In today’s digital age, where companies are increasingly relying on applications for business-critical tasks, application performance has become a key issue. Network disruptions are now business disruptions, and the worst disruptions can sometimes have financial or even legal consequences. Network engineers tasked with keeping this essential system of applications, networks, clients, and servers up and running need to have the right tools and processes available to help them ensure the availability of these services.

Most applications today are no longer centralized in a single data center. Applications and the data they access are now widely distributed, whether it’s a distributed data architecture within an enterprise or increased usage of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or cloud-based computing. The nature of these multi-tiered, distributed applications requires that they traverse both LAN and WAN links, often with multiple hops, making it increasingly complicated for network engineers to diagnose performance issues. This increased complexity in the data path puts a strain on traditional application performance analysis where a single data path could be easily dissected to determine if poor application response time was due to the network or the application itself.

Contemporary, distributed application architectures require a new technique – multi-segment analysis – in order to pinpoint the cause of latency or other application performance issues.

How does Multi-Segment Analysis work?

Traditional performance analysis of centralized applications lended itself to real-time network analysis as all relevant data could be collected from a single network link. Application metrics like latency (both network and transaction), number of turns, overall network bandwidth, payload sizes, and even the packet payloads themselves (for detailed application-level troubleshooting) were readily available on that single link. With distributed application architectures the same data is required, but multiple network links, or hops, must be analyzed to get the full picture and to isolate not only the issue but what network link it is occurring on.

Multi-segment analysis is a post-capture method that automates and simplifies the process of gathering network data from multiple network segments and/or multi-tiered applications. Multi-segment analysis correlates this data across the various network segments, finding common elements so the individual application transactions can be reassembled from a network perspective, visualized and analyzed to indicate potential problem areas. It provides a clear view of the application flow, including network and transaction latency and application turn times. With this information in hand, network engineers can easily pinpoint where the anomalies are occurring with applications at each point on the client, server, and network.

Many network monitoring dashboard and reporting tools have a multi-segment analysis feature, but troubleshooting application performance problems requires more than pretty graphs. Be sure that any solution you choose also has the ability to drill into each and every packet that comprises the application transaction. Important clues, including application error messages, are often buried within application packet payloads, providing you with the unequivocal proof you need to approach the application designer when the issue is NOT the network, which, let’s face it, is most of the time, isn’t it?