Application advice

Joel Dolisy says a lack of visibility is hindering government IT professionals.

In today’s IT landscape, applications play a vital role. They are intrinsic to everything public sector employees do, from writing word documents, creating power point decks or even accessing the web.

When it comes to people’s personal lives, there’s nothing more frustrating than a slow application. Be it a slow news clip, that song that just won’t download or a game that takes ages to start up.

In this new age of consumerism, where the populace has come to expect instant access and gratification, these are admittedly ‘first world’ problems.

However, when it comes to poor application performance in the government sphere, be it military or other governmental entities, like emergency or other frontline services, the stakes are much higher, to the point where citizen safety or even national security could be at risk.

Without quick problem resolution, IT pros are often the first to be blamed for slow application performance.

The real fault, however, lies with the sporadic and disparate way that public sector organisations have evolved; creating a spiders web of patch work, custom built architectures and applications, with no clear lines of delineation when it comes to control, ownership or responsibility.

It is this lack of cross-silo visibility which is severely delaying app problem resolution and hindering public sector IT professionals from accomplishing their tasks.

The impact of siloed monitoring tools on the public sector

One of the key issues faced by IT pros working in the public sector is the sheer number of unique custom built applications hosted in different locations – be it on premise or in numerous cloud environments including: public, community and private clouds by various public sector departments.

Agreed, IT pros are ultimately responsible for application performance, which could include anything from Microsoft Exchange to Google Docs to Tweetdeck, regardless of whether the application resides on premise or in the cloud. And it’s essential that they’re able to identify where problems are and address them quickly.

Given the patchwork of IT that has evolved, however, it’s unrealistic to expect them to achieve this without the right levels of support from government – both in terms of the personnel and the tools available to them to help bring government IT under control.

At present, the majority of government IT pros have to depend on and work within their own siloed IT solutions to identify root causes of application issues using either: monitoring tools specific to their primary application or infrastructure area; or interface data from the individual applications or infrastructure they use.

The common denominating issue here is the walled garden in which they exist, providing no ability to utilise information or intelligence from anywhere else in the network to identify issues.

In reality, the only way they’ll be able to effect change and fix issues quickly is by adopting a more integrated approach. Only by implementing integrated monitoring across application and infrastructure silos, will they ever start to make headway.

Not only does this lack of cross-domain visibility or application-centric correlation among layers cause time-lags in determining where an app problem is located within the environment, it also severely hinders their ability to find the root cause and resolve the issues.

24 hours to fix an app issue is too long

When it comes to fixing issues, it’s not uncommon for it to take up to a day for public sector IT pros to find and fix them.

Considering what can be achieved in a day, the impact this can have on productivity as a result of waiting for web pages to load or being unable to access important spreadsheets can be huge.

Luckily, most of the time public sector IT works, with people experiencing fairly minor downtime each month but this doesn’t mean they’re still not experiencing significant delays while apps underperform and the issue awaits resolution.

Simply put, a 24-hour turnaround for app fixes is too long, as taking hours let alone a whole day to fix an issue often leads to other significant problems.

IT profesionals, be they government employees or in the commercial sector, are all faced with the problem of needing to do more in less time.

However, IT managers have been known to waste a lot of time examining the app stack in an effort to solve an issue, while workers are impacted by system downtime caused by a single, unruly app.

This can seriously impede workers from doing their jobs, which could easily be avoided if the right tools and processes were in place to enable them to do their job effectively.

Application stack visibility is essential

Performance expectations for government IT professionals are high and are increasing all the time. With today’s demands for speed and the “always on” mindset, even the shortest delays from unresponsive web pages, online apps that don’t work and crawling download speeds can affect front line services or prevent public sector employees from working as quickly and efficiently as they need to. When applications used in critical government communications experience problems, it’s essential that public technology professionals have the right solutions and strategies in place to ensure they can find and resolve problems quickly.

Visibility and management of the entire application stack is vital for efficient monitoring and management of government IT infrastructures. However, the siloed approach that has evolved often prevents this, leading to a lot of time spent trying to identify application-specific problems, causes and potential resolutions.

Ultimately, steps need to be taken to enhance integrated monitoring and management capabilities across public sector departments.

The current model is simply not sustainable or conducive to productivity for government organisations that have come to rely on complex and layered app stacks, which in turn have become a costly burden that ends up wasting not only employee time but also the public purse.

Joel Dolisy is chief information officer and chief technology officer at ICT infrastructure supplier SolarWinds

Colin Marrs

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