I sat on a on a CIO Magazine/Computerworld/Network World panel last night discussing application and network optimization. I love these events because they are a great way to hear what's going on with our customers.
We had lively discussion with plenty of opinion and feedback from the room. Mostly the mood was positive, with people sharing their successes and solutions to the challenges that face IT organizations today. When we got onto the topic of application performance, however, there was a definite tone of frustration. These IT professionals have worked hard to build solid, high performance enterprise networks. Packets whizz through their infrastructure unaffected by congestion or loss. Yet they are still fielding the calls about poor application performance. If only the apps were better written or the carrier networks faster or the increasingly mobile workforce more tolerant of delay, life would be so much better.
One of my co-panelists then made a really insightful comment (and I'm paraphrasing here): "Understand your role. You aren't network managers or infrastructure directors, or Cisco experts, you are problem solvers."
Most of the time you can't fix the application, make the users less demanding, or accelerate the internet. Your infrastructure is already pretty good at pushing packets back and forth. Yet your network is often the only thing you have domain over. You have to work within your sphere of control. What you can do is place application services into your network to help solve those application performance issues. Adding application optimization and acceleration tools into your layer 4-7 services infrastructure can be uncomplicated, low risk, and effective. Turning on a a few simple features on your application delivery controller can measurably improve the end user experience of your websites or web applications.
Sure you didn't create the problem, but you can be the ones to fix it. After all, isn't that what being in IT is all about?