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What digital experience monitoring means for network teams

Digital experience monitoring integrates several monitoring tools to provide a comprehensive view into the performance of endpoints, applications and the network.

Digital experience monitoring provides network and application teams new insights into application and network performance. Gartner identified and defined digital experience monitoring, or DEM, in September 2019. The analyst firm provided the following definition:

Digital experience monitoring (DEM) is a performance analysis discipline that supports the optimization of the operational experience and behavior of a digital agent, human or machine, with the application and service portfolio of enterprises.

The phrase "digital agent, human or machine" could be confusing until you consider the prevalence of IoT endpoints, sensors and control systems. This is in addition to traditional human endpoints, which include customers and employees.

Gartner's definition of DEM is a combination of technologies that network managers may already use in their networks:

  • real user monitoring (RUM) and endpoint monitoring (EPM);
  • synthetic transaction monitoring (STM);
  • application performance monitoring (APM); and
  • network performance monitoring and diagnostics (NPMD).
You can finally detect application performance problems and determine if it is an application problem or a network problem.

The combination results in a comprehensive application and network monitoring and diagnostic tool that provides greater insight into why applications don't perform well. You can finally detect application performance problems and determine if it is an application problem or a network problem. This means that application and network teams can avoid the typical finger-pointing that so often occurs. And, because the monitoring and analysis are ongoing, you can be more proactive about finding and fixing other problems that normally sap your productivity.

Why is digital experience monitoring important?

You might wonder why DEM is needed if you already have tools that provide some of the functions listed above. It's because disparate tools rarely correlate data with other tools, which an integrated system provides.

Traditional network monitoring technologies tend to focus on the network's elements: routers, switches, firewalls and network links. Incorporating RUM/EPM and APM with STM and NPMD provides a much more powerful system. Traditional network monitoring systems based on Simple Network Management Protocol, ping, traceroute and Response Time Reporter don't provide the same level of visibility.

DEM also provides visibility into problems with your supporting infrastructure, like Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and DNS. It can even identify problems with infrastructure that you don't own or control, like SaaS tools or data flow problems over an internet-based VPN. It does this with the combination of EPM, synthetic transactions that perform active testing even when users aren't active, and APM.

You will need to deploy software-based agents in your endpoints or virtual or physical probes for IoT in order to provide the necessary test points. Fortunately, these modern systems are virtually self-maintaining with periodic updates to improve functionality.

Cloud, IoT, remote work propel DEM adoption

Several key factors are driving the industry's acceptance of DEM. These factors are influenced by the relatively new shift in IT systems to support remote workers, the addition of IoT sensors and controllers, and the migration to cloud- and SaaS-based applications.

The key factors propelling the acceptance of DEM include the following:

  • DEM works with a variety of human and digital agents, including customers, employees and IoT.
  • Visibility into an endpoint's environment, such as Wi-Fi, CPU, memory and disk, is critical. (EPM)
  • You need to know how the application is performing on the endpoints to identify which systems are experiencing problems and to gather data on influencing factors. (APM and RUM)
  • Internet VPNs and cloud-based systems, including SaaS, are infrastructure you don't own or control. Yet, you need to pinpoint problems within that infrastructure. (APM, STM, NPMD)
  • Synthetic monitoring and testing enable you to verify the functionality of applications and the supporting network infrastructure at any time, such as after changes or outside normal work hours. (STM)

Digital experience monitoring companies and tools

Let's end with a look at some products. Gartner's Market Guide for Digital Experience Monitoring is likely your first stop when looking at DEM market size and products. The new category has prompted more vendors to claim that their products are in the space, so be careful in your analysis.

As always, collect your requirements, and do a proof-of-concept evaluation with final acceptance criteria. At NetCraftsmen, we have successfully used several of the products with our customers. These tools include the following:

  • AppNeta. AppNeta makes physical and virtual network probes that identify changes to network paths, perform STM, identify network traffic flows and capture raw packet data for detailed analysis. The data is sent to a cloud instance for analysis and display. We've used them on several occasions to identify network and application problems. AppNeta tools can determine a path's capacity and utilization without saturating the path with a throughput test.
  • Catchpoint. We've used Catchpoint with customers to identify internet routing problems and validate work-from-home Wi-Fi performance. Endpoint agents collect application performance statistics and endpoint operational parameters about the endpoint and its Wi-Fi. The STM function can be run from virtual nodes within your infrastructure or from any of several hundred testing locations around the world.
  • Lakeside. Lakeside's white papers identify the need for evaluating application performance after an application or network change is deployed. STM validates that the change is functioning as desired as part of the change deployment process. The product continuously collects endpoint and application statistics. So, when a problem is identified, you don't have to question the user about what was happening up to the time of the problem. All the necessary data has been collected.
  • NetBeez. NetBeez is similar to AppNeta in its functionality and deployment model, using both virtual instances and Raspberry Pi physical nodes. NetCraftsmen uses this product with our monitoring service.

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