Network managers largely concern themselves with the operation of the wired and wireless infrastructure, but as cloud-based SAAS applications, smart devices, unified communications (UC) and Wi-Fi become more pervasive, a broader, client-based perspective is required to answer fundamental questions about end-user experiences.
User application analytics arrives
A more complete view of enterprise application behavior from the perspective of the user requires simultaneously collecting and correlating client wireless performance metrics, network service performance metrics, device/OS information and, finally, application performance metrics. The most frictionless way to accomplish this is with a combination of real-time packet analysis along with data collection from other enterprise systems, including the wireless LAN controller, as well as APIs from UC and other applications. Finally, advanced analysis including machine learning must be performed on the data in order to automatically surface insights.
New user application analytics (UAA)software technology looks to provide precisely this broad scope. UAA software runs passively within the enterprise access or campus network without the need for client software, synthetic testing, additional sensors or infrastructure hardware. Real-time application identification technology and deep packet inspection of wired packets, along with Wi-Fi metrics from wireless LAN controllers, are analyzed across the entire OSI stack for every client transaction as it occurs on the network. Applications are identified and performance metrics measured in real-time by looking at underlying protocol (e.g. HTTP, TCP, RTP, etc.) interactions and response times.
How user application analytics works
Application behavior for a given user, user group, discrete application, location or even a specific virtual wireless network (SSID) can then be determined and compared across a number of different dimensions to derive real answers to questions about the actual end-user application experience, such as:
- What is the baseline for user experience with application X?
- When the user experience of an application is poor, is it due to Wi-Fi, the device, the Internet link or the application itself?
- How does user experience vary across locations, subnets, SSIDs, RF bands, etc.
- Can users connect reliably to Wi-Fi and are link layer services being provided properly?
- If I increase the capacity of my DNS server, how many client-hours worth of SaaS user experience problems can I mitigate?
With UAA, IT staff are able to easily determine application adoption trends, traffic usage, individual and systemic client incidents and root-cause, historic trends as well as overall quality of experience for any user at any time.
Unified Communications monitoring presents one of the strongest use cases for user application analytics largely due to the prolific uptake in UC and the investments in digital transformation of multimedia business content.
For UC applications like Skype for Business, UAA hooks into vendor APIs to understand the user application experience with even greater fidelity. Call attributes such as mean opinion score (MOS), a standard telephony measure describing the actual user experience, are ingested, analyzed and correlated with other network transaction metrics.
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