First, what is this all about? What is Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), doing with Easynet and Ipanema?
Just recently, we announced a contract between ourselves, Easynet Global Services and Ipanema Technologies. This three-year contract will allow us to use a suite of new IT services including Smart Application Assurance, an application-aware networking and security services provided by Easynet.
Why is technology important to a theatre group?
Our network facilitates communication between and integration of 39 theatres across the UK, along with additional sites in New York. We deliver applications to various offices, venues and contact centres. We need to protect the end-users experience and business critical application performance in a safe and secure environment.
This is where the technology comes in. Easynet's Smart Application Assurance managed service based on Ipanema's technology provides strong visibility and control of application performance helping us to guarantee end-users can work productively. Managed security services help protect the infrastructure, wrapping around our network.
So explain more about Smart Application Assurance. Why does it matter? And how will it work?
In brief, with Smart Application Assurance we have real-time visibility of application performance and usage. Based on the insights this monitoring provides we can then dynamically protect business applications by prioritising them above our less critical or time sensitive applications. When our network experiences periods of high demand or say a user is downloading a large file, we can be sure our critical systems are allocated the network resources they need.
In the same way that the number of cars on a given road is rarely constant, so the amount of traffic from applications varies as it moves along our network. This means traffic levels grow or subside based on user demand. In turn, this can result in application performance problems, especially business-critical traffic during high demand.
So, it's important that we can manage our traffic and that our application performance is guaranteed. Easynet and Ipanema are providing us with a proactive incident management Service Level Agreement (SLA) for application performance based on the Smart application Assurance service. If the performance of any critical application drops below a certain threshold, Easynet will notify us and analyse the root cause using Ipanema's technology.
Why do you specifically need to monitor apps and how they use your network?
In particular our retail, e-commerce and ticketing applications are the lifeblood of our organisation and it is fundamental they perform consistently. In order to manage existing business applications and support the deployment of new applications, we need a complete picture of application performance across our entire network. The complete picture is important because it enables us to see what is happening now but also to anticipate the impact of any new IT initiatives we might wish to pursue such as adopting more SAAS, allowing BYOD or pursuing loyalty initiatives. Having a detailed and holistic view of how specific applications are using our network means we can forward plan and protect those that are of the greatest value to the business such as our ticketing and retail apps which support our revenue generation.
Are there any types of applications that can have an especially large impact on network resources?
Absolutely. Resource-heavy collaboration applications such as Unified Communications send large volumes of data bi-directionally across the network and increasingly directly between branch offices, which can challenge the network. We use a lot of this type of application as they offer great productivity benefits for an organisation like ours. Such apps can perform poorly if left unmanaged, consuming large amounts of network resources to the detriment of other key applications. This is why tracking application performance is important – it helps to pro-actively protect our UC suite so we get the most from the application but also ensures issues won't happen with other important applications such as CRM and ERP systems due to the heavy data traffic caused by UC.
And finally, how will ATG use the application performance guarantee service in the future?
We have plans to expand into the US and break into new territories including Asia Pacific. As we grow, we will need to make sure our network remains agile, efficient and secure to guarantee end-users can work productively wherever they are based and that our IT is aligned to the needs of our business. We have been working successfully with Easynet for many years and are excited to bring in their application management expertise to support this global growth.
Image: Flickr (cayusa, Bahman Farzad)