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This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

Understanding the impact of an IT outage is a fairly standardized process. Take how much revenue the company generates, break it down to an hourly amount and, as they say in the UK, “Bob’s your Uncle”. However, IT outages aren’t nearly as common as they used to be a decade or more ago. Businesses build their infrastructure with so much redundancy that the concept of an outage is rare. I believe most companies could go into their data center and flick any piece of equipment off and not one user would notice.

The bigger problems today are related to “brown out” situations, where things are working but not quite right. A user tries to make a call from a VoIP phone and the call is choppy or attempts to input some information into a CRM system and the interface is slow. These are much more difficult problems to quantify the impact of. Last year I asked a number of IT leaders if they were aware of how much productivity was lost due to poor application performance and most either took a shot in the dark or admitted they had no idea. As best as I can tell, the number is well over 10% but very difficult to quantify with any degree of accuracy.

You might be reading this and saying “So what? Why is it important to put a numeric value on this?” The answer is that it can help with prioritizing IT project and resource allocation. As an example, if in an organization, VoIP, VDI and CRM are all experiencing erratic performance and IT knows that VDI performance has a 2x impact on worker productivity, then the company can make the education decision to fix whatever is ailing it first. The challenge is coming up with what that number is.

This week Nyansa announced that its Voyance Network Analytics service is now able to automatically calculate and prioritize the cumulative impact of performance problems experienced by all devices connected to the company network across a range of dimensions including applications, WiFi network, device specific issues and network services.

Voyance tracks and collects information related to each client device transaction across the IT stack, does some analytics and translates the data into business insights. Because the software is constantly analyzing data, it can reveal things that impact user experience such as poor call quality, WiFi connection issues and failed authentication attempts.

The issues are then aggregated and a total number of all client incident hours are calculated for the various types of issues experienced by all devices within the network. Within a given hour, if a service impacts worker performance then one client hour of poor performance is measured.

This information can be used to help IT understand where troubleshooting focus should be. For example, Voyance might measure that 90% of the client hours associated with a certain application occur in a single VLAN or on a particular WiFi access point. If there are several issues, the distribution of client hours provides IT with a way of understanding how to prioritize resources associated with resolving the issue. Also, Voyance provides the IT organization with a way of assigning a value to performance issues and proactively measure the return on investment on changes and upgrades.

Dealing with performance issues is far more difficult than outages as the impact is different from application to application. By capturing data across the IT stack and then correlating it to specific applications, Nyansa gives IT managers a way of quantifying the impact of problems on an application by application basis. In the digital world where applications are becoming more dynamic and distributed, Voyance could prove to be a valuable tool in ensuring IT dollars are focused in the right areas.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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