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Management challenges in Internet times

Feb 27, 20064 mins
Data Center

* Managing users' expectations of the Internet

Times have changed since I obtained my first ISP account in the early 1990s and was so excited to do e-mail. Since then, the Internet has become so integral to every part of our lives. My four year-old regularly wants to search the Internet for trains, space and information about other countries. Our company is now offering podcasts. Educational institutions are rapidly adopting the Phoenix University model of delivering curriculum in an online format. All of this has to come with us wherever we choose to go. For some, that simply means our home offices, but others need to have access on the train, at the airport, or in the school gymnasium.

Something we are very good at in high-tech is nomenclature. We have an acronym for just about everything and changes in the Internet are no different. It’s not clear that we have a winner as of yet. However, the Web 2.0 initiative is certainly gaining some momentum. Web 2.0 essentially includes technologies and concepts that support our current needs – not to mention expectations – for the Internet.

To be clear, this can include all kinds of things like Weblogs and wikis, podcasts and Web services, Web APIs and Asynchronous Java Script + XML (AJAX). This list of course is not complete, but rather meant to give a sense for the dynamic.

Because we’re moving around these days and wanting more, this has created a management need that is most certainly evolved if not entirely different. The Internet is much more like telephone service than traditional technology. Support for the Internet as it now exists relies on a number of different factors including:

* User satisfaction: this requires the highest level of sensitivity to the user’s perception. Are users satisfied with the results they are getting? Response time, availability, and accurate, fresh content.

* Broadband: while there are some pockets that remain limited by dial-up access, the vast majority enjoy the luxury of broadband Internet pipes availing them to rich, multi-media content.

* Content and application flexibility: this subject could warrant a series of articles. The point here is that applications and Web services are being designed for the Web. Static pages are moving into history and dynamic content and vertical services that run over the Internet are taking over.

* Convergence: VoIP is beginning to make its way into the mainstream.

* Mobility: Wireless technologies not only for voice, but also for an increasing number of diverse applications.

The list could go on, but these are the key variables that management technologies must now address. In a way, it makes me think of service-level management because solid management solutions will need to account for this vast array of infrastructure and be agile enough to understand the impact of any given aspect. Management must take the customer or user into consideration first and foremost. It is just too easy to move on to a similar Web site or provider -not to mention how quick it is to do so. Therefore, management technologies for the Internet are going to require emphasis on how the service is performing, what the user thinks about it, and a correlated view of technology components.

There are solutions that are addressing these needs. Keynote is one example of a company that deals with the varying dynamics of today’s Internet. It takes a software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach with a variety of means for measuring user satisfaction. The misperception about Keynote is that it focuses on Web application performance and while this is one aspect of what it does, the company has recently announced capabilities in wireless management, VoIP management, and industry benchmarking that is not easily matched in the industry. Benchmarking is used to gather competitive information related to performance and user experience – an area that is invaluable from a business strategy standpoint.

Innumerable management solutions exist to address Internet performance. Examples of management technology in this space include companies such as Coradiant, Mercury, Amberpoint and Tealeaf, all of which offer performance management of Web applications and services.

IBM, with its acquisition of Micromuse, has the breadth to cover wireless and VoIP, along with Web applications and services. In fact, all of the large management providers – CA, HP and BMC – have capabilities to address Web performance to varying degrees. It is the ability to baseline actual site performance against competitors and the ability to offer user experiences, help Keynote stand out. If you have your own solution to this challenge, please let me know. We’d love to hear your feedback as always.