Singapore's IDA ensures a proper fit of requirements between cloud providers and enterprise

In October 2014, Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) updated its Cloud Service Provider (CSP) Registry to provide potential cloud consumers real-time information on performance and availability of a CSP on top of existing static listings via the Registry.

According to the IDA, the intention behind the CSP Registry was to provide greater  transparency for the benefit of cloud adopters by making available online information about CSPs.

Singapore's IDA ensures a proper fit of requirements between cloud providers and enterprise

The near real-time enhancement came through a Memorandum of Intent between the IDA and Dynatrace (formerly Compuware) to access information on CSPs’ availability and performance. Dynatrace was to provide free use of software tools and expertise for the project.

Half a year on we talked to the two signatories from both sides – IDA’s Assistant Chief Executive Khoong Hock Yun and Dynatrace’s Regional Director, ASEAN, Koh Eng Kiong – to gain greater insight into the importance of application performance, as well as the country’s cloud ecosystem in general.

Are Singapore’s enterprises and business owners generally cloud-savvy?

Khoong (IDA): The Singapore Government believes firmly in the cloud as key to a Smart Nation, having been one of the first to adopt and embrace it via our Government cloud and the public cloud services bulk tender. The Singapore Government acknowledges that each cloud computing model provides its own level of assurance and benefits. Cloud computing is a key component of how a Smart Nation will enable itself to better collect, move and interpret data to enhance services and increase productivity.

As such, the cloud strategy for Singapore’s Government is to leverage the appropriate cloud for the appropriate need by adopting a multi-pronged approach. This includes both commercially available public cloud offerings for appropriate needs, as well as a private government cloud (G-Cloud) for whole-of-government use where security and governance requirements beyond public cloud needs are met.

Our cloud readiness has led the country to be ranked fourth by the Asia Cloud Computing Association in their 2014 Cloud Readiness Index with 74.8 points in a competitive ranking where top country Japan sits at 76.8 points.

What is the importance of monitoring and improving application performance?

The cloud brings several strengths, which assist in improving application performance and monitoring which should be highlighted. These include the cloud’s agility to scale as necessary dependent on demand, as well as the elasticity this entails. This creates immediate benefits to enterprises that need to adjust and scale on demand without the need for costly infrastructure or keeping data servers turned on. For instance, a sudden surge in transactions due to a time-limited promotion would require a very short-term increase in resources to handle the load. Cloud capabilities help to ensure this.

However, enterprises should be aware that simply hopping blindly onto the cloud will not magically cure their resource challenges. There is a necessity for enterprises to continue to monitor application performance due to further factors. These factors in turn affect customers’ use experience and therefore become an important consideration for selecting a cloud service provider (CSP).

Some of these include application performance based on variation of loads (such as the aforementioned surge in transactions); the configuration of the platform; the hosting environment; capabilities to handle differing levels of bandwidth demand; storage, memory and compute capacity and power.

Proactive application performance monitoring will enable enterprises to know the most suitable configuration and platform necessary for their needs, further ensuring a proper fit of requirements between CSP and enterprise.

What is the potential impact of poor application performance?

Customers who experience inconsistent application performance (down time, slow response or even server time outs, server blackouts, etc) of an enterprise’s product on the cloud naturally lose confidence in the enterprise, rather than the CSP. This could result in a loss of business both in the short and longer term and for government, there could be even more serious implications.

Users today are more demanding and look for instant responses and faster application performance on all their devices. Examples of problems that can lead to user frustration and low productivity include a file that takes 5-10 minutes to retrieve from a server, an application or website that is temporarily unavailable, slow to load or has elements that are not compatible with certain devices. It is important to minimize or eliminate such errors in order to maintain users’ trust and safeguard companies’ profit.

Failing to provide a service that performs to the expectations of consumers results in dissatisfaction, long-term impact on bottom lines from word-of-mouth and social media. Additionally, in mission-critical situations — especially in security, healthcare and other similar sectors — having fast responding applications could have significant impact during a crisis. This is why websites, portals and applications need to be constantly monitored in order to identify any gaps that need optimization; this in the long run leads to overall response time reductions.

What would be the ideal response time of web and mobile application, from a user perspective?

Response time requirements vary from user to user and for each application. It is an important part of the design for applications, and IT managers, developers and cloud architects should design for an optimal response time with full consideration of user experience and needs.

Consumer surveys do, however, indicate a rough estimation on consumer response time limits. Compuware’s 2013 Best of Web survey indicates the average time consumers expect for online shopping is five seconds, with banking a little higher at eight seconds.

Critically, user experience researcher Jakob Nielsen indicates that there are three things to consider when optimizing web and application performance: firstly, users must feel that the system is reacting instantaneously – A reaction time of 0.1 seconds. Secondly, one second is about the limit for user’s flow of thought to stay uninterrupted—despite the user noticing the delay. Finally, applications can usually only keep user attention for an additional 10 seconds on its dialogue. Should it take longer, users will want to switch to other tasks while waiting for the first to complete. Therefore, there should be some form of feedback indicating when the application expects to be or is done with the task.

According to a survey ‘Mobile Apps: What Consumers Really Need and Want’ conducted by Dynatrace, more than three-quarters of app users expect mobile apps to load as fast as, or faster than a mobile website. Four out of five app users expect an app to launch in three seconds or less, and the average expected loading time is two seconds.

How does Application Performance Monitoring benefit Singapore business owners and end-users?

Application Performance Management (APM) helps monitor CSPs to provide dynamic information such as system availability and response time (sometimes also referred to as “performance”). This provides near real-time statuses of these participating CSPs. Such additional information complements IDA’s existing CSP Registry, a neutral and unbiased platform to display pertinent information about CSPs to address 3 key cloud buyers’ concerns: Security, Availability and Performance. The enhancement now enables users to zoom in on a specific CSP, or select multiple CSPs, to compare important indicators such as availability and performance.  This is key as static information only captures a snapshot in a point of time, while actual service levels may vary from what has been declared in a static setting.

With dynamic monitoring, potential cloud customers are better equipped to decide on their Availability needs and Performance requirements so as to match them better with CSP offerings. For CSPs, this openness will help them to engender trust through transparency to potential customers (business owners) by allowing them to put their various cloud service offerings in terms of Availability and Performance (against the pricing info) on display on a common, neutral and unbiased platform for comparison.

Could you talk a little about the background of the IDA-Dynatrace partnership?

When IDA was seeking to enhance its CSP Registry with dynamic information, it considered the needs of potential cloud users and their preferences. Potential cloud users have indicated that some of their most common challenges in moving to the cloud include comparing performance and downtime between CSPs. As such, IDA hoped to provide an unbiased source of such information via the CSP Registry. The enhanced service makes it easier for potential cloud consumers to compare their pertinent requirements quickly and easily using this trusted source.

Dynatrace’s suite of solutions on the APM platform has been in use by IDA after it was part of the public cloud services bulk tender. It also has monitoring capabilities from more than 150,000 global locations—a boon both for CSPs looking to know about their response time of cloud services accessed from beyond Singapore, as well as for potential consumers considering the CSPs being monitored.

What are the potential results and future possibilities for the Singapore market?

As an independent third party tool, Dynatrace will provide gap-free data capture that can be easily viewed through a real-time user visibility dashboard to companies. This gives them a holistic view of their CSP’s performance and availability, which in turn enables these businesses to deliver the best user experience to users.

Giving companies the tools to better understand and manage their cloud use will also enhance productivity. With this tool, companies will be able to identify the root cause of application failure quicker and minimize troubleshooting time, allowing businesses to better spend their resources on innovating or enhancing their services.

Application performance benchmark data of Singapore’s government and industry portals

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