Exec Q&A: Alex Cruz-Farmer, Cisco ThousandEyes

Alex Cruz-Farmer, Principal Product Manager at Cisco ThousandEyes, explains how their technology brings new levels of visibility to hidden DX issues.

Uber Eats, Slack, Salesforce - no matter if it’s consumer apps or employee productivity tools, digital experiences today run across cloud and Internet networks that sit beyond enterprises’ control, and therefore create massive blind spots whenever issues occur. Cisco acquired ThousandEyes in 2020 to solve those blind spots by helping customers to see cloud and Internet networks like they own them.

To optimise digital experience - meaning customers and employees can use any application or web experience with zero digital interruptions that can damage brand reputation, employee or customer productivity, or impact revenue - organisations are adopting new technology and adjusting to new realities distinguished by a borderless IT perimeter.

According to Alex Cruz-Farmer, Principal Product Manager, in this new reality, “where businesses rely on cloud and Internet networks that they don’t own and therefore don’t control, visibility and context into those externalities become critical for IT’s success”. 

He adds that “knowing where, when, how, and why digital experience is poor not only saves internal IT teams’ time, but is key to working with third party providers to quickly troubleshoot”.

Cruz-Farmer tells Technology Magazine about the solution ThousandEyes provides: end-to-end visibility from user to application to highlight digital experience issues.

What is unique about ThousandEyes?

For digital enterprises relying on cloud and Internet, ThousandEyes provides customers with unparalleled visibility and insights into digital experiences from every cloud to every employee and customer. ThousandEyes’ unmatched distribution of vantage points throughout the Internet, deliver the only collectively powered view of the Internet helping enterprises and service providers work together to improve the quality of every digital experience. ThousandEyes is central to the global operations of world's largest and fastest growing brands, including 160+ of the Fortune 500, 10 of the 10 top US banks, and 19 of the 25 top SaaS companies.

Because the Internet is like a black box composed of thousands of vast, unpredictable and independently managed service providers, any of which can impact the experience of users connecting to an application or site, it’s impossible for any one business to monitor the entire Internet. It provides a new hybrid digital ecosystem—across cloud, SaaS and the Internet—by combining Internet and WAN visibility, browser synthetics, end-user monitoring and Internet Insights.

But our secret sauce is also our people. We're building this technology with a talented, diverse team. We’re a team that is obsessed with solving the most complex problems with simple solutions, and a team who always, unfalteringly, puts the customer first. People who are authentic, humble, and like to have fun.

What is your role and what are your responsibilities at the company?

As Group Product Manager for End-user Experience, my role is to spend as much time with our customers as possible. The only way for us to innovate is to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers, looking at the types of problems the frontline IT operations and support teams are facing and understand the business impact of these obstacles. From what we learn, my aim is to take the problems and work alongside our Design and Engineering teams to formulate innovative solutions to help make their lives easier. These conversations are leading us to solve some of the major challenges around monitoring desktop applications, particularly collaboration apps which are an ever-moving target.

What are the challenges that businesses are facing with hybrid work well and truly part of life now? 

Remote and hybrid work are here to stay. Today’s organisations are battling issues ranging from rogue Wi-Fi access points to edge congestion and VPN misconfigurations. Along the way, we've also deepened our dependence on the SaaS and collaboration applications that have become integral to our work lives. For many of us working remotely, video conferencing applications are vital to communicating not only with one another, but with our customers, prospects and suppliers. 

Supporting these sophisticated applications, particularly those that enable real-time multimedia communications, requires adjusting to new IT realities. Here, the cloud is the new data centre, home the new office, SaaS the new app stack, and tying all this together is the Internet, as the new enterprise network. In this new reality, where businesses are relying on cloud and Internet networks that they don’t own and therefore don’t control, IT becomes blind to the issues that occur in these external environments. As such, visibility and context into those externalities become critical for IT’s success. 

We’ve all endured the frustrating experience of calling the IT help desk, being placed on hold, then spending 10 to 15 minutes on the phone with a technician attempting to figure out what’s causing the issue that we’re experiencing. More often than not the main obstacle in figuring out what’s gone wrong is linked to these blind-spots. IT often doesn't have insight into the networks outside of the organisation’s technology stack and therefore how our home networks are set up. The issue can often be transient or we are rarely left with an understanding as to what has happened and how to prevent it happening again. Across the entire digital supply chain, wireless is just one of a wide variety of different components that could be going wrong. 

How is ThousandEyes helping its customers to tackle these challenges?

To help our customers overcome the blind spots of remote work, we’ve recently announced two industry-first innovations to ThousandEyes End User Monitoring that are designed to help organisations deliver always-on digital experiences to their workforces - no matter where those workers are located. 

By design, collaboration apps are rich in features and when a session starts, in a matter of seconds, every single voice, video, and screen share that is seen and heard by the user will connect to its own separate destination host across multiple global regions. These change every single time a call starts and it’s impossible for IT teams to isolate, see, and fix when either of those connections break down, making it equally impossible to quickly fix any issue that's impacting the quality of the call experience for individual users.

These are the connections that ThousandEyes Automated Session Testing, our industry-first solution automatically detects and tests against for every session and every user - on the fly as a call starts.

Separately, with Agent View, frontline service and help desk workers are given a simplified all-in-one view to resolve issues in a matter of minutes - without the need for technical know-how or networking expertise. To simplify how Agent View can help on an everyday basis, I’ll explain how it helped me.I had recently moved house, so lots of new tech, and new broadband set up… you can probably see where this is going! One morning I was struggling with my video and audio during an important meeting. Using Agent View, I was able to identify within about 20 seconds what was going on. From the Agent View, I could see that my WiFi signal quality and link speeds were fluctuating dramatically. My laptop was connecting to a legacy 2G Wireless network I had set up for my IoT devices. This issue would have taken a lot longer to identify without Agent View. 

What can we expect from ThousandEyes in 2022?

Core to ThousandEyes is to truly empower our customers to thrive in today’s Internet-centric world. Now and moving forward, we’ll continue to focus on delivering the performance insight our customers need to quickly troubleshoot issues that impact digital experiences across the Internet, cloud, and business-critical SaaS apps. Just recently at Cisco Live, we introduced new innovation to that end: announcing ThousandEyes WAN Insights, the first pivotal step toward predictive networking and our newest innovation for providing network forecasts and SD-WAN recommendations to optimise user experience. 

Where do you see the future of the Internet going?

The obvious part is that the reliance on the Internet is only going to become more important. If you consider that many of us are shifting away from traditional solutions, like a landline or traditional routes for TV content through satellites and terrestrial technologies to Internet based streaming services, or relying on our mobile phones as our core communication point, the demand for something always on is going to become higher.

As such, digital experience is the outcome that matters in today’s connected world. Businesses are doing more than just moving applications to the cloud, they are digitally transforming their businesses to leverage the power of cloud and Internet to optimise business, improve productivity, and even enter new markets.

To thrive in this fundamentally new reality of the borderless enterprise, despite the loss of certainty and control, requires reimagining the needs of the enterprise from infrastructure to applications and visibility.


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