Zscaler Brings a New Approach to Experience Management

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala – eWEEK.

Zscaler’s approach to experience management relies on insights gathered through the Zero Trust Exchange, an intelligent switchboard that connects users and apps over a network.

Understanding user experience has been somewhat of a “Holy Grail” for the IT industry for decades. Many vendors have tried, yet none have managed to crack the code.

Think back to names like Micromuse, Computer Associates, Riverbed and Netscout, which all tried to take their underlying management tool and adapt it to understand what a user is experiencing. There is obviously value in it, as it can help IT manage users better.

Legacy IT Models: Based on Reactive Management

With a traditional helpdesk, about 75% of trouble tickets for application problems are created by end users, putting IT in a tough position – they are constantly reacting to things. A true understanding of user experience would help IT be proactive and even fix problems before user calls.

To achieve this, a typical enterprise deploys up to a dozen monitoring tools. This is not only costly but also inefficient.

Cloud-based information security provider Zscaler is taking a different approach. Its goal is to combine multiple monitoring tools into a broader digital experience monitoring service, called Zscaler Digital Experience (ZDX).

The subscription-based service is delivered on Zscaler’s cloud-native Zero Trust Exchange platform, so it’s completely transparent to the user.

Understanding User Experience With Insights from Security Cloud

ZDX leverages insights gathered through the Zero Trust Exchange, which acts like an intelligent switchboard to connect users, apps, and devices over any network. ZDX baselines the user experience regardless of the app and then looks for deviations.

If there’s a deviation on ZDX, it uses a scoring principle (the “ZDX score”) to rate the severity of the problem. By understanding where the problems are and why they’re happening, organizations can resolve them faster.

In November, Zscaler made several enhancements to ZDX and added comprehensive monitoring for unified communications as a service (UCaaS) apps. I recently chatted with Dhawal Sharma, vice president of product management at Zscaler, to better understand how ZDX works, the new enhancements, and how it fits into the overall Zscaler platform. Highlights of my ZKast interview, done in conjunction with eWEEK eSPEAKS, are below.

  • Zscaler wanted to build an end-to-end user experience monitoring platform that leverages point of presence (PoP) and is complementary to its other security offerings like Zscaler Private Access (ZPA), a cloud service that provides zero trust access to private apps running on the public cloud. Zscaler introduced the concept of cloud-based security running on the edge—not inside a data center—and built PoPs to steer traffic to the data center.
  • Security service edge (SSE)—a concept introduced by Gartner in 2021—secures access to the web, cloud services, and private apps. Conceptually, Zscaler has been doing SSE from day one. An organization can have robust security, but if the user experience is suffering as a result of it, the end users won’t be happy. ZDX identifies various bottlenecks and allows organizations to act quickly. It’s a cohesive framework where organizations are getting robust security and a better user experience.
  • ZDX is the fastest growing cloud service in Zscaler’s portfolio. While it’s an independent product line, it’s built on the broader Zscaler platform. Zscaler wanted to ensure that ZDX would be an integral part of its customers’ journey. Organizations buying Zscaler security services can have them bundled with ZDX, and those that already have security services can buy ZDX as an add-on.
  • Zscaler recently made UCaaS monitoring enhancements to ZDX as a result of customer demand. Organizations could monitor apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams in the past. However, the new features focus more specifically on meeting-level details, since collaboration apps are different from typical web apps and require different monitoring metrics. For instance, with UCaaS monitoring, organizations can see individual attendee meeting experience.
  • Zscaler also introduced monitoring of zero trust architectures. When security moves to zero trust, traditional monitoring tools become ineffective. Many organizations have years of legacy networking in place and don’t know how their internal traffic is being routed. Zscaler observed that private app data paths are much more complex than Internet-bound data paths. With ZDX, organizations can monitor these various paths and get faster access to private applications.
  • ZDX is a pillar service where Zscaler is making significant investments. The key use case for ZDX has been user experience monitoring. Going forward, Zscaler will expand ZDX beyond end user workflows to network paths, infrastructure, and data centers. Additionally, Zscaler has started applying machine learning (ML) models to the rich data it collects. This will allow Zscaler to build artificial intelligence for IT operations, AIOps, into ZDX.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.