Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group


In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights series video, Matt Izzo, executive vice president for Catchpoint, explains why digital experience depends on gaining observability all the way out to the endpoint.



Mike Vizard: Hey folks, welcome to the latest Digital CxO Leadership videocast. I’m your host, Mike Vizard. Today we have Matt Izzo, who’s executive vice president of product for Catchpoint. We’ll be talking about all things related to digital experiences. Matt, welcome to the show.

Matt Izzo: Thank you for having me.

Mike Vizard: How do we need to think about digital experiences these days? I mean, IT organizations have been monitoring things forever. And of course there’s a buzzword floating around called observability. But how should C-level execs be thinking about how they engage with end customers these days if everything is quote unquote a digital experience?

Matt Izzo: Sure. It’s a great question, because things have changed over the years. Today, one of the biggest problems that we see is that the companies that provide some sort of digital service to their end customers, they don’t own as much as they used to. Right? The data centers are outsourced. They’re in the cloud. They’re multi-cloud networks. You don’t have a whole lot of visibility into what’s happening over the network.

So, when we look at an end to end visibility of the user experience, and really that’s what matters, right? It’s that end user experience. When we look at what that is, we’re looking at what’s going on between the in line with delivery of service to the end user. So that includes a lot of stuff that’s in the internet that people don’t have access to. The services are now in the cloud, or multiple clouds.

But people aren’t in the cloud. They’re at home. They’re on the phone. They’re wherever they are, accessing those services in the work, in the office. They can be people. They can be robots in a manufacturing factory. They’re getting those services from you know, in a real location, from a real Internet provider of one sort or another. And that’s making use of a lot of plumbing in the Internet, whether it’s just the network itself, the conveyance of data.

Routing, CDNs, content delivery networks, DNS and other services. All of the services that make up the internet, which are pretty invisible to most people. That’s where we look to see where the problems might be. Because the applications themselves, the companies that provide them, they can look at whether those apps work. But what you don’t have control over is everything in between.

Mike Vizard: Do you think we appreciate how different those experiences can be? Because I think there’s an assumption that somehow or other the Internet is magically the same everywhere. But I think if you’re in Green Bay, chances are that experience may not be quite the same as it is in say Miami or New York or L.A.

Matt Izzo: Right. If you’re in any of those cities, and let’s say we’re in those cities and we go to a travel site that we all know and love and look for travel. Or we go to buy sneakers or search for a desk. We’re not hitting the same servers, most likely. We’re not going over the same network. We may not be reaching, be served the same content from the same CDN providers.

We’re probably not using the same DNS provider. All of those hidden plumbing elements of the Internet, those things are all different. So what happens is, you know, we often talk about outages. Some service is down, or the Internet broke, right? Really what happens is it’s a lot of highly localization of problems. And it’s not just you know, we just talked about some cities that are in the U.S.

But companies are international, so you can buy a desk from the same company that, or a pair of sneakers or what have you, from all over the world. And certainly the Internet service, or the set of services that deliver that end user experience, they’re going to be different everywhere.

Mike Vizard: Do you think that business executives appreciate that? I mean, I’m sure IT folks know exactly what you’re talking about. But I sometimes wonder, business people think somehow it all digitally magically happens, and they don’t understand the level of investment that might be required to deliver those experiences.

Matt Izzo: I’m sure that’s true. And you know, not everybody has to know the plumbing, how the sausage is made and things like that. But what they should be aware of, and probably are aware of, is that if revenue goes down on a certain product line or at a certain part of the country, or in a certain part of the world, they want to know why. Why is no one buying our product in this part of the country anymore? What’s going on?

And if they know that, they may not need to know anything about the underlying capabilities or technologies that make up the Internet itself. But they do need to know that there’s an investment just because things may be outsourced to cloud providers, SAS applications, they still need, they may not need to have built and run those themselves anymore, from an IT funding perspective.

But they still need to know what the quality of service is that they’re providing. And if it’s not good in a particular area, they need to be able to figure that out or have people figure it out for them.

Mike Vizard: Do you think that people or customers are starting to evaluate various digital experiences based on the quality of the networking without actually understanding what’s happening per se, but they are coming away with a perception of a company based on the quality of the experience. And they may not care that it was the network’s fault. But at the end of the day, they are looking at an organization and saying yeah, we’re going to go to somebody else who may not have nearly as good an application but somehow or other has a better experience?

Matt Izzo: I think that’s absolutely the case. I mean, we’ve had one customer of ours in particular who did an AB study simply with a smaller logo size on a certain part of their website that was taking up less space, and ended up in a miniscule difference in the overall performance that it provided the end user. And that simple AB testing showed that they made more revenue from the faster page.

So I don’t think that people may even conceptually think, I mean, no one’s monitoring or measuring this site takes me three seconds and that one takes eight or nine. No one’s doing that. I’m not doing that. My mom isn’t doing that. But she does know that if it’s difficult to do business with or whether it’s consuming information, a news site, some social networking site, or purchase something over the Internet, if one is easier to do business with because the experience that it provides is more reliable, higher performing, people know that, I think.

Mike Vizard: Where do we go from here? How smart can all of this get from an observability perspective? I guess today I feel like you need to know what you’re looking for. But ultimately we get to the point where the tools just tell us hey, this is going the wrong direction and requires some attention now.

Matt Izzo: Yeah. I think there’s some of that, that we can do. But I’ve been in the monitoring space for 25 years. And back, especially when I was in the Telco world, there was always that holy grail of that instant root cause analysis. Something happens and you’re just told here’s why. And we’ve never really achieved that. And I think the reason is, is because any time you get closer to that, there’s more technology that comes.

Technology’s tremendously disaggregated and democratized today. So it’s even more difficult. There’s less in people’s control. So, I think we’ll always be moving toward that, we’ll always be moving toward that goal of saying this is what’s wrong, and I think we’ve made great strides in that. Because we can gather data from a lot of sources and correlate it, and we can say you know, guess what. your performance is bad, it’s taken this much longer to deliver this. And here is why. There’s a DNS outage or you have a problem over here.

We’re able to do that. Still, I think it’s a forever problem of trying to chase that holy grail of immediately something happens, and here’s the exact reason why. Maybe that’s why there are IT experts and site reliability engineers and performance network ops and you know, those fields still continued to this day.

Mike Vizard: What would be your best advice then to organizations as you know, we all talk about digital business transformation. Yet I feel like a lot of organizations are either having a full on miscue, or at the very least not quite achieving a level of interactivity or experience they were looking for. So maybe we should start from the edge in? Or, because it feels like everybody today just starts with the app and the cloud and works their way out and hopes for the best.

Matt Izzo: Yeah. Well, let me ask, are you talking more from the point of view of someone deploying a new service? Or they have, they have something in place? And they want to know what’s wrong?

Mike Vizard: Yeah, I think a lot of organizations have something in place already. They’ve made some attempt. Somebody has launched some sort of initiative. But they’re just getting jammed up somewhere and they don’t know why or how.

Matt Izzo: I think well, you know you can’t really fix a problem until you first of all know you have a problem. You know where it is, what size it is. So, we always look for the data internally. Where, in order to know there’s a problem you’ve got to start measuring. So baselining where you’re at, correlating data, how is my service doing? How does that compare to the performance?

If revenue goes down, is there a correlation to some sort of performance somewhere? And where is that? So, my, in my recommendation and certainly what we believe at Catchpoint is we try to monitor as much as we can and from as many locations as we can. So our focus is certainly on a large international global network of vantage points, to be able to monitor from a variety of locations, a variety of technologies.

You know, obviously a company, you can’t and you wouldn’t want to build all of that yourself. So finding a provider that can help give you visibility into what’s going on I think is really important. So I think that the message too for an executive level is not all the technology. It’s do you think you really need to know what’s going on with the performance of the service that you’re providing?

The answer is no. Well, you can ask again in six months where there’s some outage somewhere and there’s a problem, or a security problem or something related. At some point, even those who don’t see that as a need are likely to say you know, that’s costing us money. That’s something that we can invest in through tools or services, one way or another.

Mike Vizard: Do you think someday artificial intelligence will come along and save us all from ourselves, and _____ will become highly automated?

Matt Izzo: Well, I hope so. You know, in a way, that gets to that elusive goal, that I mentioned before. I, certainly artificial intelligence, one is we have to be realistic when we use that term. A lot of people say artificial intelligence or machine learning, and really what they mean is well, an algorithm. But in terms of using artificial intelligence to identify, narrow down a problem or predict problems, identify where something is based on prior experience, that can be tremendously valuable.

I think there’s a lot of research that’s going on, a lot of active work in the product space in this industry that’s going on, that will continue to get us closer. But really all of that’s about saving time. Can we make it so that it’s faster and easier for you to know whether or not you have a problem, and where that problem is? Or maybe that you’re going to have a problem.

Certainly identifying whether traffic has been rerouted in the network for some benign reason, or a malicious reason. Things like that are certainly important. So overall, artificial intelligence, I think it’s going to continue to play an increasingly important role. And we’ll see if we ever get to that holy grail, or more technology will come out, so that will outpace it on where another.

Mike Vizard: Last question. We talk a lot about security and digital business transformation and observability and user experience. They all seem to be converging. Are they all not two sides of the same coin, maybe? So what should we expect to see with security and observability. Because we are looking for anomalies and so anything that is different should just pop up, right?

Matt Izzo: Yeah. There’s a lot of that that is converged already. Certainly from the, from just the performance observability space, it’s really helpful to know if you have a drop in performance, whether or not there is some network change. Maybe network routing change, that you might observe through BGP data that correlates with that. I said that could be completely benign.

However, we definitely have customers who use Catchpoint to determine whether or not their networks are being hijacked. And then they use iterative measures to try and pull that back in, and the same observability capabilities, the same monitoring tools, the same data, really goes both ways, or is used for the same thing.

Mike Vizard: Cool. Hey Matt, thanks for being on the show today and sharing your knowledge and insights.

Matt Izzo: I appreciate it. Good talking to you.

Mike Vizard: All right. And thank you all for watching this latest episode. You can find this one and others on the website. And best of luck in your future digital business transformation efforts. Take care.