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Federal Agencies Slow to Detect and Fix Application Performance Issues

As federal agencies move to the cloud and consolidate IT resources to cut costs and improve efficiency, applications have become crucial to government productivity. However, according to a new survey, many agencies lack the resources to quickly identify and fix application performance issues.

In a survey of federal IT decision makers commissioned by Riverbed Technology and conducted by government research firm Market Connections, Inc., 51 percent of respondents said it takes a day or more to detect and fix application performance issues.

The survey respondents stated delays in detecting and fixing application performance issues result in lost productivity, wasted taxpayer dollars, low workforce morale and cybersecurity risk.

“Federal workers rely on applications to do their jobs effectively, which means latency and outages of more than a few minutes are simply unacceptable,” said Davis Johnson, vice president public sector, Riverbed Technology. “As agencies increasingly use cloud applications, having end-to-end application and network visibility is more critical now than ever.”

In February 2010, the Office of Management and Budget launched the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative to reduce the number of federal data centers after the reported number of data centers grew from 432 in 1998 to more than 1,100 in 2009.

Although data center consolidation can allow federal agencies to not only improve efficiency, but also maximize cost savings, a number of challenges have prevented federal agencies from scaling down their data center footprint, including network complexity.

As networks become more complex, it is key that federal agencies ensure visibility to identify and fix network failures. Slow response times can have a significant impact on the agency. Research from IDC indicates that the average cost of a critical application failure for a large organization ranges from $500,000 to $1 million every hour.

“Agencies are moving toward location-independent IT environments, but they haven’t prepared for what happens when they reach their destination,” said Sean Applegate, director, Technology Strategies and Advanced Solutions, Riverbed. “This is creating a network visibility crisis that will significantly impact application performance if it’s not addressed.”

The survey discovered many agencies lack the budget and tools necessary to maintain network visibility and ensure optimal application performance. Only 30 percent of respondents described their ability to monitor network performance as “excellent” and a mere 17 percent were able to address network outages within minutes.

"Applications have never been more critical to agency productivity,” Applegate said. “Yet as networks become more complex, if agencies don’t have insight into application performance, it takes too long to fix issues and impacts workers’ ability to use applications.”

By improving network visibility, respondents stated benefits include greater network reliability, knowledge of problems before end-users, improved network speed, maximized employee performance and insight into risk management and risk cyber threats.

In fact, over a third of respondents indicated that a top benefit of network performance monitoring tools is a comprehensive view into network abnormalities that could indicate cyber threats. Using network monitoring tools can also ensure that applications remain running and detect abnormalities in network packets that could impact security.

In choosing a monitoring tool, the respondents considered four features important: capacity planning (79 percent), automated investigation (77 percent), application visibility (65 percent) and predictive modeling (58 percent).

Applegate believes using these tools represents an important step for federal agencies towards managing a complex network environment, and ultimately making the transition to cloud.

“The lack of network visibility has a direct impact on an agency’s ability to serve its constituents,” Applegate said. “We live in a world where response times of more than a few minutes are not acceptable—and not necessary.”

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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