Nyansa Inc., the winner of this month's Network Innovation Award, aims to redefine network performance monitoring with Voyance, a platform that blends cloud-based analytics and real-time deep packet inspection with an easy-to-understand management console. The goal, according to Nyansa CEO Abe Ankumah, is to provide enterprises with information they can use to pinpoint where application performance problems may exist and, by extension, improve the end user's experience.
SearchNetworking sat down with Ankumah to learn more about the company's network monitoring and analytics platform.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What was your general assessment of network monitoring before the formation of Nyansa, and where did you think there were areas that needed some improvement?
Abe Ankumah: There have always been solutions out there that monitor the infrastructure. But, at the end of the day, the infrastructure and all the network elements are really there to serve the end user. We're there to deliver applications. We're there to deliver a good user experience. And so we've always thought about the problem from the perspective of the end user. We wanted to help answer the bigger question, which is this: 'I can have my infrastructure up and running, but my users could still be having a terrible user experience.'
What are some of the factors underpinning the advent of user experience tools?
Ankumah: It's the nature of the IT environment, right? The nature of the IT environment, being highly mobile and highly dynamic, requires a very different rethinking of how you do network monitoring -- really starting from the user. And then, once you put the user experience at the center, you then get to thinking about, 'OK, what role does the infrastructure play in this, and how should I actually think about it? ... How do I then think about infrastructure monitoring as part of this bigger picture?'
And, at that point, you didn't see any other viable options out there? You thought there were some real holes in the products that were being offered?
Ankumah: The solutions out there that had tried to think about the user experience, they did a couple of things. First, they tried to mimic what a user did [using probes and devices that generate synthetic data]. The challenge with that approach has always been, in a highly dynamic environment with different devices, the number of different permutations you would have to do from a probe perspective just never made sense.
Second, a lot of solutions that existed basically generated data for someone else to interpret. With Voyance, we offered a product that can actually capture real data about what the user is doing, and in addition to that, you can [easily] analyze it. We would kill multiple birds, and present the data in a way that's actionable.
What was the most challenging part of building Voyance and user experience tools: obtaining the data, or having the cloud infrastructure necessary to crunch the data as rapidly as required?
Ankumah: It was a combination of things, but I will say the most difficult part was the analytics. Collecting the data is work, but it's deterministic work. So, you want it closer to a textbook system that can collect data from as many sources as necessary, and then provide our customers with the clean, actionable data they need.
Let's talk about analytics and how it has become so important for IT operations in 2016.
Ankumah: The evolution of analytics, if you may, started off with just a foundational process that enabled analytics. [These are] machine learning platforms that have large-scale databases that have been used by companies like Facebook [and] Google, right? You solve the problem. Where analytics is going and what customers expect analytics to do for them is not to give them more data. It's to take all the complex data and find that needle in the haystack. At the end of the day, the customer wants their problems solved for them. They just don't want more data thrown at them for them to whittle through more of it.
The other part of the Voyance platform is Voyance Live, which makes the user experience tools data available to others so they can compare their operations to their peers.
Ankumah: The idea behind Voyance Live is to democratize some of the insights [customers are gaining from use of the platform]. It illustrates Voyance -- and even non-Voyance customers -- some of the problems Voyance is uncovering, and by sharing that information, it allows people to usher in a new generation of IT analytics.
What are some of the common issues Voyance Live has uncovered?
Abe AnkumahCEO, Nyansa
Ankumah: One of the biggest sources of user-experience challenges is client devices. Either something is misconfigured, or there is a client that's just acting particularly quirky. One of the benefits of having such a massive data set is we can quickly extract insights. Sometimes, people think, 'Hey, I'm having an issue, and the issue is the wireless network.' Well, there have been a number of customer examples where it's been, 'No, actually, it's a client device problem.' You're not having interference; it's because you've oversubscribed the wireless network. It's a very simple explanation.
Think about Amazon. They use analytics to judge the purchasing tendencies of customers. In IT operations, we will now be able to tell our customers where they should spend their time and energy. In other words, if you make these changes, this is what you'll get out of it.
Are you positioning Voyance to be used as a tool to help enterprises really understand their entire infrastructure, from their data centers to the cloud?
Ankumah: The short answer is, 'Yes.' For now, however, the point of demarcation, for lack of a better word, is that we are not focused on the data center. We are focused on IT operations teams, whose job it is to provide the internal campus infrastructure and to provide the conduit to access the application, regardless of where the application may be.
What about application performance? That's another huge area of interest among enterprises.
Ankumah: I made the point earlier that the whole point of the network is to be a conduit for users to access the application. And so on the application side of things, we wanted to take a pretty comprehensive and holistic view. There are not just business-critical applications like Salesforce, but we're also talking unified communications and internal custom applications.
What we do is give [our customers] a perspective of how that end user is actually experiencing that application. We tell them about what specific areas, which applications are having issues, for example. And we also look to quantify from an overall company productivity standpoint how those issues are actually affecting the bottom line of the organization.
So, what's next for Nyansa?
Ankumah: We want to become the de facto platform that tracks the entire user experience within a network. And I say platform humbly because we have a long way to go before we become a platform. But we do want to become a central repository of IT operations that stores not just data, but insights -- insights that can really transform IT operations from being a reactive, incident-based organizations to become a more proactive and strategic component of a company.
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