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If you have any familiarity with performance monitoring in a large environment, you’ve likely heard of Gomez. In a similar fashion, if you have experience with application delivery or load balancing, you’ve likely heard of F5. While F5 helps you deliver applications as efficiently as possible, Gomez typically helps you measure and monitor them.

Like most hosted monitoring services, Gomez provides the ability to test a website from multiple locations, multiple browsers, and multiple networks. While these capabilities give a site owner a view into when and where issues occur, they don’t 100% show what users are seeing. Obviously if DNS or routing isn’t working, Gomez will see it, just like your customers would. Unfortunately though, Gomez can’t replicate every single browser, network connection, and machine from which a client might hit your site.

To solve this problem, Gomez recommends “Real-User” monitoring. In order to leverage this technology, users must insert client side JavaScript onto their web page requests. Unfortunately, if you’re using Gomez, you’re likely monitoring a fairly large site so having to integrate this JavaScript could get very complicated.

Luckily for F5 users, Gomez is a Technology Alliance Partner which makes this problem quite a bit easier to solve. Since F5s are “Strategic Points of Control” that see the client requests and application responses, it’s easy enough to leverage them for the Real-User monitoring.

Joe Pruitt wrote a series of articles on how to leverage iRules to obtain real-user monitoring without having to make application changes.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Throughout the series, Joe discusses how to link client requests to a Gomez account and allows site owners to view stats on a Page, Data Center, or Account basis. While it’s a fairly “complex” iRule, it’s an amazing example of utilizing “network scripting” to allow leveraging an amazing monitoring technology.

While a typical Gomez implementation gives you visibility into how your site is performing for their probes, real-user monitoring shows you how it’s performing for your actual customers. This is a huge win for both designers and troubleshooters. Imagine being able to see that 10% of your users are having issues with a particular page and only in a particular Data Center. Talk about expediting the troubleshooting process. Also, if you can see that your page load times are exceeding SLAs but only for mobile users, you’ve quickly identified a page that might be a candidate for mobile optimization.

Performance monitoring has obviously come a long way in the last few years. Once upon a time, it was adequate to load separate pages. Now, transactional monitoring is typically a requirement. Again, a simple Gomez implementation does allow you to monitor that your systems are handling transactions but it doesn’t tell you that your users are really completing them.

With most monitoring vendors, you pay extra to have a site tested from multiple locations. By utilizing real-user monitoring, you’ve turned every one of your visitors into a monitoring probe and are able to gather and act upon the data they’re generating for you. In my opinion, the biggest win with real-user monitoring is that you’re 100% seeing issues before your customers report them…as long as the user can get to your F5s anyways.