It seems to be an ordinary day, and applications and networks are running normally. During the morning, reports start to come in from users saying that applications have longer than usual response times. Oh no! It's the start of a dreaded "it's running slowly!" problem that lives in the nightmares of system admins everywhere.

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The Impact of Slow Applications

 

The reasons that cause applications to run slowly are many and varied. Narrowing down the cause behind any particular instance is time-consuming if the correct network monitoring tools are not in place. The delay in finding a root cause and fixing it always has a negative impact on users of the affected applications. 

Internal users get more frustrated as time passes and systems admins investigate the issue. During this time, productivity drops, and business operations get impacted. The effect can be even more detrimental to external users of an application that is running slowly. If the application is part of a revenue-generating system, such as a shopping site, then slowness will make many customers give up and go to competing businesses. This directly leads to lost sales and revenue. 

Suppose the application impacted is part of a B2B system that facilitates operations between companies in a supply chain. In that case, slow responses leading to lost productivity in external businesses will directly impact the reputation of the business hosting the application. This can have an adverse effect when future contracts and partnerships come up for renewal. 

Troubleshooting Slowness Issues Is Difficult

 

IT teams experience immediate pressure to fix slow-running applications that are impacting internal or external productivity and operations. As anyone who has worked in system administration will know, finding the root cause of an issue like this isn't easy without data that points to the cause. Quick fixes (like the perennial favorite of rebooting the servers) are often temporary fixes that only hide underlying issues for a while. What happens if the same thing happens again the next day around the same time? It can take time for IT to diagnose and fix reported issues like this. All the while, as IT looks at the problem, they will have management (and sales if it's a sales app) breathing down their necks to get it fixed. 

Without any data that points to the source of the issue, IT needs to methodically work through the various tiers in the infrastructure to see if they can spot a cause. It could be a problem in any of these areas:

  • Network - both local and Internet if a cloud-based app.
  • Server Infrastructure - typically virtual machines or cloud instances.
  • Application - the application could have a code issue, or a database connection could be slow.

Flowmon solutions can provide the data IT teams need to narrow down where an issue is. Let's look at a real-world example.

A Real World Example

 

A business that Flowmon now works with had a problem with slow application response. The problem started randomly and then occurred every day of the working week. The IT team had been investigating the issue for an extended period and had even floated the idea of upgrading their core network from a 1 Gbps capacity backbone to 10 Gbps. The idea was that the extra network capacity would make the problem disappear. There are many issues with this proposed solution. The main one is that it is a solution offered without knowing the root cause of the problem. What if the issue isn't due to network capacity? Then a significant amount of money and people's time will have been invested in a project with little return on investment.

The organisation postponed this idea and decided that they should first deploy tools to get better data from the network. 

Flowmon To the Rescue

 

Flowmon was engaged to help the IT team investigate the problem. Together we deployed Flowmon network monitoring tools to collect data on network traffic flows. In a very short time, spikes in traffic appeared on the network that matched the times of the reported slowness of applications. 

Analysis of the source and destination of the traffic that caused these spikes showed that several production application servers had misconfigured backups. These applications were performing backups during working hours and not overnight. This placed a double burden on the systems - firstly, the application servers themselves were using processing capacity, memory, and disk storage for backups. Secondly, there was more network traffic as data got copied to the backup server. The IT team was able to reconfigure the offending backup processes to run them overnight, resolving the daily slowness issue. 

The IT team retained the Flowmon solution that had diagnosed this ongoing problem, and it is now a core part of their network monitoring and management procedures.

Find Out More

 

Progress Flowmon solutions provide many benefits to IT teams. Such as:

  • Visibility into network traffic with customizable dashboards, alerts, and reports.
  • Monitoring network performance to show if any reported problems are due to a network issue.
  • Delivering automatic analysis and anomaly detection to reveal potential security threats (find out more about Flowmon for Security Operation).
  • Providing the data needed for troubleshooting issues and operational or upgrade planning.

You can read considerably more about Flowmon solutions for anomaly detection and our other network and security operations features via the product pages on our website. You can also get a demo or a free trial of Flowmon 12, so you can quickly see how it will make your network monitoring easier and more informative.

 

 

 

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