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Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) is a performance management category that represents an evolutionary step forward from network performance monitoring and diagnostics (NPMD). DEM answers the need for visibility into modern, hybrid cloud-based and Internet-centric IT operations by bringing the focus first on user experience and ensuring that network monitoring serves the purpose of delivering optimal application performance to end-users.

Understanding categories of monitoring solutions

Most enterprise IT teams are familiar with Gartner research publications, which cover several commonly used but sometimes hard to distinguish performance management categories. Following is a list of categories along with brief explanations:

  • IT Infrastructure Monitoring (ITIM): ITIM tools capture resource utilization metrics for any type of IT infrastructure. This is typically done via SNMP, logs, WMI, streaming metrics, etc.
  • Application Performance Monitoring (APM): APM tools are used to instrument and gather performance metrics from application software that is developed and deployed by enterprises. 
  • Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics (NPMD): NPMD vendors and tools fall into two camps: infrastructure-oriented network visibility tools that overlap with ITIM, and network traffic monitoring tools that utilize data sources such as Netflow or perform packet analysis. 
  • Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM): DEM solutions focus on offering IT teams visibility into end-user experience and intelligence to perform problem diagnostics and root cause analysis across the entire delivery chain between users and applications.
  • Artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps): AIOps platforms apply big data and machine learning to contextualize large volumes of varied and volatile monitoring data
DEM solutions place a primary focus on user experience
DEM solutions place a primary focus on user experience

DEM focuses on the user, not the infrastructure

DEM solutions place the user at the center of operational visibility, to reflect the business-critical importance of digital experience to revenue, brand, productivity and employee engagement. This stands in contrast with traditional NPMD solutions that focus nearly exclusively on the state of the infrastructure.

Most NPMD solutions were developed in the era of on-premises IT when enterprises owned or controlled the vast majority of their IT estate. However, that world no longer exists. Enterprises are undergoing dramatic digital business transformation, with migration of internal apps from data centers to cloud environments and massive SaaS adoption serving customer-facing and employee digital experience. 

WAN architecture has inverted to match the externalizing of applications, leading to the rise of branch direct internet access (DIA), hybrid and SD-WANs, cloud-based secure web

gateways (SWG), cloud access security brokers (CASB) and the emergence of a completely cloud-centric architecture that Gartner is calling the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).

While traditional NPMD functionality is still relevant, it now only covers a fraction of the networks that enterprises rely on, and it doesn't go beyond a view of the infrastructure. 

DEM leverages experience scoring and collective intelligence benchmarking to help IT teams maintain a focus on user experience as a primary business outcome. DEM also helps to solve digital experience problems by combining real-time traffic analysis, end-user experience monitoring (endpoint devices and local Wifi), application synthetics (to cover SaaS applications that can't be instrumented via APM, and network path monitoring (to cover external ISP, SWG and SaaS networks not measurable via infrastructure monitoring approaches).

The modern monitoring portfolio

Whatever your opinions of Gartner, it is clear that enterprise IT teams are in the midst of a significant shift in their monitoring portfolios away from traditional NPMD and ITIM and towards DEM and AIOps. This shift was further evidenced in 2019, when Gartner, Inc made the decision to end its magic quadrant for network performance monitoring and diagnostics and subsequently cover it as a market guide. Learn more about what DEM is, here.