Remote WorkForce (RWF) and the New Normal in Today’s Enterprise

Remote work is the new normal for today’s enterprise. Alec Pinkham, Director of Product Marketing at AppNeta, addressed issues related to this new dynamic at the Spring 2020 ONUG Virtual Conference. AppNeta is a leader in scalable solutions that monitor network performance from the end-user perspective. They provide real-time, actionable insights from remote offices, over internal networks and across the internet. AppNeta solutions allow companies to get to the bottom of performance issues regardless of where they occur.

Pinkham brings his expertise and answers the following questions in just 10 short minutes. 

  • How can managers maintain visibility with their workers?
  • How can enterprises effectively manage end user experience?
  • How can companies measure the effectiveness of RWF strategy?
  • How can enterprises deal with cloud, SaaS and Internet transformations? 

Listen to and view his brief, yet informative, presentation here. For your convenience, we’ve recapped the highlights below.

Current Response

Pinkham is in constant contact with clients. Based on those discussions, he divided feedback he has received regarding the shift to “work from home” for enterprise IT into these three categories. 

  • Response Mode: Many companies are in “firefighting” mode. They are adding capacity to their VPN concentrators and mapping new extensions to their networks, trying to keep employees connected. 
  • Trying to Understand Performance: New network architecture means we need a new approach to what’s causing degradation. Ironically, it’s a lot of the same culprits, such as WiFi, connectivity, transit networks and cloud environments. 
  • Acceptance: We’re starting to accept our new normal. Offices have fundamentally changed what they look like. Even companies that did not offer work at home options in the past, are now offering them. IT must accept and plan for the future in order to be a strategic part of the business. 

New Challenges

VPN connections are not new. Companies have been using them for years, as employees traveled or needed to connect from home. However, VPN backhauling doesn’t take into account the reliance on SaaS and third-party web apps, which is now extremely popular. As a result of more people accessing these apps from home, there’s a rapid increase in the strain on VPN connections.

There’s a shift to split tunneling to try to meet these challenges because it alleviates the initial performance issues that some users have going through backhaul tunnels. However, there are challenges here too.

Pinkham points out that much of the app delivery chain is now hidden. IT must re-evaluate their role in a world where they have very little ownership of the actual chain. AppNeta meets this challenge by encouraging the monitoring of both the overlay tunnel and the underlying infrastructure. 

There’s a Visibility Problem

“There are more gaps in visibility for IT in work from home environments,” explained Pinkham. The applications are an issue. “If we own the apps, we have visibility into the status from the web server side, data center or cloud, even if that’s a different team within our enterprise,” Pinkham continued. “If we don’t own the app, we can access trust sites and availability metrics, but there are still major gaps in troubleshooting. Determining what IT is accountable for in this era goes beyond the network upturn metrics, and beyond just simple vendor management.” 

How to Regain Visibility

Pinkham outlined three ways of regaining visibility.

  • Map Blind Spots: Identify ISPs being used by employees and access their VPN requirements. Segment users, identifying the most likely trouble spots. Recognize who has the most demanding application landscape. 
  • Prioritize: Focus on where you can do the most good. 
  • Identify Future Strategic Challenges: Be proactive. Think about the company’s trajectory. Understand that as the world changes, you’ll need to update your project roadmap and look for new opportunities. 

How AppNeta is Monitoring Networks and Applications

AppNeta’s solution combines passive monitoring with traffic analysis and packet level data, combining with active synthetics to monitor both the network path and applications that are business critical. This combination gives unique insights and the ability to correlate data sets for faster data resolution and a better end user experience.

Additionally, Pinkham noted that the network path dimension gives clients active, continuous, end-to-end measurement of their network’s health, performance and availability. This level of visibility is vital for any network you deliver apps over, even if they are outside your traditional management domain.

The AppNeta performance manager has active web synthetics that allow for proactive monitoring that help you identify SaaS and web app issues before they affect end users. AppNeta users are equipped to answer questions, such as:

  • What kind of user experience are you delivering for business critical apps?
  • If the app is slow, is it due to something the user can see on their end? 
  • Is there a DNS issue that only impacts one location, or is it a wider issue involving a provider that affects multiple locations and users? 

“Monitoring network flows allows us to monitor real end user experiences and identify every app in use across your network,” explains Pinkham. Most SaaS apps are being delivered via HTTPS from common cloud provider data centers. Traditional solutions simply lack the granularity needed to understand what apps are consuming the most bandwidth, what kind of user experience is being delivered, as well as the ability to measure network latency. AppNeta’s approach securely analyzes the live traffic to give you full visibility.

AppNeta’s solution offers a wide range of monitoring points within the hardware and software to allow greater flexibility and capabilities, ranging from containers to large-scale data center devices. “To enable insights in the work from home environment, we deploy a lightweight native agent for Linux, Microsoft and Apple that allows teams to create path monitoring out to any hosted application,” said Pinkham. AppNeta monitoring is designed to run continuously with very little overhead to the end user’s workstation and minimal impact on the network capacity. 

Visibility Into Various Network Scenarios

Further emphasizing the importance of visibility, Pinkham used an image to show a work from home monitoring example. It showed the overlay view of the VPN tunnel entrance, including high-level user experience data. It also showed the underlay, which gives visibility into the service providers involved in the connection. Pinkham showed how network managers can look at one view that shows app performance through a tunnel, around a tunnel and out to a third party. This visibility into the network delivery chain enables you to see what segments break down and where performance issues are stemming from.

AppNeta performance manager allows you to dive deep into any delivery paths, providing continuous baseline insights, including:

  • Data to help determine the new normal for performance.
  • Automatic reports that connect business insights with strategic planning.
  • VPN performance insights that ensure workers can access business critical apps from home. 

Gain More Insights & Learn More

ONUG connects its community with industry leaders. Leverage this pool of insight to navigate the changing IT landscape. One great way to do this is by attending the ONUG Fall 2020 event on October 14th & 15th. Contact us to learn more about the multitude of resources our community provides.

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