Managing Complex Application Environments:


The Value of Rackspace® Critical Application Services
Sponsored by CITO Research

Executive Summary

As organizations move more and more information, applications, and interactions online to engage their customers, the performance of external websites and internal mission critical applications has never been more important. Innovative cloud technologies, social networking, ubiquitous online access, and creative digital marketing campaigns are all driving unprecedented demand on today's IT infrastructure. Enterprises can't afford performance degradation or downtime, both of which negatively impact a company's revenue and brand. In the unforgiving world of modern day business, as soon as performance lags, customers begin to lose attention; organizations risk loss of customers, reputation, and money.

Despite the critical need for high performance and uptime guarantee, in practical terms, supporting a modern application infrastructure and cloud environment internally on a 24/7/365 basis is difficult and expensive, both in terms of expertise and software licensing. A recent offering from Rackspace, Rackspace Critical Application Services, provides a cost-effective solution for providing uptime and performance that makes good business sense.

Rackspace Critical Application Services offers:

  • A dedicated, experienced team of webscale
  • Proactive application/infrastructure performance monitoring
  • A best practices approach to optimizing performance and uptime
  • Backed with a 100% production platform uptime guarantee engineers

With Rackspace Critical Application Services, business leaders can engage their customers and deliver results, freeing up IT teams to deliver agility and innovation to service more customers.

CITO Research wrote this white paper to inform executives on how a service approach for maintaining mission critical applications allows companies to focus on their core business and not worry about their underlying technology.

Introduction

In the era of ubiquitous Internet access, end-users have higher expectations for immediate response from websites and internal applications. System failure is not an option for global brands, online retailers, and SaaS providers relying on the latest technology for engaging customers online. While system outages are devastating events, application performance is critical. Slow application performance can affect corporate revenues by up to 9%, according to the Aberdeen Group.1 Conversely, speeding up a website’s load time by only 3 seconds could boost revenue by 24.8%.2 The pressure from increased user demand, converging technologies, and competitors operating at “Internet speed” is only expected to grow:

  • Online retailers braced for a 2012 holiday shop- ping season with sales rates up 12% over 2011.3
  • The software-as-a-service (SaaS) market was expected to reach $14.5 billion in revenue in 2012, according to Gartner Group. SaaS and cloud-based services are expected to make up 16% of enterprise application spending in 2015, up from 11% in 2010.4
  • Salesforce App Exchange features over 220,000 applications.5

Spending on traditional enterprise applications, which have historically comprised a majority of IT budgets, continues to rise, up 4.5% in 2012.6

Whether you are an online retailer, creating the next killer SaaS application, or developing cloud-based internal applications to run your business, organizations have to prepare for failures and triaging performance issues. A Dunn & Bradstreet report determined that 59% of Fortune 500 companies experience a minimum of 1.6 hours of downtime per week. If the average Fortune 500 company had 10,000 employees, paid an average of $56 per hour including benefits, the labor cost of that downtime would be $896,000 per week, or $46 million per year.7 The statistics across the industry are staggering and additional research helps quantify the cost of outages and poor application performance:

  • Manual configuration errors cost up to $72,000 per hour in web application downtime.8
  • Data center downtime costs an average of $5,600 per minute.9
  • In the UK, IT downtime costs businesses more than $3.2 billion annually.10
  • Reservation management company Navitaire had to compensate Australia’s Virgin Blue airlines about $20 million after its customer service application collapsed, resulting in 130 canceled flights and delays for 60,000 passengers.11
  • IT downtime costs $26.5 billion annually in lost revenue in North America and Europe combined.12

Such unacceptably high costs and revenue losses underscore the importance of uptime and optimized performance. Business leaders should be asking themselves:

  • What is the cost of downtime or poor application performance to my business in dollars, reputation, and customer satisfaction?
  • Can our IT department or service provider guarantee 100% production platform uptime?

When “99.999” Is Not Enough

Modern application and infrastructure environments are complicated. High performance is now harder to achieve because online websites and internal applications are more complex than ever. Today, the average web page is made up of about 87 individual pieces of functionality.13  It would be difficult enough if those pieces all came from one source, but instead, elements come from various ad networks, social media, and other sites, even though the page is presented under the customer’s brand.

Similarly, client/server applications cannot simply be redeployed via new cloud technologies; they must be re-architected from the ground up to take advantage of the distributed nature and scalability of the cloud platform. Only then can an application scale to meet the potential demand that may occur. This complexity contributes to the performance issues that customers and users may experience. CITO Research has found that although performance and uptime are critical to the business, enterprises are largely unprepared to support application performance expectations, particularly as the cloud, social media, and mobile applications add new layers of complexity.

Maintaining a Modern Application Environment

Adding to this is the complexity of maintaining a modern website and application environment. IT professionals spend a majority of their time maintaining the status quo. Typical duties include building servers and laptop images, installing software and hardware updates and patches, testing and deploying configurations into the organization, and finally, providing support.

Physically staffing an internal, dedicated, 24/7/365 application environment is challenging given the mantra of "doing more with less." Simply maintaining the status quo is not a strategy for success when the business seeks to outperform the previous quarter or year.

Experienced, Dedicated IT Staff Are Essential for Success

Many IT departments lack the technology and resources to maintain performance. According to the results of an IDG Research Services poll, 31% of organizations lack sufficient application monitoring and management capabilities.

There’s a critical need for experienced staff to keep applications—and the infrastructure running them—humming around the clock and around the world. Through 2015, 80% of outages impacting mission-critical services will be caused by people and process issues—not by the core technology itself failing—and more than 50% of those people/process issues will be related to change/configuration/release integration and hand-offs.14

The structure of corporate IT departments makes a coordinated incident response difficult. Most IT departments are divided into specialties that represent a given area of technology expertise-here a network administrator, there a storage expert-and each specialty has a tool optimized for his individual area. This means the response to an outage or failure is often fragmented. In the event of an application failure, a lack of coordinated effort and visibility into the entire transaction process can cost valuable hours of recovery time. It's one thing to say, "Our servers have 99% reliability" and "Our network is 95% reliable"- but when applications are comprised of dozens of components, who vouches for the user experience, or the end-to-end operation in aggregate?

Until recently, there were very few options for the average enterprise that sought to provide 24/7/365 support for production environments both onsite and cloud-based. Such an effort can easily cost $500,000 up front, including labor.

Industry data shows that poor performance and application downtime will impact the business; it's only a matter of time. Business leaders have a choice: mitigate the risk by onboarding a service offered by an experienced provider or pay high consulting and resolution fees after an outage.

Critical Application Services: A Cost-Effective Alternative

Recognizing their clients’ need to support performance and uptime on high-end production environments, Rackspace teamed with CA Technologies to offer Critical Application Services. Rackspace already stakes its reputation on Fanatical Support®—the total devotion of employees to ensuring an excellent customer experience, with dedicated teams maintaining deep knowledge of their customers’ environments. Rackspace has built its entire organization around customer support. Its most comprehensive service offering, Rackspace Critical Application Services, provides a 100% production platform uptime guarantee, a dedicated team of web-scale engineers with deep knowledge and experience in the entire stack through the application layer, and 360-degree visibility into applications and infrastructure.

Three Pillars of Service

As Rackspace deploys high-end, enterprise-grade technology across a wide user base and backs it up with certified, trained, and experienced staff, the barrier to entry for uptime guarantee and performance of critical applications is significantly reduced, particularly as businesses launch new websites or move the critical applications into the cloud.

The service level agreement for Rackspace Critical Application Services is based on three pillars:

  • 100% production platform uptime guarantee. Rackspace guarantees the availability of approved application environments, from the application tier to production hardware, with a 5-minute notification response.
  • Webscale engineers. Rackspace brings to bear the deep experience of the engineers on the Rackspace Critical Application Services team, with years of experience managing the world’s most demanding applications and websites. Each customer is supported by a dedicated team of IT systems engineers. Their primary focus is not to fix problems that have already occurred, but rather to help prevent issues from occurring to begin with.
  • Enhanced visibility. The use of CA Technologies’ monitoring tools, combined with Rackspace’s data center and engineering experience, means enterprises can get a 360-degree view of their entire application and infrastructure environment, from the user interface to the switches and routers underneath it all.

The technology Rackspace is using is also a key differentiator. Very few enterprises have CA Technologies' ability to offer both network-aware application management and application-aware network management-the complete picture of quality of service and experience. Deployed in ten of the largest banks in the US, CA Technologies is known for its patented, model-based root cause analysis, which contains more than 10,000 predefined issue models. Both of these vendors are Gartner Magic Quadrant leaders.

Let Internal IT Focus on Top-Line Business Initiatives

Rackspace works with your internal IT team, effectively complementing their efforts. The Rackspace team devotes itself to learning about and managing critical application infrastructure and providing high-availability hosting and monitoring services. The team is constantly learning about and deploying patches, upgrades, and solutions as well as installing the latest platform-enhancing technologies. Their singular devotion to application performance and uptime means internal IT teams can be relieved of routine activities such as maintaining infrastructure to support applications, freeing IT staff to focus on high value projects for your particular business.

At many companies, IT staff spend 80% of their time and budget on simply maintaining the status quo and only 20% working on developing solutions that add value to the bottom line.15 Using Critical Application Services inverts this scenario—when IT staff spend 80% of their time working on projects that advance business value, that’s 80% of an IT investment supporting top-line business initiatives.

Rackspace's experience has developed exponentially over the company's brief history. They have been servicing customers since 1998 and have developed best practices for efficiently managing multiple environments for over 200,000 customers. The average IT department has experience with their own environment and perhaps a few others. Rackspace's Critical Application Services team complements internal IT teams, letting customers leverage the combination of support, expertise, and in-depth visibility to maintain critical applications.

Given that digital campaigns, SaaS, and the cloud are relatively new territory for many customers, an additional level of assurance comes from Rackspace Critical Application Services' ability to monitor the network for potential bottlenecks and other issues and to proactively notify the customer up to several weeks in advance of potential issues. The teams can often collaborate with customers to develop a solution before a problem emerges.

Improve the TCO of Supporting High-Performance Apps

Before the Rackspace Critical Application Services is set up, the support team works with enterprise IT staff and the business user base to establish uptime goals, system profiles, and support needs. This includes identifying the most critical applications, infrastructure components, monitoring criteria, and resolution and escalation paths. All of these criteria are documented and entered in advance of deployment in an IT runbook.

Rackspace Critical Application Services is available for an affordable monthly cost, which is booked as an operating expense versus a capital expense, and can be implemented in a matter of weeks, versus an in-house approach that could cost upwards of $500,000, take six months or longer to implement, and potentially has more risk associated with it. For those customers who will be duplicating servers for the first time, costs may be somewhat higher, but the appeal of 100% uptime and high performance will help determine whether that investment is worthwhile. In short, Rackspace hosted offering provides 100% production platform uptime, webscale engineering expertise, and end-to-end visibility for less than the cost of one full-time engineer.

Conclusion

In the brave new world of online applications, business users and consumers expect instant gratification. If applications appear sluggish, the business suffers. Online retailers want to limit revenue impact from slow response times. Software-as-a-Service vendors want to maintain customer satisfaction. Digital campaigns are often time-critical and impact the brand. Custom applications can't "fall down" under traffic spikes. All of these are critical applications, in need of a high level of service that many companies struggle to provide cost-effectively.

Rackspace and CA Technologies have teamed up to deliver a solution that offers 100% production platform and network uptime guarantees, dedicated webscale engineering staff, and comprehensive, end-to-end visibility into the entire application and infrastructure stack. By combining a high level of customer support and expertise with best-in-class technology that is normally out of reach for all but the largest enterprises, Rackspace has amortized the cost of this critical service, allowing business leaders to focus on their customers and not worrying about their infrastructure.

Endnotes

1 “Application Performance Management: Getting IT on the C-Level’s Agenda,” March 31, 2009, Aberdeen Group, http://www.aberdeen.com/Aberdeen-Library/5807/RA-application-performance-management.aspx
2 “Just One Second Delay In Page-Load Can Cause 7% Loss In Customer Conversions,” Tag Management Blog, March 14, 2012, http://blog.tagman.com/2012/03/just-one-second-delay-in-page-load-can-cause-7-loss-in-customer-conversions/.
3 “NRF, Shop.org Expect Solid Growth This Holiday Season,” National Retail Federation, October 2, 2012, http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=1433#online.
4 “Gartner Says Worldwide Software-as-a-Service Revenue to Reach $14.5 Billion in 2012,” Gartner Newsroom, March 27, 2012, http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1963815.
5 “The Rise of the Social Customer,” Econsultancy.com, February 2, 2012, http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/8867-the-rise-of-the-social-customer.
6 “Gartner Says Worldwide Spending on Enterprise Application Software to Increase 4.5 Percent in 2012,” Gartner Newsroom, June 20, 2012, http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2055215.
7 Alan Arnold, “Assessing the Financial Impact of Downtime,” Business Computing World, April 20, 2010, http://www.businesscomputingworld.co.uk/assessing-the-financial-impact-of-downtime/.
8 “How Much Will You Spend on Application Downtime This Year,” Network World, August 2, 2009, http://www. networkworld.com/newsletters/nsm/2009/080309nsm1.html
9 Denise Dubie, “How Much Will You Spend on Application Downtime This Year,” Network World, August 2, 2009, http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/nsm/2009/080309nsm1.html.
10 “IT downtime costs UK £2bn a year, study finds,” ComputerWeekly.com, September 13, 2010, http://www.computerweekly.com/news/1280093770/IT-downtime-costs-UK-2bn-a-year-study-finds.
11 Teresa Ooi, “Navitaire booking glitch earns Virgin $20m in compo,” The Australian Business Journal, April 5, 2011, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/navitaire-booking-glitch-earns-virgin-20m-in-compo/story-e6frg- 8zx-1226033624246.
12 Chandler Harris, “IT Downtime Costs $26.5 Billion In Lost Revenue,” InformationWeek, May 24, 2011, http://www.informationweek.com/storage/disaster-recovery/it-downtime-costs-265-billion-in-lost-re/229625441.
13 “Average Web Page Size Triples Since 2008,” WebSiteOptimization.com, http://www.websiteoptimization.com/speed/tweak/average-web-page/.
14 Ronni J. Colville and George Spafford, “Configuration Management for Virtual and Cloud Infrastructures,” Gartner, http://www.rbiassets.com/getfile.ashx/42112626510.
15 “Gartner Says Eight of Ten Dollars Enterprises Spend on IT is ‘Dead Money’,” Gartner Newsroom, October 9, 2006, http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/497088.



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