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All About the Metrics: Part 1, Application Metrics

When we talk about today’s technology environments, we’re mostly talking about complexity. In the past decade or so, there have been some big changes in the way IT manages its resources and responsibilities. Along with the changes in technology (virtualization, cloud computing and others), IT now has to answer to line-of-business teams in brand-new ways. End users are savvy tech consumers now, and their expectations for technology at work are high.

In this brave new IT world, there are adjustments to make. One big shift is around metrics, where people—today’s end users and IT teams—and numbers collide. IT teams are trying to align with business goals at the same time they’re grappling with hybrid environments, so better end-user experience and productivity are newly important goals. It’s a different scenario than traditional legacy IT, where monitoring hardware and software in-house was all that was needed to keep the business motoring ahead. It was more straightforward and maybe simpler. But IT teams can shift to a new way of looking at metrics to get insights that are useful to the business.

Businesses have had to rethink which metrics they’re using to match up with these new goals. The same set of metrics still exists, but their use and the data they provide has different implications now. The information they provide to IT can, and should, be part of continually improving user experience. Taken together, app and network metrics can tell a performance story that can be useful for IT and the business side of an organization. Remember that metrics are dynamic—the ones you track may change over time to match changing business goals. It’s also important to note that objective metrics are more consistent baselines, and are much easier to benchmark than subjective ones.

The App Metrics That Matter for Users

Let’s look at the essential application-related metrics that we recommend for getting the data you need to really know how your apps are performing. These can give you a data-based idea of what users are experiencing. (Here’s the network metrics post.) You can get application metrics on both your SaaS and on-premises apps—and that complete visibility will be key to overall IT and end-user success.

Response Time: This metric clearly identifies problems in SaaS, AWS, cloud and on-premises applications. Response time baselines won’t be the same for each application, so IT teams can benchmark response time expectations depending on the app.

Quality of Service (QoS): This is another tried-and-true metric that stands up to modern needs. QoS provides intelligence on delivered vs. expected performance, and can be adjusted as needed to meet user and organizational needs.

Capacity Used: This metric, another stalwart, is a straightforward way for administrators to know when they need additional resources for an application, and to adjust over time.

Throughput: This number gets to the root of application-level problems to see where users might be hitting downtime or slowdowns. Track over time to see any changes.

Defects per Interval: This number identifies problems stemming from missing or partial responses, content errors, missing components and more.

In addition, there are a few infrastructure health metrics to consider around application performance: CPU utilization, memory pool and health metrics. These measurements can see if individual infrastructure elements are degrading and impacting the end user experience. And error rates can show which elements are degrading and contributing to a poor end user experience.

Use these application metrics to get a holistic view of how end users are experiencing their daily app use. That’ll let you quantify and pinpoint what’s behind any complaints or helpdesk tickets that arise.

Christine Cignoli: Christine Cignoli is a technology writer based in Boston. She's written about storage, data center infrastructure, virtualization and enterprise apps for more than ten years, and has a master's in publishing and writing from Emerson College.