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Zscaler Moves Into UCaaS Monitoring

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A person monitoring a network
Image: Rymden - stock.adobe.com
This week, cloud security provider Zscaler made an interesting pivot when it announced that it enhanced its Zscaler Digital Experience (ZDX) product to monitor UCaaS services Zoom and Microsoft Teams. This might seem like a strange move, given Zscaler is best known as a cloud security vendor, but it’s a logical extension of its portfolio.
 
Addressing IT Blind Spots
For security products to offer threat protection, they need to see every packet. This granular visibility is what makes ZDX an excellent end-to-end application performance monitoring tool. Since it launched ZDX, the product has taken off, and Zscaler is now taking aim at the massive UCaaS opportunity.
 
UCaaS continues to gain momentum as companies look to leverage the cloud to deliver collaboration services to a distributed workforce. However, monitoring is a major challenge for organizations. Post COVID-19, many organizations will transition to hybrid work environments where communication platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams continue to be widely used as a way of bridging at-home and in-office workers together.
The problem is IT teams typically use various monitoring tools to react to issues instead of being proactive, which creates blind spots. For example, network performance monitoring tools focus on network health but offer limited insight across the internet. IT infrastructure monitoring tools don’t have visibility into software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor infrastructure.
 
The monitoring needs of organizations are evolving with the adoption of cloud computing and hybrid work. Today’s organizations want digital experience monitoring as an add-on to traditional monitoring capabilities and the ability to view everything from a single pane of glass, said Dhawal Sharma, VP of product management at Zscaler, in an interview with ZK Research. Zscaler wants to differentiate itself from other cloud security providers by extending seamless digital experience monitoring to UCaaS apps.
 
Zscaler Digital Experience Updated to Tackle UCaaS Performance
Zscaler just announced several enhancements to the ZDX to help security, networking, and service desk/help desk teams remediate UCaaS app-related quality and performance issues. ZDX is a subscription-based service delivered on Zscaler’s cloud-native Zero Trust Exchange platform. It’s completely transparent to the user, meaning users don’t have to authenticate the service or click to accept any modules.
 
“ZDX is the fastest growing cloud service in our portfolio. We saw an opportunity to build ZDX in a way that provides visibility not only from an end-user perspective, but also brings the cloud — specifically network and application context typically lacking from pure endpoint monitoring tools — and end-to-end visibility together,” said Sharma.
 
According to Sharma, most of the problems taking place inside the SaaS infrastructure are gray-out scenarios, where a specific data center or a specific tenant is impacted. Organizations don’t receive good telemetry data in those cases. ZDX gives them that context, and it enables collaboration between network, application, and help desk teams when problems arise.
 
ZDX leverages insights gathered through the Zero Trust Exchange, which acts like an intelligent switchboard to connect users, apps, and devices over any network. It collects billions of telemetric points across the network, endpoints, and UCaaS apps, and it uses machine learning models to analyze the root cause of the most common network issues. It then correlates the rich data to gain context for proactively troubleshooting the network.
 
Zscaler integrates with Microsoft Teams and Zoom using secure APIs to provide organizations with a single view of all system data from meetings and user interactions. So, users avoid scenarios where they’re on a Zoom meeting and data from apps running in the background create latency problems.
 
“Understanding the network and the root causes of problems is key. It takes reverse engineering of every single user experience. ZDX can provide all of that in a single place and hide a lot of complexity that is ingrained in these kinds of situations,” said Sharma. “This was all done manually in the past.”
 
Bridging Security and Networking
Another enhancement Zscaler unveiled is improved visibility into Zero Trust secured private apps. IT and security teams get a centralized dashboard with all relevant telemetry data to troubleshoot and resolve issues related to private apps. This was the number one requirement from Zscaler customers when it comes to performance, according to Sharma. Customers with remote employees expressed frustration implementing standalone monitoring tools that don’t provide Zero Trust visibility.
 
Customers that already have a Zscaler license can activate ZDX for all employees with a click of a button. It instantaneously starts collecting data and telemetry, at which point organizations work with Zscaler to operationalize the service desk. Zscaler offers an alerting framework that integrates with tools like ServiceNow through APIs for sharing real-time incident notifications. Zscaler now has a deeper integration with ServiceNow, where IT teams can automate ticket creation based on ZDX alerts, which streamlines remediation workflows.
 
Through expanded technology partnerships with Microsoft, Zoom, and ServiceNow, Zscaler can offer tighter integrations in digital experience monitoring. Both Microsoft and Zoom are working closely with Zscaler to collect more endpoint analytics data and improve their services, said Sharma, adding that “there will be a lot of signal sharing between Zscaler and the vendors to make the quality of the data better.”
 
The success of ZDX has been interesting, as many vendors have tried to bridge security and networking — and most have failed. Both Netscout and Riverbed tried for years and had little to no success. I believe the difference today is organizations are looking to bring security and networking teams together and need that single source of truth. UCaaS is perhaps the most difficult application to monitor, and it’s a strong testament to the quality of ZDX. If it has success with Zoom and Teams, Zscaler has many more services to tackle next.

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