VMworld 2021: Automation, Elastic Edge, And The Increasing Importance Of User Experience

Data & Analysis

During this year's VMworld, we announced that our solution Catchpoint Digital Experience Monitoring is now also available for purchase on VMware Marketplace. It is easier than ever for our customers to access, deploy, and start using Catchpoint solutions to realize and achieve their business goals.  

To learn more, replay the VMworld panel session: The Rise of B2B Marketplaces and the Role of VMware Marketplace, where I spoke about VMware Marketplace and how enterprise marketplaces in general improve the user experience by increasing discoverability and trust through certified, validated solutions - while reducing complexity in the deployment of solutions.

In this blog, I'm going to touch on some of the dominant themes I drew out from this year's VMworld and how Catchpoint plays into them, which include:

  • The potential of automation for digital transformation.
  • The state of play for elastic edge.
  • An increased prioritization of user experience.  

Let's dig into those topics a little further.

Automation Is Modernizing Networks

One session I found particularly valuable was “Automation Is Modernizing Networks,” presented by Tom Gillis, Business Group leader, NABSG, VMware. Tom stressed the needs of modern enterprise for a modern network that prioritizes business intent, simplifies operations, enables security, and reduces IT overhead.  

To describe how automation is modernizing networks, he cited the example of a mobile healthcare application being completed by a team of developers in Prague at 2:30 AM. The power of automation with VMware Cloud and Tanzu means the app can be immediately launched to multiple data centers around the world, while still maintaining a consistent application, compute, storage, network, and security architecture – independent of the underlying infrastructure.  

If you look back in time, even to just a couple of years ago, this vendor-agnostic multi-cloud deployment wouldn’t have been possible without a long and painful process. It would have meant identifying the markets where you wanted to build infrastructure, selecting the cloud vendor, ordering compute and software, standing it up, and, finally, testing it. Even though the infrastructure was virtualized, it might as well not have been, since the actual workflow was not significantly different. Add to that the fact that there was also the burden of cloud vendor lock-in, and you can see why it was a “no go.”  

Today, you can simply develop the application to an open-source platform standard. Then you can identify the scale, security, and digital experience policies. Finally, select the markets to serve and the cost models that should be observed. As you’ll see through the examples from VMworld provided below, this new vendor-agnostic multi-cloud automation is driven by business intent.

How Do We Define Intent?

I mentioned “business intent” above, and it’s a phrase that’s widely used in the industry today. However, what exactly does it mean? The answer to that question was another big talking point at this year’s VMworld.

First of all, business intent relates to business (which makes sense, as it’s included in the phrase). It’s not about a network or application person saying, “I want security on this website.” It needs to be broader than that, and tied to value that can improve the business.

Let’s try taking that previous statement and adding some real intent to it. Using that lens, you could say the following, “I need my online and broadcast subscribers to have a user experience of this level so they can securely enjoy watching a specific football game in a specific market. Additionally, I need to scale the application to consumers and employees in these specific markets. This needs to happen automatically to provide a certain user experience.” In this statement, you can see that intent is driven by business needs.

elastic edge discussed at VMworld 2021
The elastic edge, a dominant theme at this year's VMworld

A Change In How We View Elastic Scalability

Switching gears to a different but related subject, another theme that emerged at VMworld was based around  automation in relation to elastic edge carrier networks.  How do we make everything elastic, from the application and how it scales across the infrastructure to serve more users? At the same time, how do we ensure security is tied into every single aspect of the application and infrastructure as it scales?

It’s fascinating to note the change in the way in which we're looking at elastic scalability these days. Previously when we talked about elastic, the focus was on making sure that the application worked. Now, what we’re saying is that the infrastructure needs to not only scale, but it also needs to scale to present a particular user experience based on the identified business intent.  

In other words, today, we look at it entirely from the end user perspective – from the outside in.

How Does Catchpoint Factor In?

Top of mind for me as I attended VMworld, was how does the growing use of automation in networking and multi-access edge compute impact what we do at Catchpoint?  

It’s exciting to see the central role observability is set to play in enabling business and IT teams to validate the performance at the elastic edge throughout the entire service lifecycle. Indeed, we have just added 5G mobile edge nodes to our global observability network (making us the only DEM provider to do so) - what will be the beginning of a separate edge compute node network.

User experience in relation to automation and the elastic edge is:

  • Defined during the Plan phase.
  • Tested during the Build phase (thereby removing risk).
  • Of great value in the Operate phase (to ensure customer success).
  • Feeds into the Optimize phase (to continuously improve delivery of the service).  

In reality, incorporating business intent removes these discrete phases altogether, leaving us with BizOps: a way of defining the service based on the desired outcomes. In other words, the path to success includes starting with the end in mind.  

For example, if you know that you have a streaming video application where you’re showing the Dallas vs. Pittsburgh game, then you know you’ll need to host your content across Texas and Pennsylvania (since proximity drives user experience). You also know you will need high performance CDN video content. That's something that Catchpoint can test and validate ahead of the game starting, which is ultimately the most effective way to serve the desired markets with the best user experience.  

We also play a key role in the planning phase. For instance, with Catchpoint, you can start to look at what might happen to the Pittsburgh Steeler fans that are in Omaha, Nebraska. If all of your content is hosted in those two markets, maybe it’s worth selecting Kansas City, Missouri as a hosting location, since you know it’s a central location. At the same time, you might want to know whether this is the best location to serve the video content from for these specific markets.  

Catchpoint provides you with the necessary proactive testing and high-fidelity data for the markets in question to identify the best user experience. This means you’re no longer testing just the atomized network, but rather the entire service delivery chain, including the multi-access edge compute infrastructure as delivered by real carriers.
Catchpoint global observability network
Catchpoint's global observability network is the largest in the industry

Proactive Testing In New Markets

Going back to the example of the mobile healthcare app, let’s imagine they initially identify North America and Continental Europe as major markets. Using Catchpoint’s proactive testing, they identify San Francisco and Frankfurt as the best locations to serve their expected customer base.  

The app is deployed. Based on the business intent as supported by continuous monitoring, the infrastructure automatically scales to meet market demands, while aligning costs to an excellent user experience.  

Suddenly, they realize there’s a big segment of the market that is in South Africa and Australia, where they don’t have existing infrastructure. The user experience is suffering in these markets and doesn’t meet the business’ KPIs.  

No problem! With Catchpoint’s proactive testing, the best infrastructure is identified based on the predetermined markets. Next, through VMware Cloud and Tanzu, the application (including all its security policies) is deployed on top of the hyper-scaled infrastructure – whether AWS, Azure, or Google – to best serve the digital experience needs of the customers in those markets.    

By proactively testing ahead of time with Catchpoint’s active observers (the largest and most comprehensive observability network in the world), you will know – in advance of your launch – precisely the user experience for geographically dispersed users. This allows you to define expectations for your customers’ digital experience through business intent. This type of outside-in continuous visibility is essential so when the application automatically scales based on a specified trigger, you can rest assured that your business intent will be realized.

Catchpoint is integrated into the entire workflow, from the CI/CD development pipeline to elastic scaling to launching new markets to ensure business outcomes. We deliver continuous proactive and real-time monitoring of the infrastructure that supports your critical applications. What’s more, through the tight integration with the VMware Cloud and Tanzu ecosystem, you can be certain that an excellent user experience is at the core of the service delivery.  

The Centrality Of User Experience

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from VMworld this year was this: user experience is central to the theme of all intent-based automation capabilities and elastic scaling. This is particularly exciting given the new direction Catchpoint is headed towards in our brand and messaging. Expect an update early in the new year!

To learn more about the VMware and Catchpoint partnership, watch the VMworld session The Rise of B2B Marketplaces and the Role of VMware Marketplace.

Published on
Oct 21, 2021
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Chief Strategy Officer