Optimizing Application Performance and User Experience with NETSCOUT for Azure

Azure VTAP

By Jason Bloomberg, Intellyx. 

In the era of Digital Transformation (DX) the IT landscape has expanded to environments that rely extensively on virtualization, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), and cloud computing. As a result, the number of servers and the quantity of traffic have been exploding exponentially.

The cohesive, albeit heterogeneous on premises IT environments of the past have given way to a disaggregated, interdependent mélange of compute, network, and storage components, both on premises and in the private and public clouds.

This modern state of affairs has become a necessity, as the digital transformation initiatives that have been driving business change require the speed and agility such a ‘composite’ computing model can deliver. But to achieve the goals of such transformation, IT shops must orchestrate the myriad components across siloed, multi-cloud environments in order to maintain the resilience of modern computing.

Cybersecurity also depends upon the proper coordination and management of such diverse resources, as this hybrid IT context explodes, the enterprise attack surface grows – and bad actors are ready to take advantage.

This combination of customer-centric strategic value and the increased importance of mitigating cybersecurity risk has raised the bar for IT management generally. No organization can afford to become complacent in this modern world.

The Importance of Wire Data in the Cloud

To understand what is really going on in such complex, dynamic environments, IT personnel need to glean insights from all the information available – including wire data.

Most network monitoring tools collect and process machine-generated data like log files from applications, servers, and network devices. Even when such a component generates detailed logs – which isn’t guaranteed – there is still vital information that might be left out.

Tools that use server logs see errors quite differently from tools that leverage wire data. For example, log-based tools would register an Oracle database table overflow, with no indication of the cause. In contrast, tools that leverage wire data would be able to detect the root causes of such an error, because they provide visibility into dependencies across the infrastructure.

In complicated systems such as hybrid clouds, it is essential to gain visibility into such interdependencies across domains that impact overall service quality. Such information and dependencies appear in wire data – the contents of the TCP/IP packets themselves.

However, needless to say, wire data are extraordinarily voluminous. To deliver the best user experience, tools like NETSCOUT vSTREAM continually monitor wire data. To separate the valuable insights from the firehose of network traffic, vSTREAM then optimizes wire data for high quality analytics in real-time, thus extracting smart data at the point of collection.

NETSCOUT’s Secret Sauce: Adaptive Service Intelligence

Smart data keep track of the user experience as well as the connections among business domains and cloud regions. Smart data are well-structured and contextual, and take into account the performance and security profiles that apply to the underlying wire data.

Extracting smart data from wire data is no mean feat. To accomplish this herculean task, NETSCOUT has developed technology it calls Adaptive Service Intelligence (ASI).

ASI technology is essentially a next-generation Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engine that can analyze wire data to provide a contextual analysis of service, network, and application performance, all in real-time.

ASI generates smart data across the entire hybrid IT landscape, including both physical and virtual components. ASI also extracts insights from transactions, protocols, and even users themselves – and then feeds the resulting smart data into an analytics platform that offers intuitive root-cause analysis workflows for problem mitigation.

Taking Advantage of Microsoft Azure VTAP

vSTREAM works in all cloud environments – but a newly added capability within Microsoft Azure supports NETSCOUT’s technology particularly well.

This new Azure capability is the Azure Virtual Network Terminal Access Point, or VTAP. VTAP essentially provides an abstracted endpoint for Azure customers to stream virtual machine (VM) traffic to a third-party tool like vSTREAM.

VTAP allows mirroring of VM traffic, thus streaming wire data directly to vSTREAM, who converts this wire data into smart data and then into contextual root-cause analysis workflows by the NETSCOUT Application Performance Management (APM) platform for Azure.

The Azure-based vSTREAM virtual appliance powered by ASI technology, enables software-centric pervasive instrumentation anywhere in the hybrid IT environment, providing consistent, comprehensive visibility without borders across on-premises and cloud environments.

This visibility provides end-to-end KPIs across layers 2 through 7 of the ISO stack, empowering the ops team to manage the reliability, availability and responsiveness of both networks and application services by assessing application traffic volumes, server response times, and error counts and analyzing error messages from each of the various applications and servers across on-premises and cloud environments.

NETSCOUT’s smart data approach offers a different level of capability from either log-based or bytecode-instrumentation-based APM products on the market. Such tools claim end-to-end visibility, but without continuous insight into wire data in real-time, much of the relevant information is invisible to them.

NETSCOUT’S APM for Azure thus provides value both to existing Azure customers, as well as companies migrating to Azure or implementing hybrid architectures that include Azure. Traditional APM tools cannot cover all these bases.

The Intellyx Take

NETSCOUT APM for Azure leverages ASI technology to glean smart data insights from wire data. The result: customers are able to deploy and secure applications across the entire hybrid IT landscape, including on-premises as well as public and private cloud environments.

With the NETSCOUT solution in place, IT organizations can monitor the continuous traffic flow of wire data across both Azure and on-premises data centers, perform simultaneous deep packet inspection and analysis, and then generate smart data for improved management of application performance and user experience.

Regardless of where an organization is in its cloud journey – taking its first steps with cloud migration, all-in with the cloud, or settled on any of a number of hybrid IT scenarios – NETSCOUT APM for Azure facilitates deep end-to-end visibility across all Azure-related aspects of such a journey, enabling organizations to deliver consistently high-quality user experience, regardless of their progress with their cloud migration initiatives.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. NETSCOUT is an Intellyx customer and Microsoft is a former Intellyx customer. vSTREAM and Adaptive Session Intelligence are NETSCOUT trademarks, and NETSCOUT is a NETSCOUT registered trademark. Intellyx retains final editorial control of this article.