7 Common Network Latency Culprits

If you can quickly identify and remediate these problems, applications are far more likely to operate as intended.

Latency is the time delay experienced between when an action is performed and when it is completed. When looking at enterprise devices that communicate over a data network, latency can be caused by any number of factors that may or may not be network-related. Yet, no matter how latency forms, the result is the same. Application performance is either degraded or unusable. Modern applications and architectures – including the cloud -- are becoming increasingly sensitive to latency. This is due to apps requiring real-time communication between a client and server. Thus, any slowdown or disruption in service is going to be abundantly clear to end-users. That's why it's so important to be able to troubleshoot and identify the most common network latency culprits quickly.

There are plenty of non-network related causes of application latency. For example, a misconfigured or faulty DNS server can severely degrade application performance. While not a true network latency issue, it certainly looks like one. Another common problem that's non-network related would be a backend database that's poorly optimized or over-utilized. This again will look and feel as though there is something wrong with the network when in reality it's a completely different part of the overall enterprise architecture. Lastly, latency can seem as though it’s the fault of the network, yet it ends up being that the end-user device is low on memory or CPU cycles to complete application instructions in a reasonable timeframe.

That said, our list of seven common network latency culprits are focused squarely on the network components that move data from point A to point B. This includes physical cabling and any network components between the source and destination IP address. We're talking routers, switches, and Wi-Fi access points, as well as other network devices that sit in-line with the network including application load balancers and security devices such as firewalls and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS). Really, anything that a typical network administrator would be responsible for making sure that data was flowing properly through these devices. And it's here where seven common latency offenders make a regular appearance. If you can quickly identify and remediate these, applications are far more likely to operate as intended.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich, President, West Gate Networks

President, West Gate Networks

As a highly experienced network architect and trusted IT consultant with worldwide contacts, particularly in the United States and Southeast Asia, Andrew Froehlich has nearly two decades of experience and possesses multiple industry certifications in the field of enterprise networking. Froehlich has participated in the design and maintenance of networks for State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, Chicago-area schools and the University of Chicago Medical Center. He is the founder and president of Loveland, Colo.-based West Gate Networks, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and data center build outs. The author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex, he is a regular contributor to multiple enterprise IT related websites and trade journals with insights into rapidly changing developments in the IT industry.

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