April 17, 2024

Application Performance Monitoring vs Network Performance Monitoring in SDWAN

8 min read
Learn about the key differences between Application Performance Monitoring (APM) and Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) in Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SDWAN).
A network of connected nodes with arrows to show the flow of data between them

A network of connected nodes with arrows to show the flow of data between them

As more organizations move towards implementing software-defined wide area networks (SDWAN), there has been a growing need to monitor and maintain network and application performance. The use of SDWAN has resulted in greater flexibility, bandwidth optimization, and cost savings. However, it has also created challenges in terms of network and application performance monitoring. In this article, we will discuss the differences between network performance monitoring (NPM) and application performance monitoring (APM) specifically in the context of SDWAN. We will also examine the challenges and benefits of each approach, and provide best practices and common mistakes to avoid when implementing NPM and APM in SDWAN.

Understanding the basics of SDWAN technology

Before we dive into the details of NPM and APM in SDWAN, it’s essential to understand the basic concepts of SDWAN and how it differs from traditional wide area networks (WAN). Unlike traditional WANs, SDWAN uses software and cloud services to connect enterprise networks over large geographical areas. SDWAN allows for greater network agility, security, and centralized network management. It improves the performance of mission-critical applications by automatically directing traffic over the best available pathway, reducing latency, and rerouting traffic in the event of a network failure.

Another key benefit of SDWAN is its ability to prioritize network traffic based on application requirements. This means that critical applications, such as video conferencing or VoIP, can be given priority over less important applications, such as email or web browsing. SDWAN also allows for more efficient use of bandwidth by dynamically adjusting the amount of bandwidth allocated to each application based on its current needs. This can result in significant cost savings for organizations that rely heavily on cloud-based applications and services.

What is Application Performance Monitoring?

Application Performance Monitoring (APM) is the process of monitoring and analyzing the performance of applications to ensure that they meet end-user requirements. APM measures the health of an application by identifying its response time, availability, and errors. By monitoring these metrics, IT teams can identify the cause of performance issues and optimize application performance. APM tools can monitor both web-based and non-web-based applications, from the end-user devices to the back-end servers and databases.

One of the key benefits of APM is that it allows IT teams to proactively identify and resolve performance issues before they impact end-users. This is achieved through real-time monitoring and alerting, which enables IT teams to quickly identify and diagnose issues as they arise. Additionally, APM tools can provide valuable insights into application usage patterns, which can help organizations optimize their infrastructure and improve the overall user experience.

What is Network Performance Monitoring?

Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) is the process of monitoring and analyzing the performance of network infrastructure and devices, such as routers, switches, and firewalls. NPM measures network bandwidth, latency, and availability to identify issues that affect network performance. NPM tools can also track network traffic and user behavior to aid in troubleshooting, capacity planning, and compliance monitoring.

Effective network performance monitoring requires a combination of hardware and software tools that work together to provide a comprehensive view of network performance. These tools can include network probes, packet analyzers, and network performance management software. By using these tools, network administrators can quickly identify and resolve issues that impact network performance, ensuring that the network is running smoothly and efficiently.

How SDWAN affects network performance monitoring

SDWAN technology can impact NPM by introducing new traffic patterns, such as routing traffic over multiple paths, which can be challenging to monitor. Traditional NPM tools have difficulty in monitoring the overlay network that SDWAN creates, often leading to blind spots. Some SDWAN vendors offer built-in NPM functionality that provides visibility into network performance.

Additionally, SDWAN can also improve network performance monitoring by providing real-time analytics and reporting. With SDWAN, network administrators can easily identify and troubleshoot network issues, as well as optimize network performance by dynamically routing traffic based on application requirements. This level of visibility and control can help organizations improve their overall network performance and reduce downtime.

How SDWAN affects application performance monitoring

SDWAN technology can have a positive impact on APM by providing greater visibility into application performance across the WAN. SDWAN can route application traffic over the best pathway, reducing latency and improving user experience. However, SDWAN can also make APM more difficult as there are more variables to consider, such as different transport methods, multiple paths, and dynamic routing.

Another important factor to consider when it comes to SDWAN and APM is the need for proper configuration and management. SDWAN can introduce new complexities and challenges to network management, and it is important to have a clear understanding of how the technology is being used and how it is affecting application performance. This may require additional training and resources for IT teams, as well as the use of specialized tools and software to monitor and manage SDWAN traffic. Ultimately, the success of SDWAN in improving APM will depend on careful planning, implementation, and ongoing management.

Key differences between network performance monitoring and application performance monitoring

The primary difference between NPM and APM is in their focus. NPM focuses on monitoring the network infrastructure and devices, while APM focuses on monitoring the performance of specific applications. NPM measures network bandwidth, latency, and availability, while APM measures end-to-end application response time, availability, and errors. NPM can provide visibility into network issues that impact application performance, while APM provides insights into how applications behave on the network.

Another key difference between NPM and APM is the level of granularity they provide. NPM typically provides a high-level view of the network, while APM provides a more detailed view of individual transactions within an application. This level of detail allows APM to identify specific bottlenecks or issues within an application that may be impacting performance.

Additionally, NPM and APM may require different types of data collection methods. NPM may rely on network device logs or SNMP data, while APM may require instrumentation within the application code. This can impact the ease of implementation and ongoing maintenance of each monitoring solution.

Benefits of using network performance monitoring in SDWAN

Using NPM in SDWAN can provide significant benefits, including:

  • Proactive fault detection and diagnosis, minimizing network downtime and preventing revenue loss
  • Improved network visibility, allowing for better capacity planning and network optimization
  • Better compliance monitoring, ensuring that regulatory requirements are met

Additionally, network performance monitoring in SDWAN can also help with:

  • Identifying and resolving network congestion issues, improving overall network performance and user experience
  • Tracking and analyzing network traffic patterns, allowing for more informed decision-making and resource allocation
  • Providing real-time alerts and notifications for network events, enabling quick response times and issue resolution

Benefits of using application performance monitoring in SDWAN

Using APM in SDWAN can provide significant benefits, including:

  • End-to-end application performance visibility, identifying the cause of application performance issues
  • Improved user experience, by ensuring that applications meet end-user requirements
  • Better support for business-critical applications, by identifying and resolving application performance issues

Another benefit of using APM in SDWAN is the ability to optimize network performance. By monitoring application performance, network administrators can identify areas where network resources are being underutilized or overutilized, and make adjustments to optimize network performance.

Additionally, APM in SDWAN can help with capacity planning. By monitoring application performance over time, network administrators can identify trends in application usage and plan for future capacity needs. This can help prevent performance issues caused by insufficient network resources.

Challenges faced with network performance monitoring in SDWAN

The main challenges of implementing NPM in SDWAN include:

  • Difficulty in monitoring the overlay network created by SDWAN
  • Blind spots due to packet encapsulation and encryption
  • Complexity in managing and analyzing large amounts of network telemetry data

Challenges faced with application performance monitoring in SDWAN

The main challenges of implementing APM in SDWAN include:

  • Difficulty in measuring end-to-end application response time due to multiple transport methods and paths
  • Complexity in mapping application dependencies in cloud-based environments
  • Difficulty in correlating application performance with network performance

The role of network visibility in SDWAN

Network visibility is critical in SDWAN as it provides insights into network performance, security threats, and compliance monitoring. Network visibility tools, such as packet capture and flow analysis, can provide a complete view of network traffic, allowing for better network optimization and troubleshooting. SDWAN vendors, such as Cisco and VMware, offer built-in network visibility tools that provide deeper insights into network performance.

The role of application visibility in SDWAN

Application visibility is also critical in SDWAN as it allows for better application performance monitoring and user experience. Application visibility tools, such as application tracing and user experience monitoring, provide insights into end-to-end application response time, user behavior, and application dependencies. SDWAN vendors, such as Silver Peak and Citrix, offer built-in application visibility tools that provide deeper insights into application performance.

How to choose between network and application performance monitoring in SDWAN

The choice between NPM and APM in SDWAN depends on the specific needs of the organization. Organizations that prioritize network uptime and security may choose to focus on NPM, while those that prioritize end-user experience and application performance may choose to focus on APM. However, it’s essential to have both NPM and APM as they complement each other and provide a complete view of network and application performance.

Best practices for implementing network and application performance monitoring in SDWAN

Here are some best practices for implementing NPM and APM in SDWAN:

  • Define clear performance metrics and KPIs
  • Use a hybrid approach to collect telemetry data from multiple sources, including NPM and APM tools
  • Ensure that NPM and APM tools are integrated with SDWAN management tools for better visibility and management
  • Train IT teams on how to use NPM and APM tools effectively

Common mistakes to avoid when implementing network and application performance monitoring in SDWAN

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when implementing NPM and APM in SDWAN:

  • Not defining clear performance metrics and KPIs
  • Not integrating NPM and APM tools with SDWAN management tools
  • Not training IT teams on how to use NPM and APM tools effectively
  • Not using a hybrid approach to collect telemetry data from multiple sources

Top tools for network and application performance monitoring in SDWAN

There are various tools available for NPM and APM in SDWAN. Here are some of the leading tools:

  • Network performance monitoring: SolarWinds NPM, PRTG Network Monitor, Cisco Meraki Dashboard, and ThousandEyes
  • Application performance monitoring: Dynatrace, AppDynamics, New Relic, and Riverbed SteelCentral

Future trends in network and application performance monitoring for SDWAN

The future of NPM and APM in SDWAN is towards greater automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. SDWAN vendors are adding intelligence to NPM and APM tools, allowing for predictive analytics, automatic remediation, and anomaly detection. Additionally, cloud-based NPM and APM tools are becoming more prevalent, providing more scalability and flexibility.

Conclusion

In conclusion, NPM and APM are critical for maintaining network and application performance in SDWAN environments. Both approaches have their advantages and challenges, but when used together, they provide crucial insights into network and application performance. Organizations that implement NPM and APM in SDWAN can achieve better performance, end-user experience, and network security. By following best practices and avoiding common mistakes, organizations can ensure that their NPM and APM implementations are successful.

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